Approximately 30 actors, musicians, athletes and comedians teed off Friday at the Robert Trent Jones course in Palmetto Dunes for the 2011 Hilton Head Island Celebrity Golf Tournament.
While some residents gathered to get a peek or snag an autograph from the celebrity lineup, it was a non-celeb who generated buzz on the course.
One-arm golfer and Atlanta resident Josh Patton turned heads with his 250- to 300-yard drives.
"He's amazing. The man is powerful," said "Late Show with David Letterman" announcer Alan Kalter, who played in Patton's group. "From an injury, to make the rest of your body move that much better, takes a lot of guts and hard work."
Patton, a former actor, stuntman and bodyguard for movie stars and politicians, was stabbed in the ribcage about 25 years ago while protecting a client. The resulting scar tissue restricted movement on the left side of his body.
He had hoped to begin a baseball career, but he could no longer put two hands on the bat.
Then, he was introduced to golf.
A former Marine, he taught himself to play in 15 months and then traveled to Scotland for the World One-Arm Golf Championships.
There he shot a 69 and a 71 to eliminate two former world champions from the competition. He went on to win six of nine tournament trophies and set a record with a 335-yard drive.
He now encourages children, veterans and anyone facing physical, mental or social challenges to use the game to learn more about themselves and how to overcome obstacles.
"My friends told me about the tournament and said it was a good cause," Patton said. "I'd never been to Hilton Head and always wanted to come. I'm glad I did. Everything has been super. We started out with a birdie and hit the first drive 260 to 270 yards."
Kalter, who has participated in the tournament the past seven years, said it's people like Patton and volunteers and organizers who keep drawing him back.
"They are the sweetest people in the world. I admire their heart. They are trying to do as much for the needy as they possibly can in good times and in bad," he said.
Since its start in 1979, the tournament has raised $3.8 million for local charities such as Heroes on Horseback, The Children's Center, Volunteers in Medicine, Bluffton Self Help, and Boys & Girls Clubs of the Lowcountry.
Organizers unveiled a plaque Friday commemorating the support of longtime tournament sponsor Greenwood Communities and Resorts.
"Greenwood's generosity has not only benefited our tournament, but has been a boon to Hilton Head Island and the Lowcountry," said Cary Griffin, a co-founder of the tournament.
Follow reporter Tom Barton at twitter.com/EyeOnHiltonHead.
- Celebrity golf tournament tees off today with nearly full field: Sept. 1, 2011
- Stars gear up to tee off: Aug. 28, 2011