Shoal Creek Founder Passes

Hall Thompson, the founder of Shoal Creek Country Club in Birmingham, Ala., passed away Wednesday. He was 87.

Thompson unveiled the Jack Nicklaus-designed private course on November 1, 1977. On hand for the grand opening ceremony was Nicklaus, and local major champions Jerry Pate and HuČbert Green.

The course hosted the PGA Championship in 1984, the U.S. Amateur in 1986 and the PGA Championship again in 1990. Before the second PGA, controversy erupted after Thompson was quoted in The Birmingham Post-Herald as saying the club could not be forced into accepting blacks as members.

Thompson said he was "totally misquoted" and apologized for any misunderstandings. The club has since admitted black members, including former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

As a result of that controversy, all venues for the three American major championships and other events on the professional tours must admit minority members to be eligible for hosting tournaments.

The course was also the site of the 2008 U.S. Junior Amateur and this year's Southern Amateur. In 2011, Shoal Creek will host the Regions Tradition, a Champions Tour event.

Thompson was one of Birmingham's most successful businessmen. He founded a Caterpillar dealership in 1957, and under his leadership, the company became one of the nation's most successful heavy-equipment sales and service companies. He also owned Thompson Realty Co.

"I would like others to remember that Dad had a deep respect of people in every walk of life." said his son Mike. "He loved the employees at Thompson Tractor and was proud to know their names, their spouses' names and those of their children - quite an accomplishment in a company of 500 people."

Thompson was also a generous supporter of Birmingham charities. "A lot of people viewed him as a tough outspoken businessman, and he is outspoken, but he is also very kind and generous," said Dan Hendley, former president of First National Bank of Birmingham, which later became AmSouth. "He gave a lot of charitable gifts over the years."