Champions Tour moving major to Shoal Creek

The Champions Tour is moving one of its majors to Birmingham’s
Shoal Creek, the club that sparked controversy at the 1990 PGA
Championship for what was then an all-white membership.

The Regions Tradition will replace the Champions Tour’s Jeld-Wen
Tradition and the city’s Regions Charity Classic. It will be held
May 2-8 at Shoal Creek Country Club, the first of five majors.

The venue hosted the PGA Championship in 1984 and 1990, but the
media spotlight on the club’s all-white membership and remarks by
founder Hall Thompson that his club wouldn’t be pressured into
accepting black members sparked a controversy.

That prompted major golf organizations to adopt membership
policies for tournament sites. Hall Thompson, now 87, later
apologized.

”It was 20 years ago,” Champions Tour president Mike Stevens
said in an interview with The Associated Press on Monday. ”Shoal
Creek’s membership policy complies with all the applicable laws and
regulations relative to the PGA Tour. So it’s not an issue. It was
20 years ago, but I’ve said repeatedly that despite the situation
that happened back in 1990 – and trust me, it was not a good
statement – but what it caused golf to do is kind of look inside
itself.

”The positives for golf that have come out of that are
tremendous for the number of private golf courses that have opened
up their membership for various minorities across the country,
including Shoal Creek.”

Mike Thompson, Hall’s son and the tournament’s chairman, said
the club has extended membership offers to 16 blacks in the
community and five have joined. He said two others have said they
hoped to eventually join the Country Club, which has some 600
members.

Landing the Champions Tour event, he said, is ”a big
deal.”

”We have waited 20 years for professional golf,” Mike Thompson
said.

Shoal Creek eased back into the national golf scene by hosting
the USGA’s 2008 U.S. Junior Amateur Championship. The Southern
Amateur was held on the course in July.

The USGA’s decision to hold the 2008 event ”was kind of a
signal to the major golf bodies that they wanted to come back,”
Mike Thompson said.

Before that, Shoal Creek had ”very serious” talks in the late
1990s about hosting the 2002 PGA Tour Championship, he said.

He said Stevens met with club officials in May with the offer to
host the Tradition.

”He says, ‘How about you guys doing an event one year from
now?’ And we just about fell out of our chair,” Thompson said.

The event was held the past four years at Sunriver Resort’s
Crosswater Golf Club in central Oregon. Jeld-Wen is ending its
relationship as title sponsor.

”I cannot begin to tell you how excited I am for today,”
Stevens said. ”This took a lot of time, a lot of work. But quite
honestly this is probably one of the best things that has ever
happened to the Champions Tour.

”Bringing a major championship to a major championship golf
course is big for the Tour,” he added.

Lee Trevino said he ”screamed” when his wife told him the
Tradition was moving to Shoal Creek, where he won the 1984 PGA
Championship.

”I looked at her and said, ‘We are back. We are finally on the
Senior Tour, we are finally going to a golf course that is worthy
of a Champions Tour event and a Champions Tour major,”’ said
Trevino, who attended the announcement. ”Players are so excited
about being here.

”This is just going to be unbelievable.”

Stevens said he expects about half the players who won prize
money at the PGA Championship in 1984 to participate, and seven who
made the cut in the ’90 event have won on the Champions Tour this
year.

”The idea was to create an event that would be considered the
best on the Champions Tour, indicative of the Masters,” he said.
”This announcement today will allow this dream to absolutely
continue.”