In exchange for all-white Shoal Creek Country Club accepting a black businessman as an honorary member, civil rights leaders in Birmingham yesterday called off protests of next week's PGA Championship.

The partial admission of insurance executive Louis Willie and the promise by Shoal Creek to admit a black as a regular member -- if he meets normal club requirements -- affected the compromise.

"Let's just say we thought the time was right," said John Pittman, president of Shoal Creek.

Birmingham Mayor Richard Arrington, a leading behind-the-scenes figure in the negotiations, said the PGA of America will recommend to its board that future championships be held at clubs that do not discriminate.

The board is expected to ratify that recommendation at a meeting next week.

The president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, the Rev. Joseph Lowery, then urged all groups and individuals to reconsider protests at the Aug. 9-12 event, one of golf's four major championships.

Said the Rev. Abraham Woods of the Birmingham SCLC: "It seems as if we may be able to put this thing behind us."

The controversy began with Shoal Creek founder Hall Thompson saying in June that no amount of pressure would force the club to admit blacks. His most incendiary quote: "I think we've said that we don't discriminate in every other area except the blacks."

Thompson later apologized, but his stance caused the withdrawl of television advertising by IBM, Toyota, Spalding, Anheuser-Busch, American Honda and Lincoln-Mercury. There was no immediate indication about whether those sponsors would reconsider.

Unlike regular members, honoree Willie, 66, president of Booker T. Washington Insurance Co., will not have to pay the $35,000 entrance fee. He is active in Birmingham civic projects.

The winner of the 1984 PGA Championship at Shoal Creek, Lee Trevino, indicated he might not play this year. Yesterday, through a spokeswoman, Trevino said he would tee off as scheduled.

"Hall Thompson . . . is one of the nicest people I know," said Jack Nicklaus, who designed Shoal Creek. "He's heavily involved in community projects. He's a very, very giving man and {racism} is not his intention in any way, shape or form."

Economic reaction to Thompson and Shoal Creek was forceful enough for other prominent clubs, including Augusta National, site of the Masters, to comment about their admission policies.

Masters Chairman Hord Hardin said Augusta National has sought minority members and will continue to do so. That apparently satisfied the primary Masters sponsors, Travelers Cos. and Cadillac.

Although it is separate from the PGA of America, the PGA Tour has moved to avoid incidents such as have plagued Shoal Creek. In a telephone interview yesterday, Deputy Commissioner and Chief Operating Officer Tim Finchem said a "comfort level" between the tour and the clubs that host its tournaments was being sought.

Finchem said all but three of the 123 events on its three tours {PGA, Senior PGA and Ben Hogan} are cosponsored. Those cosponsors are responsible for course selection; until now, Finchem said, the tour board only considered the course's merit.

"What we haven't done is say: 'What is the membership structure?' " That will happen from now on, Finchem said.

He said about 20 of the 123 clubs the tour has sanctioned this year are all-white. "We're not averse to losing some sites. If we have to lose some tournaments, it's a small price to develop a comfort level," he said.