RIDGELAND, S.C. (WSAV) – On a course known for its striking natural design, the schoolhouse at the Congaree Golf Club still manages to stand out.
“This is the heart and soul of the club,” Bruce Davidson, executive director of the Congaree Foundation, explained as he walked up the steps.
A schoolhouse — that looks like a building you’d find in Colonial Williamsburg — serves as home base for the Congaree Global Golf Initiative, a golf and life skills program serving kids from all over the world.
“It was an idea that golf pros kicked around here for a long time,” Davidson added. “We never thought that we would be able to do this.”
The program, now in its fifth year of existence, utilizes Congaree Ambassadors to identify promising young high schoolers and hosts them at the golf club for one week in hopes of improving their performance on the course and in the classroom.
“It’s not the goal for them to be professional golfers,” Davidson said. “Our goal is for these kids to get a degree.”
According to Davidson, “Congaree Kids,” with the help of this program, have earned approximately $2.5 million in scholarship money.
“They learn how to write a college application letter because that’s very important, and they do SAT prep and testing,” Davidson explained. “Then prep and testing again until we can boost their scores because a lot of these kids have never sat in on an SAT.”
Many of the kids hadn’t been to the United States before receiving an invite to Congaree. Davidson remembers telling one Irish family their daughter had been selected.
“She goes: ‘Well, this doesn’t happen to families like ours.’ And I said, ‘Well, it just happened, and your daughter will be fine.'”
The young girl’s name was Maeve Cummings, now a standout golfer at Carson Newman, a member of the dean’s list, and is set to become one of the first “Congaree Kids” to graduate college. Every story, however, is different.
“I had a 15-year-old boy ask me if he wanted to live here, and he wasn’t laughing,” Davidson remembered. “He wasn’t joking, he actually wanted to, because things weren’t great where he lived. That struck home to me, that we need to help this kid.”
Staff view this week’s PGA Tour event as a golden opportunity to showcase a program that provides a golden ticket to hundreds of kids.
“We tell them the right things, or what we think are the right things, to help them succeed,” Davidson said. “Hopefully, they take it to college and do what they are supposed to do.”
WSAV sports reporter Connor DelPrete will take you inside the Congaree Golf Club schoolhouse tonight on WSAV News 3 at 5.