College Golf

Darius Rucker on Hilton Head for start of his 3rd annual women's golf tournament

Strong field in place at Long Cove

sfastenau@beaufortgazette.comMarch 7, 2014 


The women's college golf tournament named after musician Darius Rucker tees off Friday at Long Cove Club on Hilton Head Island.

CHARLES SLATE — File -- The Sun News (Myrtle Beach)

Rain washed out Darius Rucker's planned round of golf Thursday at Long Cove Club, but he already knows the Pete Dye layout.

The South Carolina native and Hootie & the Blowfish frontman-turned-country music artist has visited Hilton Head Island since 1990. And presented with the opportunity three years ago to add his name to another golf event, Rucker -- a 6 handicap -- agreed.

The Darius Rucker Intercollegiate, in its third year, begins Friday at Long Cove and again includes one of the best fields in women's college golf. Rucker serves as the celebrity host in conjunction with his beloved University of South Carolina.

"For me, I'm such a South Carolina guy and done so many things in Charleston and Myrtle Beach, it just felt really good to also have something going on in Hilton Head," said Rucker, who won a Grammy in January for his cover of 'Wagon Wheel.' "I thought it would be cool to bring something here, and it worked."

The University of Alabama women's golf team, which has won the tournament the first two years, is back. The Crimson Tide are led by Stephanie Meadow, an International Junior Golf Academy graduate whose parents live on the island.

Eleven of the 17 teams in the field are ranked in the Golf World/WGCA Division I coaches' poll, including six of the top 10. First-timers include No. 3 Duke, No. 8 Oklahoma, No. 9 Stanford and Kentucky.

Host South Carolina started its spring season with a victory in Tallahassee, Fla. Coach Kalen Harris, whose team is ranked from No. 12 to 14 in various polls, said the Gamecocks enjoyed the start after working in new ways during the winter.

"We did a lot of work on our short game and mental game, so it was great to see that pay off," she said. "And I think that just gave them a confidence boost in what they're doing. Hopefully it will propel us moving into the remainder of the season and into our postseason."

If Rucker and his private concert before the tournament did not provide a big enough draw, Long Cove might be the closer. Dye's creation is regularly recognized among golf magazines' top-100 lists and known as a stiff test.

Alabama fired a 3-over-par 571 to win in 2012 but only needed a 24-over 876 to defend its title.

Harris said she expected windy conditions this weekend and that missing to the correct side of greens would be key.

"You've got to be mentally tough and mentally prepared," she said. "You can't fall asleep at any time. This golf course will challenge you."

Rucker is a member at Country Club of Charleston, Bulls Bay Golf Club and Yeaman's Hall in the area of his native town. He has been a frequent visitor to Hilton Head and played several courses here.

He tabbed Long Cove as one of his favorites and said the test was appropriate for some of the top players in the women's game.

"You don't want them to be able to come and hit it anywhere and make par," Rucker said. "You want them to have to hit it down the middle and hit the green. It's a hard golf course, but it's a fair golf course."

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