It's easy feel cynical about the Champions Tour. After all, these guys have had their day —their years—in the sun. They are certainly not minor league, but they are post-major league, if you will. On the plus side, it's great to see our old favorites enjoying the game as they ride their carts into the sunset. And every now and then a great story makes it near impossible to discount the senior circuit.
That was the case Sunday, when Evergreen's Craig Stadler, fresh off of his 60th birthday, returned to the winner's circle at the inaugural Encompass Championship at North Shore Country Club in Glenview, Illinois. The win came eight years and nine months after his last, shattering the Champions Tour record for longest span between victories by more than two years.
Stadler got off to a fast start with rounds of 67 and 65. He continued his tear on Sunday, birdieing four of the first six holes. From there, however, it was a struggle to hang on. Stadler secured the title with an impressive up-and-down from the green side bunker at 18, fending off Fred Couples by a single shot.
The great poet William Butler Yeats wrote about the later years of a full life in his poem “The Circus Animals' Desertion,” and said:
It was the dream itself enchanted me:
Character isolated by a deed
To engross the present and dominate memory.
Stadler's greatest victories are well behind him, it's true. But this one allowed him to share victory with Jan, his wife of three years. To show her and her family what he did and still can do made a bold statement.
Character isolated by a deed.
Yes, the Champions Tour does sometimes deliver.