Saban, Malzahn and Smart among coaches and celebrities creating buzz at Regions Tradition

Saban, Malzahn and Smart among coaches and celebrities creating buzz at Regions Tradition
Auburn head football Coach Gus Malzahn fist-bumps a fan at the Regions Tradition Pro Am. (Solomon Crenshaw Jr./Alabama NewsCenter)

A Greystone resident attending the Regions Tradition Pro Am at Greystone Golf and Country Club was overheard complimenting a Georgia fan about the Bulldogs’ football coach, former Alabama assistant Kirby Smart.

“He learned from the best,” the fan said, referring to Crimson Tide coach Nick Saban.

Speaking to the media, Saban acknowledged that he’s been a student as well, taking tips from Alabama golf coach Jay Seawell and former Tide golfer Justin Thomas, now the No. 1 golfer in the world.

Nick Saban, Gus Malzahn and others come together for Regions Tradition to raise money for charity from Alabama NewsCenter on Vimeo.

Some said their tutelage should make the reigning national championship coach pretty competitive on the links. To that, Saban said, “Not really.

“You’ve gotta be an athlete first,” he said. “I guess I’m only second level at best.”

Saban and Smart were among a slew of sports and entertainment figures making the scene at the annual charity event, with the coaches putting aside the usual bitter on-field rivalries for a more lighthearted atmosphere.

Champions Tour golfer Bernhard Langer said playing with Saban brought its share of distractions.

“The only time we could focus was on the greens,” he told Paul Finebaum, who broadcast his weekday show from the patio. “From tee to green, it was all about pictures and signing autographs.”

Auburn coach Gus Malzahn said he would prefer being more competitive but expected to be somewhat rusty.

“This is the fourth round of golf I’ve played since July, so I’m not going to be too competitive,” he said before teeing off. “I’m just going to try to enjoy it.”

Taylor Hicks, the former “American Idol” winner, made his eighth appearance in the Regions Pro Am. He admits that his golf is not as good as his singing.

“I always enjoy this because I’m not on the hook actually for my golf,” he said. “I’m on the hook for singing a little bit, but not for golf.”

Hicks’ approach on No. 18 sprayed wide right and struck a patron, who was not seriously injured. The ropes that restrict access were lowered so he could hit his next shot to the green.

As for the woman he hit: “I’ve got to find her and maybe sign a ball for her or something.”

RELATED: Sports celebrities tee up for the Regions Tradition Pro-Am

Former Auburn football coach Tommy Tuberville played in Hicks’ group.

He said Hicks “gets his money’s worth with his swing.” Tuberville, now an ESPN football analyst, said he’s very comfortable being back in Alabama.

“This is home for me,” he said. “I spent a lot of time here, raised two boys here. They’ve got a lot of passion for college football and the SEC. I’ve got a lot of great memories about the Iron Bowl. There’s nothing like it.”

Tuberville won six of those gridiron meetings with the Tide in a row.

“I always pull for Auburn,” he said, “but I was really pulling for them this year. Nick needed to lose that game. He was about to catch my six in a row.”

Vanderbilt coach Derek Mason was spotted signing an autograph with a gold-colored marker. While that one belonged to a fan, “I do (keep one) in my bag,” he laughed.

The rivalry between Alabama State and Alabama A&M universities played out on the Founders Course as A&M coach Connell Maynor squared off against State’s Donald Hill-Eley, with the victor netting $2,500 in scholarships for his school.

Maynor wound up holding up the giant check as the victor in that matchup.

“Coach Maynor is a scratch golfer,” Hill-Eley said. “I haven’t played in three years. My biggest thing is just to compete.”

Said Maynor: “We were competing, but at the end of the day it was for the kids. We were competing because we both wanted to win it for our university, and I played a little better than coach today.”

Hill-Eley’s Hornets won last year’s battle on the field. In so doing, the interim tag was dropped from his title, and Maynor was brought in to replace James Spady.

“We’ve got our work cut out for us,” the Bulldogs coach said. “(Hill-Eley has) done a great job since he’s taken over. We’re coming off a change – new offense, new defense. We’re going to try to be competitive and see if we can’t reverse that thing and get it back on our side.”

Related Stories