Return to Shoal Creek

By John FeinsteinMay 4, 2011, 10:44 pm

Shoal Creek will return to major championship golf this week. Those two words are more important than the golf course where the PGA Tour will conduct one of its senior majors beginning Thursday at the misnamed Tradition.

In an ironic twist, the Tradition was first held in 1990, the same year that Shoal Creek became as much a part of golf lexicon as the green jacket or the claret jug.

That certainly wasn’t the intent of Hall Thompson, who founded the club outside Birmingham in 1977 and wanted to build a course worthy of major championships. He got his wish quickly, when the PGA Championship was played there in 1984. The PGA of America was so pleased with the way the event went – Lee Trevino was the winner – that it announced the championship would return in 1990.

It was shortly before the major was scheduled to return to Shoal Creek that, as the police like to say, the incident began.

It started with what should have been a routine pre-tournament, isn’t-it-great-the-PGA-is-returning interview with Thompson in the Birmingham Post Herald. During the interview Thompson was asked about the lack of black members at Shoal Creek. Thompson pointed out that Shoal Creek had women members and it had Jewish members.

“We don’t discriminate in any other area except blacks,” he said. “This is our home and we pick and choose who we want.”

The firestorm started soon after the story appeared. Thompson tried to claim he has been misquoted but the argument didn’t take. Then he apologized. Still, there were demands that the PGA move the event elsewhere just weeks before it was scheduled to begin.

It was Jim Awtrey, then the CEO of the PGA of America, who saved the situation. Rather than play the ‘misquoted’ card or try to downplay what had been said, Awtrey recognized that he had a crisis on his hands. In fact, he hired a crisis manager from New York to advise him on how to deal with something neither he nor anyone else in golf had ever dealt with.

Finally, Thompson and his members were convinced to invite a local Birmingham businessman named Louis Willie to join the club immediately as an honorary member. Even though the move was seen as political it quieted things enough to allow the PGA to hold the tournament at Shoal Creek.

Wayne Grady won and never again won anything that mattered. But Shoal Creek continued to matter.

The PGA of America, PGA Tour and U.S. Golf Association all changed rules in the wake of Shoal Creek to say that any club that discriminated in any way – which was and is a private club’s legal right – could not host one of their tournaments. That’s why Cypress Point, one of the host clubs for the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am for years and Butler National, which had hosted the Western Open, no longer are part of the PGA Tour.

It was soon after Shoal Creek that Augusta National Golf Club invited Gannett executive Ron Townsend to become it’s first African-American member. Now, Augusta National remains an all-male club, but the event is run specifically by Augusta National, not the PGA Tour.

That said, Shoal Creek, was a landmark moment in the history of golf. That certainly wasn’t Thompson’s intention and was not the way the PGA of America wanted to call attention to its premiere event. But Shoal Creek will be a part of golf history forever.

Thompson died last fall at the age of 87, knowing that an important golf event would finally be returning to his club. Louis Willie died at the age of 84 in 2007 having been a member of the club since 1990. Their connection and their legacy may not be what their family members would want them remembered for but there is no doubt that the events of 1990 cemented their place in the sports pantheon. There’s an old line about knowing what the first sentence in someone’s obituary will be. It is no surprise that the words, ‘Shoal Creek,’ appear in the first sentence of both men’s obituaries.

Most of the players teeing it up Thursday in what is now called the Regions Tradition were on the PGA Tour when Shoal Creek happened. Most will say it is ancient history, hardly worthy of mention and that the focus should be on the golf tournament being played this week. That’s simply not true.

It is a measure of the progress made that the Tour can return to Shoal Creek with nary a political whimper heard and that the club they are returning to is integrated in all ways. Shoal Creek was an important moment in golf history – an accidental bridge from an embarrassing past to a better present and a vastly improved future.

Cabreras take 1-shot lead in Father/Son

By Associated PressDecember 16, 2017, 11:23 pm

ORLANDO, Fla. - Two-time major champion Angel Cabrera and Angel Cabrera Jr. birdied their last three holes for a 13-under 59 to take a one-shot lead Saturday in the PNC Father-Son Challenge.

Cabrera, a Masters and U.S. Open champion, is making his debut in this popular 36-hole scramble. His son said he practiced hard for 10 days. What helped put him at ease was watching his father make so many putts.

''We combined very well,'' Cabrera said. ''When I hit a bad shot, he hit a good one. That's the key.''

They had a one-shot lead over Mark O'Meara and Shaun O'Meara, who are playing for the first time. That included a birdie on the last hole, which O'Meara attributed to the strength of his son.

''My little man hit it 58 yards by me on the 18th,'' said O'Meara, the Masters and British Open champion in 1998. ''It's a little easier coming in with a 6-iron.''

Defending champions David Duval and Nick Karavites rallied over the back nine at the Ritz-Carlton Golf Club for a 61. They are trying to become the first father-son team to repeat as winners since Bernhard and Stefan Langer in 2006. Larry Nelson won two years in a row in 2007 and 2008, but with different sons.

''I'd imagine we have to break 60 tomorrow to have a chance to win, but hey, stranger things have happened,'' Duval said. ''I've even done it myself.''

Duval shot 59 at the Bob Hope Classic to win in 1999 on his way to reaching No. 1 in the world that year.

Duval and his stepson were tied with Bernhard Langer and 17-year-old Jason Langer, who made two eagles on the last five holes. This Langer tandem won in 2014.

Jack Nicklaus, playing with grandson G.T., opened with a 68.

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Woods' 2018 schedule coming into focus ... or is it?

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 16, 2017, 5:46 pm

Two weeks after his successful return to competition at the Hero World Challenge, Tiger Woods’ 2018 schedule may be coming into focus.

Golfweek reported on Saturday that Woods hopes to play the Genesis Open in February according to an unidentified source with “direct knowledge of the situation.”

Woods’ agent Mark Steinberg declined to confirm the 14-time major champion would play the event and told that Woods – who underwent fusion surgery to his lower back in April – is still formulating his ’18 schedule.

Woods’ foundation is the host organization for the Genesis Open and the event supports the Tiger Woods Learning Center in Anaheim, Calif.

The Genesis Open would be Woods’ first start on the PGA Tour since he missed the cut last January at the Farmers Insurance Open.

Rose weathering delayed Indonesian Masters

By Associated PressDecember 16, 2017, 3:52 pm

JAKARTA, Indonesia - Justin Rose held a three-stroke lead after eight holes of the third round Saturday when play was suspended for the day due to bad weather at the Indonesian Masters.

Rose was 3-under on the day and led his playing partners Kiradech Aphibarnrat and Scott Vincent. The Englishman led both players by a stroke after the second round was completed Saturday morning due to weather delays on Friday.

Brandt Snedeker withdrew with apparent heat exhaustion on Friday on the 11th hole of the second round. Ranked 51st in the world, he flew to Jakarta looking to move inside the top 50 by the end of the year and ensure a spot in next year's Masters.

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Lexi (wrist) WDs from Diamond Resorts Invitational

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 15, 2017, 11:27 pm

Lexi Thompson on Friday withdrew from the Diamond Resorts Invitational, citing inflammation in her wrist. Thompson, who teamed with Tony Finau to finish tied for fourth place in last week's QBE Shootout, said she is under strict doctor's order not to hit golf balls until mid-January.

The Diamond Resorts Invitational is scheduled Jan. 12-14 at Tranquilo Golf Club in Orlando, Fla. The field for te 54-hole event includes LPGA and PGA Tour Champions players, as well as celebrities from the worlds or sports and entertainment.