Shoal Creek Golf Club in Alabama will host the 2008 US Junior Amateur. It’s the first national championship for that course since the 1990 racial flap surrounding the PGA Championship there.
Shoal Creek Golf And Country Club opened as an invitation only golf club in 1976 and until 1990 had no minority members. While it had held many PGA, USGA and NCAA events, including the 1984 PGA Championship, and the 1986 U.S. Amateur Championship the club ran across a storm of protests as the 1990 PGA Championship approached.
The situation was not helped when founder Hal Thompson said: “This is our home, and we pick and choose who we want. We have the right to associate or not associate with whomever we choose.”
Finally, just nine days before the tournament, the club admitted its first African American member in Louis Willie, a successful local businessman. Willie passed away this past September.
The Shoal Creek incident had two important effects. First, the major golf organizations began to pay attention to the membership fo the clubs where they staged their events. Its probably safe to say that blatantly all-white clubs will no longer be welcome.
A second, and less well known effect, was that it sparked the creation of the well-known Robert Trent Jones golf trail in Alabama. Dismayed by the incident, and seeking to build some positive images of the state, David Bronner, CEO of Retirement Systems of Alabama invested $100 million in the creation of the Trail. It’s now a gem in the golfing world, hosting the Champions Tour and two LPGA events.