As they have since 1957, area golfers will compete for the Mobile Metro Golf Championship at Azalea City Golf Course June 5 through 7. It will mark the continuation of one of the most popular golf tournaments in the area, as well as one of the only city golf championships in Alabama. It will also mark the continuation of the history of Azalea City Golf Course, which boasts the most rounds of golf played in the state.
Azalea City is a course rich in history — the PGA Tour played four tournaments at the course (the Sertoma Open, from 1959 through 1962), one of which was won by Arnold Palmer. A testament to its originality, today’s players compete on the the same layout and design as those who played the 18-hole course when it originally opened.
The Mobile Metro has its share of history too, from the days when Johnny Brown dominated the tournament field to recent times when the Senior title has been dominated by Robert Parmar, who will return to seek the crown again this year. In fact, he will continue his quest to win both the overall and Senior titles in the same year, something that has never been accomplished.
“We have room [with competition in various flights and skill levels], but we are a lower-handicap dominated event,” Lawrence Auer, head professional at Azalea City, said. “The Metro championship and the Senior Metro championship are what people are there for … It’s a pretty big deal for the city, having it here since 1957. That’s the year the course opened and the Metro was played there that year.
“Under par usually wins it,” Auer continued. “It’s a good test of golf but a lot of guys feel they have a good chance to win. That marginal player, who’s still a pretty good player … feels they can shoot pretty well at Azalea City. So they’ll be thinking of shooting low scores.”
The tournament is a 72-hole event for those playing for the Metro and Senior Metro titles. They will play 18 holes on Friday and Saturday and 36 holes on Sunday.
“As far as I know, it has always been that format, with 36 holes on Sunday,” Auer said. “Back in the ‘50s and ‘60s, that’s how the PGA Tour played and this event was like that. They changed, but we did not. That’s one of the cool things about this event. Over time, things change; there’s always change. But over the years this tournament has always been there and in its original format.”
The following week the State Amateur championship, June 11-14 at Mountain Brook Golf Club in Birmingham, gives Mobile-area amateurs a chance to play two top amateur tournaments in back-to-back weeks.
“They want to win the Metro because it’s the city championship, but they will also be getting ready to go play for the State Amateur championship,” Auer said.
Azalea City’s history is as big a draw as the tournament itself. Auer said the course’s design has withstood the test of time and the changes in the game over the years. Aside from boasting the most rounds per year of any course in the state, Azalea City, owned and operated by the City of Mobile, is also known for its laid-back atmosphere.
“It is the busiest golf course in Alabama and has been for a long time,” Auer said. “As well as hosting the Arnold Palmers and all that cool stuff, it is the everyman’s golf course. From day one it was a strong layout, designed by the architect Robert Bruce Harris, and today, [nearly] 60 years later, it’s still a strong layout. [Harris] was a nationally recognized architect … Azalea City is a gathering place for a lot of golfers. We get guys who belong to other golf clubs who also play out here a lot.”
Deadline for entering the tournament is Wednesday, June 3. Players 18 or older are eligible (the Senior Metro title is open to players 50 or older). Participants must live in Mobile County or a bordering county to be eligible. Auer said former winners of the tournament are a “who’s who”’ of Mobile golf. David Barnett is the defending champion.
“This tournament pretty much takes care of itself in terms of entries,” Auer said. “You’ve got guys who have played in it for 20 years or so and you also have a lot of college golfers who take part. They look forward to it every year, kind of like the Azalea Trail Run, things like that. And the 36 holes of play on Sunday makes it unique. I think guys really like that aspect of it and look forward to it because it’s the one time a year they do it.
“From my perspective, this tournament is a good one to run and actually enjoy. It’s fun to watch … This is a big plus for Mobile … Not every city has a tournament like this. Other cities have their invitationals and things like that, but they don’t have this event. This tournament has a lot of character to it.”
For further information, phone the Azalea City Golf Course at 251-208-5150.
HOLYFIELD VISITING MOBILE
It should be noted former heavyweight champion and Atmore native Evander Holyfield will be the guest speaker at the annual Youth of the Year banquet. The event is scheduled for 11:30 a.m. Wed., June 2 at the Mobile Convention Center. The event benefits the Boys and Girls Clubs of South Alabama.
Kelsie Kelley of the Sonny Callahan Boys and Girls Club will be honored at the banquet. For ticket information phone Betty Blakeney at 251-432-1235.