On May 3, I had the pleasure to attend Media Day for a new golf event coming to the Lowcountry. The Palmetto Championship at Congaree is planned for June 10-13 at Congaree Golf Club in Ridgeland, an exclusive private club that opened in 2018.
Media day included a panel discussion with PGA officials, Congaree Foundation Ambassadors, golf professional Lucas Glover and representatives of the Golf Channel.
Dan Friedkin, chairman of The Friedkin Group, a consortium of businesses in the automotive, hospitality, entertainment, sports and adventure industries, is the co-founder and owner of Congaree. Friedkin’s vision, along with his co-founder, the late Robert C. McNair, former owner of the NFL’s Houston Texans, was to create a new club model with the sustaining purpose to provide educational and vocational opportunities to underserved and ambitious youth.
Friedkin is the only member at Congaree. There are also a number of “ambassadors.” The ambassadors’ affiliation is less dependent on financial dues and more on the time they offer one of the club’s many mentoring programs. Ambassadors include Tom Watson, Morgan Pressel, Lucas Glover and Mark O’Meara – all winners of major tournaments.
All of the day’s speakers were passionate about the mission of the Congaree Foundation. A major initiative is a partnership with the Boys & Girls Club of Jasper County. The foundation’s vision is to create seeds of academic success, athletic performance, artistic expression and civic involvement.
The foundation recently acquired Sergeant Jasper Golf Club in Ridgeland, with plans to establish golf programs for the Boys and Girls Club and First Tee. Area high school teams will be able to play at “The Sarge” at no cost. This will enable competitive youth golf to expand and flourish in the region.
Following the panel, guests were invited to play 18 holes at the club. I was pleased to be paired with Kevin Aylmer, publisher of The Bluffton Sun.
Congaree is a Tom Fazio design, made to look like courses in Australia’s Sandbelt. The layout was unbelievable. It is a unique design that has wide open fairways with sand dividing holes and ancient live oaks surrounding the fairways.
Fazio transported gigantic oak trees and created hills, ridges and lakes that look like they have been there for hundreds of years.
The fairways were hard and fast, and the green complexes are some of the most difficult I have ever seen. Sometimes players were forced to putt from well off the green to tightly mowed slopes.
I am eager to see how the professionals play the course.
For more information and to purchase tickets, which will be limited, visit Palmetto Championship.com.
Dr. Jean Harris is an LPGA Master Professional and teaches at local courses. firstname.lastname@example.org; golfdoctorjean.com