Past secretary of state to be Tradition chair

Former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice has accepted an invitation to be honorary chairperson for the upcoming PGA Champions Tour's Regions Tradition major championship May 5-8 at Shoal Creek. (Contributed)

By WESLEY HALLMAN / Sports Editor

Former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice has accepted an invitation to be honorary chairperson for the upcoming PGA Champions Tour’s Regions Tradition major championship May 5-8 at Shoal Creek.

Rice, a native of Birmingham and a Shoal Creek member, served as the 66th U.S. Secretary of State in the administration of President George W. Bush. Before serving as Secretary of State under President Bush, Rice served as President Bush’s national security advisor. Rice was the first woman to serve as national security advisor.

Gene Hallman, president and CEO of the Bruno Event Team, which is coordinating the Regions Tradition, called Rice’s presence “very special for the entire event.”

“It’s a great honor,” Hallman said. “She is arguably one of Alabama’s most distinguished citizens, if not the most distinguished.”

Champions Tour President Mike Stevens said the event is fortunate to have a chairperson with Rice’s credentials.

“The Champions Tour is extremely proud and very fortunate to have Condoleeza Rice as honorary chair of the Regions Tradition,” Stevens said. “As an avid golfer and Shoal Creek member, her support adds even more stature to the repositioning of the Regions Tradition.”

Rice took up golf in 2005 and joined Shoal Creek as a non-resident member in 2009. The 20-handicapper played in a pro-am in Los Angeles last month with PGA Tour professional Steve Stricker. Rice is expected to hit the opening ceremonial tee shot at the Regions Tradition to commence the tournament.

“It is a privilege to serve as the honorary chairperson for the Regions Tradition,” Rice said. “This major championship is creating enormous interest in the community and stands to make a significant economic impact in Birmingham and the state of Alabama.”

Rice is currently the Thomas and Barbara Stephenson Senior Fellow on Public Policy at the Hoover Institution, a professor of political economy in the Stanford Graduate School of Business and a director of its Global Center for Business and the Economy. Rice served as a senior advisor to the Board of Directors of Regions Financial Corp., the title sponsor of the Regions Tradition, since 2009.

Regions Financial Corp. previously served as the title sponsor of the Regions Charity Classic, a Champions Tour event played annually at Robert Trent Jones Trail at Ross Bridge in Hoover.

Shoal Creek is a proven venue that has previously hosted the 1984 and 1990 PGA Championship, the 1986 U.S. Amateur Championship and the 2008 U.S. Junior Amateur Championship. The 7,234-yard, par 72, Jack Nicklaus designed layout provided three-stroke victories for both PGA Championship winners — Lee Trevino in 1984 and Wayne Grady in 1990.

Past champions of the PGA Champions Tour’s Tradition major championship include World Golf Hall of Fame members Nicklaus, Trevino, Raymond Floyd, Tom Kite and Tom Watson. Fred Funk is the defending Tradition champion. The Regions Tradition, which will be the first of five major championships during the 2011 Champions Tour season, will be televised exclusively on the GOLF Channel.

The Tradition major championship has been played at three different sites since its inception in 1989, including the past four years at the Crosswater Golf Club in Sunriver, Ore.

Regions Tradition events will start May 3 with a practice round, a par 3 competition and a past champions clinic. A pro-am and an Alabama vs. Auburn putting challenge will take place May 4 before the first round of the tournament begins May 5.

The Children’s Hospital of Alabama will be the primary charitable beneficiary of the Regions Tradition. For more information, visit RegionsTradition.com.