‘Golf Ball’ pays off for junior programs

04/06/2014 12:16 AM

04/06/2014 12:17 AM

An idea borrowed from a wildlife organization is paying handsome dividends for South Carolina’s junior golfers, and the next chapter in the life of the Columbia Golf Ball will unfold Thursday night at the Moore Building on the State Fairgrounds.

“Charlie (Roundtree III), who is on our board, too, came to us with this plan for a fund-raiser,” said Happ Lathrop, executive director of the South Carolina Golf Association. “The results have been very rewarding.”

Proceeds support junior golf development opportunities in the state. South Carolina’s junior program has been named the best in the nation by Golf Digest. The Ball has raised nearly $500,000 in 12 years.

Opportunities created include the South Carolina Junior Golf Association’s Golf-in-Schools program, which is designed to introduce and engage youth in golf during regularly scheduled physical education classes. Since 2010, the SCJGA staff has introduced more than 12,000 youngsters to golf in more than 30 schools. Part of the initiative utilizes SNAG – Starting New at Golf.

“The Golf Ball is a large day for us at the golf association,” Lathrop said. “For us, the evening is an important fund-raiser, but, more important, is that we get the golf community together and we get our message in front of a lot of people. Hopefully, we create a lot of enthusiasm.”

Putting on the affair “is a huge task and an ongoing effort,” Lathrop said. “As soon as last year’s Ball ended, we started making plans for this year.”

Prizes, monitors that show first-round play in the Masters, and live and silent auctions create the action, and the menu includes hors d’oeuvres and an open bar. Items available at the auction include golf packages, a deer-hunting trip to the Lowcountry for four, a Napa Valley wine tour, RBC Heritage tickets, U.S. Open tickets, autographed memorabilia and more than 100 rounds of golf in the state.

Alumni from the state’s junior program have won more than 20 PGA Tour tournaments, including one U.S. Open (Lucas Glover) and one FedEx Cup (Bill Haas).

Six have made the U.S. Walker Cup team, three have played on the U.S. President’s Cup team and one on the U.S. Ryder Cup team. In addition, youngsters who came through the program have played on national championship college teams and won individual national titles at the collegiate and USGA levels.

The festivities are 6:30-9:30 p.m., with the live auction staring at 8 p.m. Tickets are $60 per individual or $100 for couples and can be purchased at the door or by calling the SCGA office at 803-732-9311.

Chip shots

Chase Fisher (Columbia) won the boys’ competition and Kelli Murphy (Elgin) led the girls in the SCJGA’s Caddie Classic. The top 26 boys and top 10 girls earn caddying opportunities at the Hootie and the Blowfish Monday after the Masters pro-am in North Myrtle Beach. ...

John Daly, Kevin Kisner, Trevor Immelman, and Kevin Tway have joined Mark Anderson and Players Amateur champion Hunter Stewart in receiving sponsors’ exemptions into the RBC Heritage. Tickets for the April 17-20 PGA Tour stop at Hilton Head Island are available at www.rbcheritage.com or by calling 843-671-2448. ...

Andreas Halvorsen (St. Augustine, Fla., boys) and Lauren Gros (Windermere, Fla., girls) won divisions in the AJGA tourney at Spring Valley CC. Top South Carolina finishers: William Harwood (Columba) and Trent Phillips (Inman) tied for fourth among the boys, and Lauren Stephenson (Lexington), Ana Paula Valdes (Bluffton) and Natalie Srinivasan (Spartanburg) tied for second among girls.

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