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Shoal Creek moving past PGA racial flap
Birmingham course hosting first national tournament since 1990

By Jay Reeves
Associated Press Writer

BIRMINGHAM — Shoal Creek Golf Club is preparing to play host to its first national championship since a racial dustup marred the 1990 PGA Championship, and a board member said Thursday the club hopes the tournament is a prelude to even bigger events.

The target of protests over its all-white membership 17 years ago, Shoal Creek will be the site of the 2008 U.S. Junior Amateur Championship in July.

Four black members

The club has admitted four black members since the 1990 flap drew international attention to racially exclusive clubs, director Mike Thompson said, and it hopes a successful tournament in nine months will lead to other championships, perhaps the U.S. Open, the U.S. Women's Open, the U.S. Senior Open or a major team event like the Ryder Cup.

"Any of those would be super for our club," said Thompson, who also will serve as the tournament chairman. "I think the club would be desirous to do something on the national scale every five years."

The U.S. Golf Association, which sponsors the Amateur, did not immediately return messages seeking comment.

The '90 Open was thrown into disarray after founder Hall Thompson — the board member's father — was quoted as saying Shoal Creek would never be pressured into accepting blacks as members. Thompson apologized, but the comments struck a cord with activists in Birmingham, the scene of violence in the 1950s and '60s as blacks protested legalized segregation.

Advertisers began pulling out, and demonstrations ended only when Shoal Creek admitted a black insurance executive, the late Louis Willie Jr., as an honorary member.

Afterward, the Professional Golf Association and other groups said they would no longer hold tournaments at exclusive clubs that lacked minorities or women as members.

Course scrutinized

Shoal Creek, located south of Birmingham in the rolling foothills of the Appalachians, is still mostly white. But the USGA scrutinized its membership policies, facilities and potential corporate backing before awarding the Amateur, said Mike Thompson.

"We met all their requirements on course play, facilities, membership — everything," he said.

Thompson said 156 golfers, mostly aged 15-17, will compete July 21-26. The tournament, with 50 corporate sponsors, will be shown on a tape-delay basis by the NBC television network, Thompson said.

"This is going to be a national championship on Alabama soil," he said. "We're gearing up to run this like the 1990 PGA."

Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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