Dataw residents, employees watch island grow over 25 years

Lori Murdaugh is getting ready to throw a 25th birthday party for her baby. But how do you celebrate when that baby is an island?

"(Dataw Island has) gone from basically a wooded island to an island that has currently, I think, 823 homes," Dataw Island Club assistant general manager and controller Murdaugh said. "It's exciting. It's like a baby that I've watched grow."

Twenty-five years ago, developer Alcoa South Carolina opened a private golf community called Dataw Island, complete with a clubhouse, tennis courts, a Tom Fazio-designed golf course, 24 residences and six model homes. Murdaugh has worked for Dataw Island from the beginning.

Since then, Dataw has grown to an 870-acre gated community with 1,100 properties, a marina, indoor and outdoor pools, croquet lawns and more. The clubhouse has been expanded, and a community center and second golf course have been added.

Property owners and club members will celebrate Saturday with a variety of free activities, including golf and tennis exhibitions and clinics, a slide show by the Dataw Island Historical Foundation, boat tours, a treasure hunt, a garden club exhibit and a cookout. The festivities will end with an awards ceremony -- the historical foundation will present certificates to eight employees who have worked for Dataw for at least 25 years and to about 13 families who have owned property there since the beginning.

Fred and Dorothy Zinser signed the contract on their Dataw Island home -- the first custom home completed on the island -- on their 35th wedding anniversary in 1985. They just celebrated their 60th anniversary in August and say they love the community now just as much as they did 25 years ago. They love the scenery and the friends they've met. They enjoy boating and golfing, although they aren't able to do as much now as they once did. And they have a lot of fond memories of their time on Dataw.

"Where did the years go?" Dorothy asked. "They went by so fast."

It's another example of how, in some ways, Dataw really is like a baby: Before you know it, she's all grown up.