It’s rare to find a PGA Tour event that makes the North Shore its home for three years in a row.
The Encompass Championship is returning to North Shore Country Club in Glenview in July. The Champions Tour event (previously known as the Senior Tour before a marketing pro rebranded the name) will feature a few new faces during its third visit, including former Masters champion Ian Woosnam and Jeff Maggert. They will join defending champion Tom Lehman, who sank a putt last year on the final hole to capture the tourney — his only victory in 2014.
“You do something on the last hole to win, it’s always extra special,” Lehman said at the club recently, where a number of writers tried to sink the same 12-footer Lehman drained to win $100 for charity. The majority weren’t even close, despite the lack of knee-knocking pressure Lehman faced.
My miss wasn’t my most embarrassing moment on the hole. Just beforehand, I attempted to make a savvy sand shot from the greenside bunker. Instead, the ball flew onto the roof of the clubhouse before resting unseen on a balcony.
“That’s not out of bounds, “ exhorted Mike Galeski, the always amiable tournament director. In fact, the golf lifer had seen a similar shot once at the Bob Hope Classic. The pro hopped onto the clubhouse and made a bogey.
But back to Lehman. The former British Open champion was full of engaging stories, including the final hole at Royal Lytham & St. Annes Golf Club in 1996.
There was plenty to think about that day. Not only had Greg Norman blown a six-shot lead to lose the Masters to Nick Faldo on the final day that year (the same lead Lehman carried into the British Open’s last round), Lehman had just missed claiming the U.S. Open a month earlier on the 18th hole.
A policeman had been assigned to follow Lehman for all four rounds. Once the final balls are on the 18th green at the British Open, the crowd traditionally pushes forward and surrounds the putting surface before the last two golfers arrive. The policeman grabbed Lehman by the arm and stormed through the 50-person-deep group.
Eventually, they stood at the green.
“Tom, we’ve been through a lot together,” Lehman recounted the constable saying, “but now you’re on your own.”
More recently, Lehman played a club tournament in Scottsdale, Ariz. — an alternate-shot event — with his wife Melissa.
“Playing with your wife can be tricky,” he said to some laughter. “You have to watch what you say.
“On the first hole I hit a 290-yard drive, and she puts it in the desert. I hit it on the green, and she putts it 20 feet past the hole. I sink the next putt for a 5.
“I come off the green, and I’m mumbling. She asks what’s wrong. I said, ‘We’ve got to do better than a 5 on a par 4 if we’re going to win.’
The champion golfer wasn’t expecting what came next.
“Well, you had three shots,” she said, “and I only had two.”
Enjoy the weekend.
Editor in Chief