Back from the brink
Whit Jacobs, Sod Solutions

Back from the brink

Congaree revives historic Sergeant Jasper Golf Club while prepping for first PGA Tour event.

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The Congaree Golf Club in Ridgeland, S.C. is preparing to host its first PGA Tour event this month. As professional golfers and fans travel to the Palmetto Championship, the Congaree Foundation is far busier than one might realize. Simultaneously preparing for this major golf event, the Congaree Foundation is giving back to the Jasper County community at another course located less than 10 miles away.

Sergeant Jasper Golf Club was purchased by the Foundation three months ago and remains the only public golf course in the area.

“It was actually sold on the courthouse steps to a trailer park company,” said Tom Craft, head golf professional at Congaree. “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.”

Named for Revolutionary War Sergeant William Jasper, who was killed during the Siege of Savannah in 1779, SJGC is a 9-hole course that will provide a low-cost golfing opportunity at $9 per round, with free rounds for children. The Foundation’s goal is to allow anyone who wants to play golf to feel comfortable to come out to the course and give it a try.

Justin Wallace, Sod Solutions (3)

The Congaree Foundation is 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 the Foundation believes can teach valuable life lessons. The Foundation will also teach 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,” Craft said. “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.”

The Congaree Global Golf Initiative was founded in 2017 with a mission to provide underserved and 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.

A spirited course renovation

Renovation of the course is in full swing, with irrigation complete and attention now turned to greens and tees, according to John Lavelle, the director of golf course operations. The project has recently been dubbed “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 getting them into a functional setting where they can learn and grow.”

Former golf course superintendents now involved in the industry with their own sod company are also assisting with this project. Modern Turf, based in Rembert, S.C., has donated the sod to redo all greens. Their team of turfgrass professionals was at Sergeant Jasper last week, spreading Sunday Ultra-Dwarf Bermudagrass sprigs as a part of the renovation. (Lavelle opted for that variety because it wouldn’t take a lot of work if they missed an application.)

Hank Kerfoot, the owner of Modern Turf, said he got involved with the project as soon as he learned about the Foundation’s plans and actions.

“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,” Kerfoot said. “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.

“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.”

The Sunday donation will revitalize the greens and playing experience for the course. The sprigs were fluffed and a verticutter, water and topdressing fertilizer were used to start the growing process. New greens are expected to open in six to eight weeks. As a former golf superintendent and sod farmer, Kerfoot said he thinks it is important that younger players at SJGC are being taught not only about the game of golf but also about course maintenance.

“It’s places like this that are going to make it more available to golfers who may not be a traditional country club member,” Kerfoot said. “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.

“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. It’s just a great thing for the game.”

Sod Solutions has helped develop and release to the market more than 20 different turfgrass varieties over the last 27 years, including Palmetto, CitraBlue St. Augustine, EMPIRE, Innovation Zoysia, Celebration, Latitude 36 and NorthBridge Bermudagrass. The company is based near Charleston, S.C.