Beaufort News

Hootie singer helps bring women's collegiate golf, private concert to Hilton Head

Award-winning country musician and Charleston native Darius Rucker, better known as the lead singer of Hootie and the Blowfish, plans to help bring a women's intercollegiate golf tournament and private concert to Hilton Head Island.

Long Cove Club announced Wednesday it will host the inaugural Darius Rucker Intercollegiate tournament on its Pete Dye-designed course March 1-4, in partnership with the University of South Carolina.

The tournament will be sponsored by Hargray.

Fifteen collegiate women's teams will travel to Hilton Head to compete in what tournament chairman Staunton Oppenheimer said "will be a signature event on the women's collegiate schedule."

Rucker, USC and Long Cove Club have committed to hosting the tournament through 2016, according to a news release.

"This is high-end golf. This will bring good exposure for women's golf in general," Long Cove general manager David Loan said. "There are some highly ranked players who will be playing in this event."

Four recently announced 2012 U.S. Curtis Cup team members will represent their universities at the tournament, Loan said. The Curtis Cup -- the women's equivalent of the Walker Cup -- is a biennial competition pitting the top female amateurs from the U.S. against a team of top amateurs from Great Britain and Ireland.

The event was the brainchild of Long Cove's head professional, Bob Patton, and his long-time friend Puggy Blackmon, USC's director of golf and a Ridgeland native.

Long Cove Club stepped in on short notice to host a tournament for most of the men's teams that had committed to a 2001 Rolex Golf World Palmetto Dunes Collegiate Invitational. That long-standing tournament folded after Golf World withdrew its sponsorship.

Long Cove did not conduct the tournament again in 2002, however.

"Since then, we've had a lot of ideas to bring a college tournament back to Long Cove Club," Patton said.

In a conversation with Patton about a year ago, Blackmon lamented the lack of high-profile women's collegiate golf events.

"There really isn't a women's collegiate event that stands out head-and-shoulders above the rest," Patton said.

Blackmon contacted Rucker, an avid golfer and former USC student. He agreed to lend his name to the event and play a private concert for tournament players, coaches, sponsors, guests and Long Cove members.

Tickets for the March 1 performance at the 350-seat Arts Center of Coastal Carolina are sold out.

"(Darius) was a supporter of the Lady Gamecock Classic, another collegiate event hosted by USC that was held in Columbia for several years," Chris Carney, who works in Rucker's Columbia-based office, wrote in an email. "He's very excited that the event is being hosted by the great folks at Long Cove Club and Hilton Head Island."

Rucker and his former bandmates have hosted a popular celebrity pro-am in South Carolina for the past 17 years, drawing big names in golf and entertainment.

The 18th annual Hootie and the Blowfish Monday After The Masters Celebrity Pro-Am Golf Tournament is set for April 9 in Myrtle Beach. The tournament has donated more than $4.5 million to the band's foundation, which supports education and the S.C. Junior Golf Foundation.

Hootie & the Blowfish also host a men's collegiate golf event at the Bulls Bay Golf Club in Awendaw just outside of Charleston.

Follow reporter Tom Barton at twitter.com/EyeOnHiltonHead

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