Representatives from the PGA Tour, Congaree Golf Club, and the South Carolina Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism introduced the local media to the best-kept secret in Lowcountry golf May 3 – and broke a little news in the process.
Gathered in front of the stunning clubhouse at the exclusive club in rural Ridgeland, officials laid out the vision for the Palmetto Championship at Congaree and announced that the world’s top-ranked golfer – Palmetto State native Dustin Johnson – has committed to play in the unique event, which will replace the canceled RBC Canadian Open on the PGA Tour schedule next month.
Johnson’s commitment comes on the heels of a recruiting campaign led by fellow South Carolina native Lucas Glover, who was on hand for Monday’s event after recently becoming enamored with the club and its philanthropic mission. Glover was overcome with emotion while discussing his newfound connection to the club and the work the Congaree Foundation is doing to support and promote junior golf in Jasper County and around the globe.
“You hear so many things about places, and most of them don’t deliver,” Glover said at Media Day. “This one delivered.”
Adding a big name like Johnson to the field is a big boon for the event, particularly given that it falls the week before the U.S. Open at Torrey Pines in San Diego.
Johnson, a 24-time PGA Tour winner and the reigning FedExCup champion, grew up in Irmo and played at Dutch Fork High School before competing collegiately at Coastal Carolina. Since turning professional in 2008, the 36-year-old has won at least one PGA Tour event in 14 consecutive seasons – including six World Golf Championships events.
Of his 24 PGA Tour titles, though, Johnson remains in search of his first victory in South Carolina.
“I am excited to officially commit to the Palmetto Championship at Congaree and look forward to the opportunity to again compete in my home state this season,” Dustin Johnson said in a PGA Tour release. “I have heard nothing but great reviews about the golf course at Congaree and have no doubt it will provide a stiff challenge for all of us on the PGA Tour.”
Indeed, the Tom Fazio design has earned quite a reputation since its low-key opening in 2017. It was voted Golf Digest’s Best New Private Course in 2018 and tabbed as the publication’s best new course built in the 2010s, and it will debut as the No. 39 course on Golf Digest’s list of America’s 100 Greatest Golf Courses later this month.
The field got another boost this week, as a pair of highly ranked Englishmen have added their names to the field for the first-time event, with World No. 9 Tyrrell Hatton and No. 17 Matt Fitzpatrick set to compete in South Carolina’s third PGA Tour event of the season.
The par-71 track will play at just over 7,500 yards when the pros tee it up June 10-13, and even though Congaree has never been tackled by a PGA Tour field, it figures to provide quite a challenge.
Although it falls a week before the U.S. Open, the Palmetto Championship at Congaree might look a bit more like a British Open – aside from the sweltering South Carolina heat in mid-June. Fazio’s design is marked with forced carries and vast bunkers and waste areas with wide-open spaces that will make wind a major factor.
The course is designed to be played along the ground – the fairways are not overseeded, and the open-front greens and tightly cut fringes and collars encourage the bump-and-run. The greens were firm and fast Monday, and if the customary afternoon thunderstorms stay away next month, even the pros will have to get creative to get at flags.
The Lowcountry golf scene’s best-kept secret is out, and with 16 hours of live coverage across the Golf Channel and CBS next month, the entire golf world will soon be familiar with the beauty and mystique of one of the world’s most unique golf clubs.
Congaree has just one member – co-founder and owner Dan Friedkin, one of two original members along with late co-founder Bob McNair – and a number of Ambassador Members who have displayed a commitment to the Congaree Foundation’s mission to positively impact the lives of young people locally and around the globe.
The foundation recently purchased Sergeant Jasper Golf Club in Ridgeland and intends to renovate the course to provide greater access to the game of golf for students in Jasper County schools and the Congaree Global Golf Initiative, which has helped more than a dozen junior golfers earn more than $2.2 million in college scholarships. The foundation also supports the Boys and Girls Club of Jasper County and the Lowcountry Food Bank, among other charities.
A limited number of daily grounds tickets are on sale at PalmettoChampionship.com. Daily tickets are $70 per day, Thursday through Sunday, with a discounted rate of $40 for youth (under 18), military members, and first responders. Weekly passes are $235 for adults or $140 for youth. All ticketed spectators must purchase a parking pass for $20 per day or $50 for the week.
Proceeds from the event will benefit the Congaree Foundation.
Justin Jarrett has been covering sports in the Lowcountry since 2005 and is the founder of LowcoSports.com.