THOMPSON TEES OFF: Tom Lehman is looking for a three-peat at the - WVTM-TV Birmingham, AL

THOMPSON TEES OFF: Tom Lehman is looking for a three-peat at the Regions Tradition

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Two-time defending Regions Tradition champion Tom Lehman was in town last week for a media day and I took the chance for a one-on-one interview with him.

Engaging, thoughtful and genuine are three adjectives that spring to mind and he backed this up, not only in his words with me, but at the press conference later that day at the new Children's of Alabama Hospital location in downtown Birmingham.

Not only would Lehman become the first person to win the Tradition three times in a row should he do so June 6-9, he would match Champions Tour leading tournament winner Hale Irwin, who is the only player to win a Champions Tour major three years in a row, taking the Senior PGA Championship in 1996-98.

"That's not the sort of thing I try to think about too much," Lehman said. "I prefer to take each (Regions) at a time, but that would be a really good goal to do it again."

Lehman talked with great appreciation and affection for host venue Shoal Creek.

"It's the very moment you drive through the gates. Everything is so beautifully manicured. The views down from the clubhouse to the course spread before you. To be honest, I'd heard a lot about the course and often you are let down in your anticipation. (However), it was better than I expected. A true joy.

"The layout is in what it requires off the tee and the size of the greens fitting the length of the holes. It does not ask you to do the impossible, but it does test every club in your bag."

Lehman has the distinction of having been Player of the Year on the Hogan Tour (now the Tour), PGA Tour and Champions Tour. 

"I'm very proud of the level I was at to reach that point (each time). I think it shows my longevity and my continued commitment to my game and to fight for every shot. I've always had the attitude of never give up. I think it comes from playing overseas in my early days (of professional golf) where you had to make the cut to play the next week."

His most famous win also came overseas, in the 1996 Open Championship at Royal Lytham & St. Annes.

"I have always embraced links golf. It gives guys like me a chance. I like to think my way around a course. I don't bomb it, but I'm long enough."

As an Open champion, he is exempt in golf's oldest major until age 65.

"I'll play while I'm still competitive and I'll know when it's time to hang it up."

That day seems many years away for the Champions Tour leading player, who is eagerly looking forward to going for a hat trick of Regions Traditions come June 9. I wouldn't bet against him making history.

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