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.”