PGA Tour back at Shoal Creek

World Golf Hall of Fame member Lee Trevino, the 1984 PGA Championship winner at Shoal Creek, kisses his putter during a press conference Aug. 23 announcing the Champions Tour's Regions Tradition at Shoal Creek Golf and Country Club. (Reporter Photo/Jon Goering)

Shoal Creek Golf and Country Club in North Shelby County will be the home of the Regions Tradition, one of the five major championship tournaments on the Professional Golf Association Tour’s Champions Tour, for the next three years beginning in 2011.

The tournament was announced Aug. 23 at a press conference at the Town Hall at Shoal Creek.

Shelby County Manager Alex Dudchock said the tournament will be a big boost to the local economy, with average daily attendance expected to be around 30,000 people during the tournament.

“We’ve got 37 lodging facilities and 2,700 rooms,” Dudchock said. “Any event that brings tourism, including overnight stays, is a great thing for the local economy. Shelby County is excited about it.”

The Champions Tour is the tour formerly known as the Senior PGA Tour. The Regions Charity Classic will no longer be held at the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail’s Ross Bridge in Hoover.

The 2011 Regions Tradition, sponsored by Regions Financial Corporation, will run May 2-8. Professional golfers likely to participate in the in the 2011 tournament include Fred Couples, Tom Watson and Greg Norman, among others.

World Golf Hall of Fame member Lee Trevino, who won the 1984 PGA Championship at Shoal Creek, said there has been a buzz on the playing circuit with the announcement of the Regions Tradition at Shoal Creek.

“The players are so excited about coming here,” Trevino said. “This is just going to be unbelievable. If I keep hitting my hybrids the way I am, I may play.”

Children’s Hospital, which was the primary charity of the Regions Charity Classic, will continue to be the primary charitable beneficiary of the Regions Tradition. Mike Stevens, President of the Champions Tour, said the organization plans to give $200,000 to Children’s Hospital up front and add to the total following the tournament.

“Charity will be a driving component in this event,” Stevens said.

Shoal Creek, the Jack Nicklaus-designed 18-hole golf course, has played host to two PGA Championships and one U.S. Amateur Championship. The 1990 PGA Championship was the last major tournament hosted by Shoal Creek.

Stevens said approximately half of the 1984 PGA Championship field will be part of the first Regions Tradition field.

“We’ll be reliving a lot of history when we get back here in May,” Stevens said.

In the 20-year absence of PGA tournaments at Shoal Creek, the course has played host to several amateur tournaments, including the 1994 Jerry Pate Invitational won by Stanford University’s Tiger Woods.

Shoal Creek was scrutinized following the 1990 PGA Championship for its membership policies concerning minorities. Regions Tradition Tournament Director Mike Thompson, son of Shoal Creek founder Hall Thompson, said Shoal Creek implemented an aggressive minority-membership recruiting program immediately after the PGA Tour’s last visit to Shelby County.

“We’ve worked hard not only to get minority members, but minority business as well,” Thompson said. “We try to be a responsible club and look like our community.”

Thompson said the Shoal Creek community is proud to host the Champions Tour major.

“We’re extremely excited about hosting our fourth major here at Shoal Creek,” Thompson said. “Shoal Creek welcomes back professional golf today.”