Champions Tour players applaud Augusta's admission of women

The reaction of Champions Tour members to Augusta National’s decision to admit women can be summed up in one word: bravo.

“That’s terrific,” Hinsdale resident Jeff Sluman said of the announcement Monday that former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and business executive Darla Moore have knocked down the club’s gender barrier.

“I know Condi loves golf. In the locker room, we all talked and thought she might already be a member.”

Fuzzy Zoeller, who won the 1979 Masters, said he had heard “through the grapevine” that this was coming.

“It’s a tremendous move for all parties,” he said. “It’s 2012. Let’s get on with the real world here.”

Sluman, Zoeller, Hale Irwin and Chip Beck spoke Monday at the East Bank Club. They took part in the announcement that the Champions Tour is coming to the Chicago area, as the Tribune reported in June.

North Shore Country Club, in Glenview, will host the June 21-23 event, during which amateurs will be paired with the world’s best over-50 players for the Friday and Saturday rounds.

Encompass, a division of Northbrook-based insurance giant Allstate, will be title sponsor for at least three years.

“I would describe North Shore as stately and stout,” Encompass President Thomas Ealy said. “It will be a fantastic challenge for the pros.”

All the top players are expected to come to Chicago for the event, including Tom Watson, Fred Couples, Ben Crenshaw and 2013 tour newcomers Vijay Singh, Steve Elkington and Rocco Mediate.

The event also will have a celebrity element on pro-am days (Wednesday-Thursday) and possibly the weekend.

Event organizers will recruit the likes of Michael Jordan, and Sluman is trying to enlist good friend Bill Murray.

“I haven’t gotten a ‘yes’ or a ‘no,’” Sluman said, “but as long as he’s not doing a movie, we hope he will make it.”

It will be the first senior event in the Chicago area since Harborside International hosted the SBC Senior Open in 2002.

“When you go to a great golf course in a great town with a great sponsor, it’s going to be a home run,” Champions Tour player Tom Kite said.

Also a home run, according to Irwin, was Augusta National’s decision to end its men-only membership policy.

“There’s no way you can say that golf will succeed without the female,” Irwin said. “We need women. It’s great news.”

Twitter @TeddyGreenstein

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