By Dave Senko, Champions Tour staff
The Champions Tour travels to Birmingham, Ala., May 5-8 for the Regions Tradition, the season’s first major. Shoal Creek Country Club, a Jack Nicklaus Signature Golf Course, last hosted major championship golf in 1984 and 1990, and several current Champions Tour stars reflected on those PGA Championships earlier this year with Dave Senko.
Obviously, it’s a wonderful golf course. I remember playing in the 1990 PGA there. I had a very good week personally there. I do remember the rough as being really tough. But just a quality golf course. There isn’t a weak hole on it. You see what you get, and you’ve got to go out there and hit it and play the golf course. I just thought it was a wonderful venue for us. There are a lot of really great imaginative holes out there. It’s just straight up good golf.
Birmingham is a wonderful golf town. They seem to really support the tournaments well. Obviously all of the support there, for the Regions tournament, and now that it’s a major, Regions is still the sponsor. A golf course that has held majors, it couldn’t have worked out to be a better venue.
Well, I guess what I remember of it, it’s very high rough. Or I guess very thick rough. Bermuda rough there plays very difficult. We are going in early enough this year that maybe it won’t have a full growing season like it did at the PGA when we played there. But a pretty hard golf course. The scores were not great when we played there. I certainly didn’t play very well when I played there. Neither time did I come in playing all that well. So I’m anxious to see if I’m playing better and if I can score a little bit better. But it’s a championship golf course and the people of Birmingham have always been behind golf when it comes there. So I don’t expect anything less there. Being one of our majors, everybody will be really excited about it.
I love to go to Birmingham. I have an uncle that comes down every year. He doesn’t walk around the whole golf course, but it’s always fun for me to go back to Birmingham. All of the guys love it. The tournament there, they’ve always done a great job with great hospitality for the players. You feel like it’s really a major here.
The golf course is great. It could be the best golf course we play this year. I think at the time of year, you know, it’s not going to be extremely hot when it was in August when we played there. So I think it’s going to be a different golf course. But they will have enough time to get the rough up. I’m just looking forward to it. It’s going to be a great tournament.
It’s great for us to have the opportunity to go back to Shoal Creek. It’s a proven golf course. It hosted some major championships in the past. For those of us that have been fortunate to play, I think we are going to see a golf course that is really more of a traditional golf course. Of course, the membership is as enthusiastic as it can be, and they’ve had great leadership through the years, and I played a number of outings there back when BellSouth was sort of a part of the AT&T network. So I actually played it quite a bit and enjoyed it every time. Whether or not the course will be in shape, due to the storms we had rolling through here of late remains to be seen. But I would bet they are going to work night and day to get that course ready for this tournament. I cannot imagine anybody not looking forward to playing at Shoal Creek.
Well, when I first started out here on the Senior Tour, and now the Champions Tour, that was the benchmark (for crowds). Obviously, they said Birmingham is the place, Birmingham is the place. And when I first played there it definitely was the place to play and the crowds had been absolutely fantastic. The move, I think out to Robert Trent Jones Trail, because of the nature of the golf course, may have inhibited some of the crowds going out on the course. But traditionally, we have had such a great review and such a great reception in Birmingham that I can’t see it being anything but a hit for all of the players and fans and sponsors alike.
It’s going to a great week for us. I think there is a wonderful fit for the sponsor, the city of Birmingham and Shoal Creek. I think it will elevate the tournament to a whole new level this year. I’ve played two PGA’s at the course and I remember the rough being quite severe but that was in August so I don’t think it will be quite as severe. It will be wonderful test for us and Birmingham has always been a great place to play golf."
Shoal Creek is going to be special.
Now they can call The Tradition, in my opinion, a major because it’s going to a golf course that deserves to be called a major. This golf course is mean.
If you look, it has a lot of Hilton Head in it, for the exception that it’s longer. And it’s a new modern golf course that looks traditional. In other words, it doesn’t have all of this fancy stuff. It’s just flat out. It doesn’t have all of these humps and bumps and stuff all over it. It just goes in there like this and there is the green. It’s mean. It’s a mean golf course. That tournament is going to be fantastic.
I’m going to bet you that they will have, on the weekend for that tournament, I will bet you they will have between 35,000 and 45,000 a day there. No question. There is nothing else to do in Alabama that time of year. Without Talladega and The Tide not playing, there ain’t nothing going on in Alabama. That’s the only venue. If they’re not racing, or The Tide is not playing, it’s dead. Nothing else going on there. But it will be special.
I drove the ball extremely well there. The rough was very, very deep. But I drove the ball so well there. I wasn’t playing The TOUR regular. I was announcing for NBC playing that tournament. And I bought that putter in Holland, it was a Ping. I putted like hell with it there. As a matter of fact it’s in there. It’s there over the fireplace, you will see it. I had it put in a trophy case for Mr. Hall Thompson. They will enjoy it.
I remember if you hit the ball in the rough, it might have been a lateral hazard. You chipped out. You couldn’t hit it. You just chipped out and went from there. That’s probably why Trevino had won because he couldn’t aim it off line. Back then he was hitting it so straight. It was perfect for him.
I remember the golf course being a lot of character, narrow in spots, and if you kept it out of trouble you could play it.
Our majors are kind of squashed together — we have The Tradition, and then two weeks after that the PGA. Then in July we’ve got two in a row. We actually have three majors out of (five)weeks, I think. That’s actually good. If you have a good stretch, a good couple months, you can do what Bernhard did last year and win a couple.