The biggest challenge, Costello says, was finding enough volunteers to work as marshals and with the ShotLink scoring system. The RBC Heritage team helped by sending out email blasts to their volunteers to see if they’d be interested in working at Congaree. Turns out more than 750 volunteers have committed, many of whom live in the Sun City retirement community in Bluffton.
Spectators will be allowed – and world No. 1 Dustin Johnson, who grew up in South Carolina, will undoubtedly be among their favorites. Perhaps fittingly for a walking-only course, there are no bleachers, which made set-up easier, but the state and Congaree will have hospitality tents around the 18th green.
When the tournament is over, Parrish, who is on the board of the RBC Heritage, expects the economic benefit to the state to be more than $50 million. He says roughly 25% of the SCPRT marketing is centered around golf of some sort – particularly in the Lowcountry and on the Grand Strand of Myrtle Beach.
That marketing, though, is normally focused east of the Mississippi River. The Palmetto Championship at Congaree provides national exposure with 32 commercial spots over the four days of the event, 16 each on Golf Channel and CBS.
Parrish acknowledges that seeing his state host three TOUR events in three months – along with this week’s BMW Charity Pro-Am presented by SYNNEX Corporation on the Korn Ferry Tour – probably won’t happen again in his lifetime.
“Some may see South Carolina, what we have, for the first time,” says Parrish, who noted that rounds played in the state are up more than 20% over the last year. “So that’s a really big benefit for us.”
Granted, the general public can’t call Congaree and get a tee time at the course that in 2018 was named Golf Digest’s “Best New Private Club.” But the telecast will offer a glimpse behind the scenes at a course that is fast developing a reputation as one of the country’s best.
Davidson, who is from Scotland, compares Congaree to a heathland course like Sunningdale or Walton Heath in the United Kingdom. Think a hybrid of a links and parkland layout, with native grasses and pines and 130 acres of sandy waste areas to navigate.
“It’s a Sandy subsoil, but not necessarily as undulating as linksland tends to be because it’s beside the sea,” he says. “It plays firm and fast. It’s fiery and Tom did an outstanding job. Every golf hole is different. Every golf hole is memorable.
“And other than a couple of forced carries you can play golf on the ground here, which is unusual in this country.”
Friedkin wanted Fazio to build a course that would have an opportunity like this to challenge the world’s best. In fact, a bid was made to host the 2026 Presidents Cup and while Medinah actually got the nod, the groundwork with the TOUR had been laid.
The philanthropic mission of the club and its ambassadors meshes well with that of the TOUR, which has raised more than $3 billion for charity. Beyond the CGGI, the club, which is located South Carolina’s poorest county, is a big supporter of the local food bank and worked with the Boys & Girls Clubs to set up the Congaree Career Launch Program where high school students can learn about financial literacy and career development to prepare for the future.
Congaree also built a driving range and practice area at Ridgeland-Hardeeville High School where more than 250 students now hone their skills. And the Congaree Foundation has purchased and helped refresh Sergeant Jasper Golf Club, nine-hole facility that is open to the public and where three local high school teams can play for free.
With an uber-exclusive course to introduce to the world on television and a remarkable charitable story to tell, the partnership with the TOUR and the state of South Carolina was a win-win for Congaree. Now that Johnson, Brooks Koepka, et al, have arrived, the final piece of the puzzle has been played.
“When those first fans come through the gate on Thursday, it’s going to be something special,” Davidson says.