In this era of entitled athletes, a breath of fresh air is about to blow into Chicago.
The Champions Tour will make its second visit this week to North Shore Country Club for the Encompass Championship, and the over-50 golfers couldn’t be happier about it.
‘‘This is such a special week. Everybody loves this place,’’ said Craig Stadler, who won the inaugural Encompass Championship with a 54-hole score of 13-under-par 203 last June. ‘‘It’s in awesome shape. Augusta’s great, and this is right with it. You walk down the 10th fairway, and it looks better than some of the greens we play on tour. It’s a good, old golf course in great shape, the perfect venue for our tour.’’
Especially eager to compete is Colin Montgomerie, who wasn’t old enough to play last year at North Shore. The Scotsman will be 51 on June 23, the day after the tournament ends.
‘‘It’s a shame I wasn’t able to play last year because I wasn’t old enough,’’ he said. ‘‘This is my last event before I start repeating [tournaments].’’
Montgomerie is coming off a Memorial Day weekend victory in the Senior PGA at Benton Harbor, his first victory in the United States, his first major championship of any kind and his first Champions Tour victory.
‘‘It’s been a long time coming,’’ said Montgomerie, who was a dominant player on the European Tour and in Ryder Cup competition. ‘‘Twenty-two years and 130-odd [U.S.] tournaments. . . . It was more relief than anything. It definitely will give me added confidence. I was doing OK on the Champions Tour but not winning. It was nice to get the monkey off [my] back.’’
Among those scheduled to compete on the par-72, 7,103-yard layout are Bernhard Langer, Kenny Perry, David Frost, Hale Irwin, Tom Kite, Sandy Lyle, Nick Price, Fred Funk, Jeff Sluman, Mark Calcavecchia, Rocco Mediate, Brad Faxon, Tom Lehman, Gary Hallberg and D.A. Weibring.
‘‘It has surprised me, I must admit, the competitiveness of everybody,’’ Montgomerie said. ‘‘It proves I am not alone in my ambition and drive and will to win. I was hoping I’d be alone, but I’m not. You don’t lose that competitive edge. The drive is still there. It’s incredible, the competitiveness of these guys.’’