Congaree, First Tee team up to let young golfers hone their skills


With the PGA Tour set to make its first stop in Ridgeland in June, golf fans around the world will soon learn much more about the Congaree Foundation’s mission to positively impact the lives of young people through the game of golf — but about 30 local children experienced that mission firsthand on Saturday. 

The Congaree Foundation, which will play host to the PGA Tour’s Palmetto Championship at Congaree from June 10-13, teamed up with First Tee of the Lowcountry over Memorial Day weekend to welcome young aspiring golfers to the newly-renovated Sergeant Jasper Golf Club for a clinic, one of the first steps in using the revitalized course to increase access to the game of golf for students in Jasper County. 

The First Tee aims to introduce youth to the game of golf and instill nine core values that go hand in hand with the game — honesty, integrity, sportsmanship, respect, confidence, responsibility, perseverance, courtesy, and judgment — which dovetails nicely with the Congaree Foundation’s own mission.

“People ask me what is the First Tee, is it a golf program?,” First Tee of the Lowcountry board member Joe Datillo said. “Not really. It’s not a golf program, it’s a youth development organization and what we’re focused on is teaching kids life lessons through golf.” 

The day kicked off at Ridgeland-Hardeeville High School, where professional from Congaree Golf Club provided instruction to the handful of young golfers, who then had the opportunity to tee it up and hone their course management skills on “The Sarge.” The course revitalization recently got a boost from PGA Tour star and Palmetto State native Lucas Glover, whose “Recharge The Sarge” campaign during the RBC Heritage Presented by Boeing raised $7,300 — a total that was matched by Heritage champion Stewart Cink.

Footage from the event will air during television coverage of the Palmetto Championship, which replaces the RBC Canadian Open on this season’s PGA Tour schedule and will provide further support for future programs like Saturday’s.

“It’s been a long ride at Sergeant Jasper Golf Club,” said Tom Craft, head pro at Congaree Golf Club and Sergeant Jasper Golf Club. “We’ve been working on this project for about three years now, and to finally see it all come to fruition today and have 60 to 70 people at the golf course that was just about closed two years has been really rewarding. It’s been a great sight to see.” 

And who knows, perhaps a future PGA Tour star will emerge from the small group who teed it up at The Sarge on Saturday and they can say it all started here.

“They can be a little shy, but if you get them going they’ll swing it hard,” Craft said with a smile. “You’ve got to keep them reined in just a little bit.” 

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