But Couples is happily here anyway for the Champions Tour’s Regions Tradition at the scenic course that hosted two PGA Championships a couple of decades ago before controversy erupted over its all-white membership _ and the founder’s comments that the club wouldn’t be pressured into accepting blacks.
The Tradition, the first of five Champions Tour majors, opens Thursday.
“This is a great, great golf course,” Couples, who tied for 15th at the Masters while fighting persistent back problems, said Wednesday. “For the Champions Tour, I believe this is going to be one of the best events.”
Finchem called the 7,234-yard, par-72 course, which is nestled between the lush Oak and Double Oak mountains, “by all estimates a significant, supreme test” and “famous around the world.”
The 600-member club now has a handful of black members, including former Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice, a Birmingham native and honorary chair of the tournament.
“We certainly have no hesitation of playing here and haven’t had for a number of years,” Finchem said. “Actually, the last five or 10 years we’ve had a couple of, I would call them robust conversations with the club here about possibly playing.
“For whatever reason, those conversations didn’t materialize, but they could have. I mean, we had no reservation about playing.”
The rancor prompted major golf organizations to adopt membership policies for tournament sites.
And now? “We’re extremely comfortable on all fronts,” Finchem said.
“It’s because Mike Thompson was proactive in taking the initiative to do things right, and he’s done them right all the way,” said Lowery, a former Shoal Creek member. “He’s done a great job with all of those issues. They’re in the past. We’re going forward.”View Entire Story
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