Celebrities support charities at Regions Tradition Pro-Am

Published 3:50 pm Wednesday, May 10, 2023

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By ANDREW SIMONSON | Sports Editor

BIRMINGHAM – A little over six hours removed from wrapping up “Inside the NBA” in Atlanta, Charles Barkley was at the first tee at Greystone Golf & Country Club in Birmingham on May 9, 2023, shaking hands and making the rounds before playing.

Why would someone as busy as Barkley make time to play in the Regions Tradition Celebrity Pro-Am? It’s because he loves Birmingham and the charities that the Tradition supports.

“I want to do this for Alabama,” Barkley said. “It’s great for the city of Birmingham. I worked ’til 2 last night, got up at 6 in the morning, but it’s really great for Birmingham, that’s the reason I’m here. The people of Alabama, they deserve this event.”

Barkley played with PGA Tour Champions professional Retief Goosen, former Atlanta Braves star Dale Murphy and new UAB football coach Trent Dilfer.

Dilfer had nothing but praise for the community of Birmingham and loved the opportunity to meet more people in his new home.

“I’m doing everything I can just to connect with people and get to know the city better, the people better,” Dilfer said. “Love, love, love Birmingham. I love how genuine the people are.”

Other big names in the pro-am included new Auburn football coach Hugh Freeze, Georgia football coach Kirby Smart, Auburn legend Bo Jackson, former national champion QB at Alabama Greg McElroy and Senator Tommy Tuberville.

The field wasn’t limited to sports players and coaches, as local country music stars Riley Green and Randy Owen and Birmingham’s own Taylor Hicks took the course.

Hicks even stopped to give $20 to the girls running a lemonade stand on the ninth hole to raise money for Children’s of Alabama.

For Hicks, the Regions Tradition’s charity work sets it apart, including the $21 million it has raised for Children’s of Alabama since it started in 1992.

“In pro-am’s that I’ve done over the years, this is probably the most well-run,” Hicks said. “The money that’s raised here for Children’s of Alabama is second to none in charity events, not only here in the state of Alabama, but across the country.”

The pro-am is an appetizer to the main event this weekend: the Regions Tradition, which is one of the five PGA Tour Champions majors. John Daly, Ernie Els, Steve Stricker and Jim Furyk were among the professionals getting a practice round in before the action begins May 10.

Even though they were surrounded by superior golfers, the celebrities were all smiles and mostly optimistic about their golf game, keeping the mood light.

“Good thing it’s a pro-am,” Daly quipped after slicing his opening tee shot left. Tuberville joined him in the tree-line a couple shots later.

“That’s the furthest left you’ll ever see him go,” came the wisecrack from the announcer as the Republican senator smiled.

Before hitting his first tee shot, Barkley stayed an extra minute to talk with the Children’s of Alabama patients his group took pictures with, making sure he took time to actually meet with them outside of the few seconds they posed together.

“What are your names?” Barkley said. “I’m going to shout you out on the broadcast tonight.”

And more than anything, that shows the reason the big names come year after year to a pro-am in Birmingham. Not to play golf, but to make a difference in this town, whether through raising money or creating moments that kids will never forget.