There is a PGA tournament being played in Ridgeland for the second straight year, and one of the top draws of the tour has already committed to play.
The CJ Cup in South Carolina will be played Oct. 19-23 at Congaree Golf Club. This is the second time in two years that the PGA has moved a tournament to the golf course with short notice. This speaks to how impressed PGA tour officials were with Congaree’s handling of a pandemic-induced, last-second ask.
“We thought we were going to have an easy summer this year, but we were glad it didn’t turn out that way. We’re honored to be asked to do this,” said Congaree Director of Golf Bruce Davidson at the tournament’s media event on Sept. 20.
Last year, Congaree officials had just a 72-day window to prepare for the Palmetto Championship, a substitute tournament added to the schedule as a substitute for The Canadian Open, which was canceled in 2021 due to countrywide COVID restrictions.
This year, CJ Cup tournament director Andre Silva and his team had a full 120-day prep time, an eternity comparably, but still drastically shorter than most PGA tournaments like The RBC Heritage that are prepping throughout the year.
“The relationship that was forged between the tour and the state of South Carolina was a special one, and it was always in the back of our mind if there was an opportunity to come back, definitely it would be one of the places that would be in discussions,” Silva said. “It’s going to be amazing and one of the top PGA events on the tour this year for sure.”
The tournament launched as Korea’s first official PGA Tour event in 2017, but was held in Las Vegas the past two years due to the pandemic. The tournament’s defending champion, Rory McElroy, has already committed to play in the 2022 tourney.
Davidson said at the CJ Cup media day that McElroy is just the first of the big names that will be announced as part of the 78-player field. The tourney will be worth 500 FedEx points and will feature a no-cut structure – meaning you’ll see all players in the field all four days.
The field has the potential to be even stronger than the Palmetto Championship, as the CJ Cup is a fall tournament that is reserved for the top 60 players in the 2021-22 FedExCup points standings, sponsor exemptions, the five players from the Korea Professional Golfers Association and the top three players of Korean descent in the World Golf Rankings.
Justin Thomas is a two-time winner of the event and is part of the FexEx Cup top 60 eligible to play this year.
Area golf enthusiasts were treated to a star-studded field at The Palmetto Championship in June 2021. Clemson graduate Doc Redman was near the top of the leaderboard throughout, but finished in a tie for second, one shot behind champion Garrick Higgo. South Carolina native Dustin Johnson finished three shots back at The Palmetto Championship, but will not be eligible to play at Congaree this year after his defection to the upstart LIV Golf tour.
The return of the event means another golf-related tourism win for the state. Tourism officials said golf had a $3.3 billion economic impact on the state’s tourism industry in 2021.
It is also yet another chance to show one of South Carolina’s nearest links gems off to the world. Congaree was founded by billionaires Dan Friedkin and the late Bob McNair, the former owner of the Houston Texans. The course was completed in 2017 just off U.S. 278 on a former rice plantation.
The event also is a chance to spotlight the work of the club’s Congaree Foundation, which has hosted a total of 138 students at an instruction and college admission prep camp as part of its Congaree Global Golf Initiative. The foundation has raised $15.5 million to date, and 95 percent of the students have gone on to play college-level golf.
“Last year was great, the attendance was great, a lot of people enjoyed all the things we had here with the concessions, walking around here, and watching the players,” said John McNeely, executive director for the Congaree Foundation. “I think the field that will be in place for this one will be another step up for us and South Carolina.”
Spectators for The Palmetto Championship saw a parking setup among the most convenient on the PGA Tour. Parking is just a few hundred yards from the course entrance.
Daily grounds tickets for the CJ Cup are available now, and will cost $25 for the Oct. 19 practice round, $55 each for the first and second rounds on Oct. 20-21 and $60 each for the third and final rounds on Oct. 22-23. Families will get a special bonus, as two children ages 15 and under are admitted free per one ticketed adult.
Active and veteran Armed Forces and National Guard members are eligible for up to four complimentary tickets per day. Military members will need an active GovX account to verify military status and unlock the ticket offer.
There are also plenty of volunteer opportunities available to help organizers pull off this year’s event. Choose from 20 different volunteer committees, including Competition Support (ball spotters and location-based operators, both inside the ropes), Admissions, Player Transportation, Gallery Management, Supply Distribution and Media Center operations.
Tickets and volunteer information are available online at CJCUPSouthCarolina.com.
Tim Wood is a veteran journalist based in Bluffton. email@example.com.