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May 8, 2024

Regions Tradition is homecoming of sorts for Stewart Cink

By Gregg Dewalt, Alabama Golf News Editor
Stewart Cink

Family, friends coming out to see him

HOOVER – It’s been a while since former Florence resident Stewart Cink teed it up in a competitive round in his home state.

Twenty-eight years and 18 days, to be exact. The last time Cink played in a professional tournament in the state was the final round of the Alabama Classic (now Korn Ferry) Tour event at Cherokee Ridge just south of Huntsville. He finished 10th in that event and eventually led that tour’s money list. He was on the PGA Tour the next year never to look back.

On Thursday, the now-Atlanta resident and new grandfather, returns to professional golf in the state at the Regions Tradition PGA Tour Champions tournament at Greystone Golf and Country Club. The 72-hole tournament is considered a major championship.

It wasn’t that Cink was neglecting returning to Alabama to play, it’s just that the state only hosted one tour event since he graduated fulltime to the PGA Tour. And that was the Barbasol Championship, an opposite-field event to the Open Championship. Being the owner of one Claret Jug, Cink opted to return to Scotland as a former champion.

After Wednesday’s celebrity pro-am in which he was paired with new Alabama football coach Kalin DeBoer, Cink marveled at the Birmingham sprawl surrounding Greystone.

“There was nothing out this way except for Shoal Creek when I was playing tournaments down this way,” he told caddie Chris Jones. “The last time I spent much time in Birmingham, (Highway) 280 was just a tiny little road you took coming out this way in the sticks to go out to play at Shoal Creek. This has really blown up out this way. It’s a nice new part of town.”

Cink, a Bradshaw High School graduate, left Florence when he enrolled at Georgia Tech and his parents moved away shortly after. Now 50, he is toggling between the PGA Tour and the Champions Tour. And while on the senior circuit there is a more laid-back vibe, he said Wednesday’s pro-am had the feel of a PGA Tour event from a fan perspective.

‘Stewart Cink: ‘The crowds were great out here’

Definitely,” he said. “The crowds were great out there.”

Even though Cink lived in Florence and didn’t spend a lot of time in Birmingham, he said it was important for him to play in the Regions Tradition.

“It literally feels like home, even though I am not from Birmingham. It is important because I know Alabama is a great golf state and it has been that way since I was a kid,” he said. “I learned the game playing on a lot of courses around here that hosted junior tournaments and amateur tournaments.”

During the pro-am, Cink said throughout the round friends and acquaintances were reminding him of times when they were paired together in events during his junior and amateur years.

“Some of my old friends were telling that they played with me in the state am back at Hoover in 1992 or whenever it was,” he said. “It was bringing back memories. I’m honored they come out here to watch us play and see the coaches. Just supporting the event. It has a lot of energy behind it.”

Cink said he played Greystone only one other time, but doesn’t remember much about it.

“The golf course is really good – it’s in great shape and it will provide a good backdrop for the competition this week.”

Gregg Dewalt is the editor of Alabama Golf News

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Featured image of Stewart Cink by Gregg Dewalt

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