Regions Tradition announced as new golf championship at Shoal Creek

BIRMINGHAM, AL (WBRC) - A major golf tournament is returning to metro-Birmingham.

Officials with The Champions Tour announced Monday it will bring a golf championship to Shoal Creek in 2011, called the Regions Tradition.

World Golf Hall of Famer Lee Trevino was on hand for the announcement.

"We are finally at a golf course worthy of a Championship Tournament and a major championship," Trevino said. "Shoal Creek provided a fantastic test when I won in 1984 and it will be just as challenging for the players at the Regions Tradition next year."

Trevino won the 1984 PGA Championship at Shoal Creek.

"That was my final win on the PGA TOUR, so I have fond memories of the course," Trevino said.

Formerly, Regions Financial had been the title sponsor of the Regions Classic, a Champions Tour event played annually at Ross Bridge in Hoover. An amendment between Regions and the Champions Tour allowed the company to become the title sponsor of the Regions Tradition.

"I think it's a positive message for the community. Regions is about investing back into our community." Grayson Hall, Regions CEO said.

Children's Hospital will be the primary charitable beneficiary of the tournament. Organizers believe Children's Hospital can expect an increased amount of support due to the event's status as a major championship.

"Children's Hospital of Alabama is grateful to Regions and The Champions Tour for designating Children's as the primary charity of the Regions Tradition.  Bringing the Regions Tradition to the Birmingham area underscores Regions' commitment to communities throughout Alabama and it will magnify the impact Children's will make on the lives of children and families throughout our state," said Mike Warren, President and CEO.

The champions tour is expected raise the purse to $2 million. This will lure the biggest names on the tour which will mean more for an economical impact and more money for charities.

The Shelby County Golf Club hosted the PGA Championship at Shoal Creek back in 1990. It was the last time a PGA event was held because of the controversy over the lack of African American members at the club. Now, everyone connected with the event say the Regions Tradition is going to be bigger and better.

Mike Thompson, the son of Shoal Creek founder Hall Thompson, says the country club has changed since 1990.

"The club then said what we? Who are we? We started a minority outreach program to bring minorities into Shoal Creek," Thompson said.

A controversy erupted after Hall Thompson was quoted as saying the club would not be pressured into inviting African Americans for membership.  The late Lou Willie, an insurance executive was given an honorary membership to help the club get over the criticism. His son attended Monday's announcement.

"There was a great turmoil about the membership," Wilile said. "That has been changed. There are additional minority members."

Birmingham Mayor William Bell welcomed the announcement. Bell was critical of Shoal Creek's lack of black members as a city councilman 20 years ago.

"It was a depressing time for the Birmingham Region," Bell said.  "We all learned a lesson. We learned to cooperate."

Bell worked with Mike Thompson to offer at least the opportunity for African Americans to join the club.

"The rules now are you can't discriminate," Thompson said.   

It costs $65,000 to join and own part of the club, and there is a monthly fee of $525.  

Thompson says there are three African-Americans members in the club, including former Secretary of State Condeleezza Rice.   

The championship has been scheduled to be played from May 2nd to the 8th  in 2011. Authorities with the event say the Golf Channel will be exclusively televising the four days of golf to more than 133 countries.

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