In early June, the Congaree Golf Club in Ridgeland, S.C. was preparing to host its very first PGA Tour event. As professional golfers and fans traveled to the Palmetto Championship, the Congaree Foundation was far busier than one might realize.
Simultaneously to preparing for this major golf event, the Congaree Foundation is renovating another course 10 miles away for the Jasper County community. The Sergeant Jasper Golf Course was purchased by the Foundation four months ago and will remain as the only public golf course in the area.
“It was actually sold on the courthouse steps to a trailer park company. That’s when we decided to step in and throw our hat in the ring because, without Sergeant Jasper, there wouldn’t be a golf course in Jasper County,” said Tom Craft, the head golf professional at Congaree.
Sergeant Jasper is a 9-hole course that will provide a low-cost golfing opportunity at just $9 per round. The Foundations’ goal is to allow anyone who wants to play golf to feel comfortable to come out to the course and give it a try. They also are allowing youth to play for free.
The Congaree Foundation is already providing a physical education golf credential to students at Ridgeland-Hardeeville High School. As a part of the class, they have brought in professional golfers to help the students learn a sport that they believe can teach them valuable life lessons. Moving forward, as a part of the class, the Foundation will also be teaching the students how to maintain a golf course with trips to Sergeant Jasper.
“The Congaree Foundation is really excited about the prospects of Jasper County, which currently is the poorest county in South Carolina. Congaree helps out worldwide with our Congaree Global Golf Initiative with our camps but we feel like there’s a really important aspect to helping out here locally as well specifically Jasper County with golf, as well as academics for students,” Craft shared.
The Congaree Global Golf Initiative was founded in 2017 with a mission to provide underserved and well-deserving high school students who aspire to play collegiate golf access to the highest level of athletic coaching and academic tools to enhance their opportunities for success.
Craft explained that the Jasper Sergeant renovations are a great avenue for the Foundation to give back to the community because of all the things golf can teach the local youth.
Director of Golf Course Operations John Lavelle explained that they recently completed irrigation and now they are turning their attention to the greens, trees and other aspects of the course. The project has recently been named “Recharge the Sarge” by PGA Tour player, Lucas Glover.
“Our overall mission is to just have a place for kids to come out and play, learn the game and not have a tough place for them to enjoy learning golf,” Lavelle said. “We’re not necessarily developing the next tour players, instead we’re developing people who are going to contribute to the world. We’re using golf as a vehicle to bring kids out here to learn golf and the life lessons like playing by the rules and get them into a functional setting where they can learn and grow.”
Former golf superintendents that are now involved in the turfgrass industry with their own sod company are also assisting with this project. Modern Turf Inc., based in Rembert, S.C. has donated the sod to redo all of the greens on the course. Last week, their team of turfgrass professionals was at Sergeant Jasper spreading Sunday™ Ultra-Dwarf Bermudagrass sprigs as a part of the renovation.
Lavelle explained after talking with the team at Modern Turf, they wanted to use a grass variety that wouldn’t take a lot of work if they missed an application.
Modern Turf Owner, Hank Kerfoot said that he got involved with the project as soon as he found out the great things the Foundation was doing for the game of golf.
“I’ve been fortunate enough to be involved with golf my whole life. Golf has always been my roots if you will, and we love giving back. We’ve done a ton of first tee projects and we were on the ‘Recharge the Sarge’ train as soon as we heard about it,” Kerfoot said.
“Sunday is probably one of the most fascinating grasses I’ve ever seen. It’s just a really versatile, fun grass to grow. It’s easy, it’s relatively low maintenance, it can be higher maintenance if you want it to be, but it’s it doesn’t have to be,” Kerfoot said.
The Sunday donation will revitalize the greens and playing experience for the course. Kerfoot explained they simply fluffed the shaken bermudagrass sprigs out on the new greens and used a verticutter, water and top dressing fertilizer to start the growing process. They expect new greens to open in six to eight weeks. As a former golf superintendent and sod farmer, Kerfoot said he thinks it is very important that they’re going to take the time to not only teach youth about golf but also about course maintenance at Sergeant Jasper.
Pictured above is Modern Turf Sprig Team 6 spreading sprigs of Sunday Ultra-Dwarf Bermudagrass on the greens at Sergeant Jasper Golf Course.
Kerfoot went on to share that he tries to find the good in things and that he thinks the resurgence in the game of golf was one of the good things to come out of the COVID-19 pandemic. He said it’s great the Congaree Foundation is striking while the iron is hot to revitalize this golf course in Jasper County.
“It’s places like this that are going to make it more available to golfers who may not be a traditional country club member. Golf is all things to all people. And now there’s a place for people that want to wear blue jeans and play golf; they should play golf too,” he said. “It’s whatever you want to get out of it and to have places like this that are accessible and fairly priced, and hopefully it’ll be in better and better condition all the time, is just a great thing for the game. “
To learn more about how you can give back time or donate to the “Recharge the Sarge” efforts, click here.
This article was written by Cecilia Brown.