NCR Pro-Am brings stars, fans to Shoal Creek

Former NBA and Auburn standout Charles Barkley traded friendly jabs with current Auburn basketball coach Bruce Pearl at the NCR Pro-am at Shoal Creek May 14. (Reporter Photo/Jon Goering)

Former NBA and Auburn standout Charles Barkley traded friendly jabs with current Auburn basketball coach Bruce Pearl at the NCR Pro-am at Shoal Creek May 14. (Reporter Photo/Jon Goering)

By DREW GRANTHUM/Sports Editor

BIRMINGHAM — The Regions Tradition festivities kicked off with its familiar NCR Pro-Am on May 14.

The Pro-Am brought the stars of the PGA Champions Tour together with local and national celebrities to play nine holes of golf on the course at Shoal Creek, and featured the likes of former NBA standout Charles Barkley, Auburn head basketball coach Bruce Pearl and University of Alabama head football coach Nick Saban, among others.

While the event involved a round of serious golf, there were plenty of humorous moments for the fans in attendance. While getting ready to drive from the tee box, former Heisman Trophy winner and Auburn University star Bo Jackson stopped in mid-preparation to shoo a hornet away from him, instructing the insect to leave him alone.

When Barkley and Pearl —paired together with former Masters champion Fred Couples— got ready to tee off, the two exchanged playful jabs. When Pearl asked the crowd for a “War Eagle,” he mentioned that he thought he heard a few Alabama fans join in on the Auburn cheer.

“You ain’t been here that long,” Barkley chimed. “They’ll never say that.”

Pearl, recently hired by Auburn and yet to coach a game for the Tigers, shot back that he had credentials that might change minds.

“I haven’t lost a game yet,” he said.

After Pearl hit a strong tee shot, Barkley playfully chided Pearl.

“At least you can coach,” Barkley said.

Barkley —known for not having the most fluid of golfing mechanics— awkwardly struck a tee shot that bounced off the ground and rolled down the hill near the gallery.

“Fore!” Barkley shouted in jest after the shot had come to stop.

Local radio host Bill “Bubba” Bussey also provided a memorable moment when he struck his tee shot awkwardly, sending it off course. After a few seconds of silence, a crashing sound was heard off in the distance, leading to laughter from the crowd. Bussey took it in stride, moving on with the Couples-Barkley-Pearl group.

In addition to the aforementioned celebrity amateurs, Ole Miss head football coach Hugh Freeze, Golf Channel host Holly Sonders and Regions Financial Corporation Chairman, President and CEO Grayson Hall all participated in the pro-am.

The 2014 Regions Tradtion will begin May 15, with Marco Dawson, Lee Rinker and Jeff Hart teeing off at 7:29 a.m. at Shoal Creek.