Lasting memories at Bruno’s

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Who’s afraid of a large black man?

I am, if it’s Charles Barkley playing golf.

Barkley, a former basketball star whose book &uot;Who’s Afraid of a Large Black Man&uot; has sold thousands of copies, played in one of the Bruno’s Memorial Classic pro-am events last week.

Well, at least he tried.

Barkley was one of the best NBA players in the 1990s and is Auburn University’s most famous basketball alum. But trust me, he’s much better at basketball than he is at golf.

In fact, I’m convinced most of the gallery that followed Barkley, along with Shelby County native and USA soccer star Cat Reddick, wanted to watch him whiff. He didn’t disappoint.

But while Barkley’s 18-hole tally could rival the Phoenix Suns’ scoring average this season, he remained a good sport.

He apparently signed three to five autographs for every stroke.

One conversation he had with a boy – probably about 7 or 8 years old – and presumably the child’s mother was especially interesting.

The child handed Barkley a visor, which the &uot;golfer&uot; happily signed.

&uot;Thanks for coming out,&uot; Barkley initially said. &uot;How’s he doing in school?&uot;

The lady responded &uot;Good.&uot;

Barkley paused briefly, then responded, &uot;Stay on his butt.&uot;

Love him or hate him – at least Barkley’s real.

Unfortunately for Shelby County, Barkley probably won’t be playing any more Bruno’s pro-ams at Greystone. That’s because the tournament is moving from Greystone next year, likely to Ross Bridge in Hoover.

It’s too early to predict if this will be a good move. I’m sure Gene Hallman and the Bruno’s Event Team have carefully thought about the decision to move from Greystone.

I had never been to Greystone until last week but now understand why the tournament, and the course, has been a jewel on the Champions Tour.

From first impression, the tournament staff and volunteers do the little things well. I don’t recall seeing a speck of trash around the course, in front of the clubhouse or even in the parking area. Workers were friendly and courteous.

The golfers – both pros and hackers – also have good attitudes.

They, like Barkley, signed enough autographs to result in double-digit sales increases for Bic and Sharpie.

Broadway Joe Namath cracked jokes throughout the day – particularly when he almost left his putter in the rough on Hole No. 9.

&uot;Sometimes, I’ll use it,&uot; he sheepishly said when someone handed him the club.

Even Steve Spurrier, who was recently voted Alabama’s &uot;Enemy of the State&uot; in a Sports Illustrated poll, gee-hawed with the gallery. He reportedly made at least one joke involving &uot;Enemy of the State&uot; No. 2, Tennessee head coach Philip Fulmer.

Bruno’s has been great for Shelby County, and it has been great for Greystone.

I’m not sure if Greystone members and residents are interested, but if they eventually miss the loss of a major tournament, there certainly are other options.

An LPGA event, or even a senior skins game, are possibilities.

And if not Greystone, why not other local courses such as Ballantrae or Timberline?

While it’s sad to see Bruno’s leave Greystone, many local residents have rich memories of the last 14 years.

Here’s hoping in the future, Shelby County once again can show its support to top-flight golf.

Patrick Johnston serves as staff writer for the Shelby County Reporter. He can be reached at