Congaree sets course, mission exposed on PGA Tour



FILE – Wyndham Clark watches his fairway shot on the 10th hole during the second round of the PGA Championship golf tournament at the Ocean Course in Kiawah Island, SC this Friday May 21, 2021, file photo. Clark finally reached the US Open this year after a decade of trying. (AP Photo / David J. Phillip, file)


Tucked away in a remote location off I-95 in sparsely populated South Carolina, a hidden layout of Tom Fazio is set to show off to a national audience when the PGA Tour hosts the Palmetto Championship at Congaree Golf Club this week.

“We are rural, not remote,” said Bruce Davidson, Congaree Golf Director.

It is difficult to tell the difference. There is no signage directing the way from the freeway or a splashy grand entrance welcoming golfers and fans as they arrive. Still, the PGA Tour rushed to add Congaree to the schedule when COVID-19 issues canceled the RBC Canadian Open.

“From the moment I entered Congaree in 2019, I knew it was a special place,” said Tour executive vice president Ty Votaw.

The four-year course was built to challenge the best in the world, Davidson said. He had bid for the 2026 Presidents Cup matches, but lost to Medinah Country Club in Illinois.

“We didn’t like it. We thought, “Why don’t we give ourselves a chance? Do they see it as too far away? ‘ Davidson said. “We see this week as a proof of concept. ”

The club can certainly show that they are among the best courses in the country this week. World No.1 Dustin Johnson and four-time major champion Brooks Koepka are among those who started Thursday in the final event to prepare for the US Open at Torrey Pines a week later.

The course ranks second in South Carolina, according to Golf Digest ratings in 2021, behind the Kiawah Island Ocean Course, which hosted the PGA Championship last month.

Golf was only part of the club’s mission. It was started by billionaire businessmen Dan Friedkin and the late Robert McNair, who owned the Houston Texans in the NFL.

The two have planned a place where the members, some 200 who are called Ambassadors, have devoted a great deal of time to philanthropy and the growth of the game.

The club created the Congaree Global Golf Initiative, which Davidson describes as a “junior training camp” for those hoping to play or study the game in college. Davidson said there were 68 boys and girls who participated and 27 were awarded college scholarships.

Anthony Ford II of Atlanta now plays for North Carolina A&T. He remembers his time at CGGI as intense. He had a full club try-on for the first time and found out what he needed to do to play in college.

There are guidance counselors who help with SAT preparation as well as high-level golf instruction, including the business part of the game.

“These kids are coming and they’re working with experts in our field,” Davidson said.

The Congaree Foundation, the club’s charitable arm, recently purchased the nearby nine-hole Sergeant Jasper Golf Club with the aim of creating a course to prepare golf teams and young players to play and learn.

Davidson said the club’s ambassadors are generous with their finances and their time. “The impact they have on children by giving all of their time as mentors has really allowed us to create a role model that I think in today’s world is unique,” ​​he said. declared.

Lucas Glover, the 2009 US Open champion, is one such ambassador. He spurred fundraising to modernize Sergeant Jasper’s course with his “Recharge The Sarge” initiative, which raised $ 30,000, according to Course Superintendent Bill Henderson.

The money went to a new irrigation system.

“I’ve been in the game for a long time and you hear things about places and most don’t deliver,” Glover said. “This one delivers.”

Henderson, who spent his career in the golf industry, has seen many high-end clubs filled with powerful members who promise great things. At Congaree, they kept their promises, he said.

This was evident when Henderson first cleared the overgrown 60-year-old public course. When he looked up, several golf carts full of Congaree golf pros and officials, including John McNeely, executive director of the foundation’s program, had arrived to help with the clean-up.

“They all wanted to know where to start,” Henderson said. “So I gave them all shovels. These are guys used to owning businesses that do this, and they do it themselves.

Davidson said the property had not given up on its pursuit of big golf events and planned to bid on another Presidents Cup game between the United States and an international team.

“This is our hope,” Davidson said.

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