Plans in full swing for Hilton Head Island's First Tee facility

mmccombs@islandpacket.comMarch 29, 2014 

APTOPIX Honda Classic Golf

Golfer Tiger Woods places his ball before teeing off on the 18th hole during the first round of the Honda Classic golf tournament, Thursday, Feb. 27, 2014 in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)


Michael Gavin teed up the ball before stepping back and taking an easy practice swing.

The 7-year-old then addressed the ball, repeated that smooth swing and sent a low line drive hurtling over the other end of the soccer field behind the Boys and Girls Club of Hilton Head Island.

Gavin's ceremonial tee shot marked the launch of the capital campaign by organizers of the First Tee of the Lowcountry. The group held a press conference Friday to discuss plans for the First Tee golf facility and to introduce the launch team.

S.C. Golf Hall of Famers Jim and Karen Ferree are the chairpersons of that launch team.

"This First Tee project for us is unbelievable," Karen Ferree said. "We're so excited because of our love for the game of golf. That's how we met, through the game of golf. We enjoy the game so much and we know what First Tee has to offer the children of this community."

Joining the Ferrees on the launch team are the Town of Hilton Head Island, the Town of Bluffton, The Boys & Girls Club of the Lowcountry, The Heritage Classic Foundation, The Lowcountry Golf Course Owners Association and The Hilton Head Island/Bluffton Chamber of Commerce.

The jewel of the First Tee of the Lowcounty will be the training facility, the centerpiece of Friday's presentation.

The facility, to be built behind the Boys & Girls Club, features a full-size driving range, a practice range with target greens, a practice chipping green, a putting green with bunkers and a small pro shop.

When the range is not in use, the space is designed to provide a six-hole, par-3 course.

The facility's architect, Clyde Johnston, said the facility would be among the best of its kind in the country.

"I thnk our standards here for maintenance quality, being that this is Hilton Head Island and we have some of the top golf courses in the country, ..." Johnston said, "I think it's going to be quite successful."

According to First Tee of the Lowcountry ambassador Ken Campbell, the group must raise $1.5 million to cover all of the capital needs of the facility and the first year's operating costs.

He said in-kind contributions from contractors and suppliers would encompass up to 20 percent of that $1.5 million figure.

"We already have some pledges from some foundations," Campbell said, "and we're just beginning our campaign for individuals, and that's going very well."

First Tee of the Lowcountry has scheduled a reception for 5 p.m. April 15 at the Sea Pines Country Club to discuss funding specifics.

"Without getting into detail, it's been significant. We're making progress," Campbell said. "The reception of the community has been absolutely wonderful. I think when we announce where we are, it will raise a lot of eyebrows. It is significant."

Though there are still permits to acquire, First Tee of the Lowcountry committee chariman Gerrold Walker said the expected completion date for the facility would be September 2015.

Meanwhile, according to Walker, First Tee programs will begin this fall at several area courses.

It can't start soon enough for Karen Ferree.

"If you have successful young people, you have successful schools," Ferree said. "Then you have a successful community and you have a successful country."

Details: Mike Davis, 803-816-1038,

Related links

  • Heritage Classic Foundation to donate 8,400 golf balls to The First Tee, Nov. 14, 2013:

  • Youth golf program could tee off on Hilton Head, July 24, 2013:
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