News & ToursMay 5, 2011

Perspective leads at the Regions Tradition

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. -- For anyone competing or spectating Thursday at the Regions Tradition, perspective shouldn't have been hard to come by.

After all, it was a game they were playing, at a fine golf course on a gorgeous day - warm but not hot, with a gentle breeze if it threatened to get so.

Shoal Creek, unlike so much of a state devastated by tornadoes on April 27, was a wonderful place to be. It wasn't a day to be overly grim about a double bogey, so when I noticed one pro who was, I knew immediately he had not read The Birmingham News before teeing off.

"Needed: A place to live," cried the lead headline.

"35 tornadoes struck state, officials say," said another.

"Victims recount being in eye of monster EF5 twister," explained a third.

"Damages in state could near $2B," warned a fourth.

The death toll in Alabama was reported to be 236 as of Wednesday.

Minor, isolated golf pout aside, the Champions Tour pros have been princes about helping out. They've written checks to the disaster relief effort, visited victims, brought clothes for people who don't have any anymore. Their largesse complements that of Regions and the Champions Tour, which have pledged generous financial help.

Tom Watson traveled from Kansas City with seven suitcases full of clothing to give away. Among his donation was lots of socks - as he told a tournament staffer, people tend to forget about those when they're gathering shirts and pants. Up in North Carolina, Sarah Strange, Curtis' wife, was organizing a neighborhood's worth of clothing to ship south.

The tournament had 1,200 volunteers lined up, but 75 to 100 had to drop out after being affected by the storms. The volunteers got two shirts when they signed up for duty, but the event has asked them to donate one of them to the relief effort, meaning there are going to be some pale green golf shirts worn by folks with far greater worries than their next 18.

Charles Barkley played in the Tradition's pro-am Wednesday after seeing the hard-hit towns of Pratt City and Pleasant Grove. "The worst thing I've ever seen in my life," Barkley told the Birmingham News. "Looking at some of that devastation, I don't see how anyone survived. I know we lost a lot of lives, but you look at those areas, you gotta be surprised more people didn't get killed."

I spoke to a longtime friend the other day whose parents live in Alabama, 40 miles from the nearest tornado. After the hellish weather had moved through, they found a wallet in their yard. Turned out it belonged to man from Tuscaloosa, who was on a cot having lost most everything.

It seemed odd Thursday to think about a leader in the clubhouse when so many people not that far away no longer had a home. But when play was over, there was one nonetheless, Tom Lehman, with a 67.

-- Bill Fields

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