Editor's Note: Jim Nantz, Darius Rucker and Davis Love III are the latest winners of The Arnie Award, an honor given by Golf Digest in association with the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am and Monterey Peninsula Foundation to celebrate Golfers Who Give Back. The trio will be recognized during a special ceremony in February during the week of the PGA Tour event in Pebble Beach.
Three-time Grammy winner Darius Rucker, frontman for Hootie & the Blowfish and a solo country-music star, has been crazy for golf since he was a teenager. Now 52, he doesn’t just play in charitable golf events. He has taken the lead in organizing several of them, raising awareness and huge sums of money for causes that are important to him.
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You’ve been on tour since May. Been playing much golf?
Oh, yeah, I play a lot. [Laughs.] I’m playing Augusta National tomorrow. I’m playing at St. Andrews in a few days, as we’re heading over to Europe. That’s the coolest thing about being a golf guy. When I go to a town, a lot of people want me to play their course. I play four or five days a week. I’ll do a show and get in my bus, and when I wake up, I’m in the parking lot of a golf course. That’s one of my tour manager’s jobs— to make sure there’s golf wherever we go.
What are your game’s strengths and weaknesses?
I can get off the tee. I can usually put it in the fairway. But goodness, my chipping and my sand game are awful. Absolutely awful. I have a short-game practice area in my front yard, but I suck. I have no excuse.
You have a golf-themed talk show on SiriusXM Radio, “On par with Darius Rucker.” Any favorite guests?
One of the great days of my life was when Jack Nicklaus agreed to be on. I asked him about the Masters in ’86, and he said, “Well, Darius, on Wednesday … ” and he went day by day. When he’s talking about Saturday and Sunday, he’s going shot by shot. Not just his shots, but Seve’s and Norman’s shots, what everybody else is doing! I get chills just thinking about it. I don’t care what interview I do after that. Nothing could ever come close to it.
What was your first charity golf tournament? Was it “Monday after the Masters” in Myrtle Beach?
That was the first one I organized. It was already a tournament, but they asked if [Hootie & the Blowfish] would take it over and do it for a couple of years. When we started, Fred Couples and David Duval were the big pros who came every year. It was great to have them still be a part of it, but when we took over we brought in all the bands and all that stuff, and tried to make it a big deal. Now, 24 years later, we’re still doing it. It’s one of the biggest one-day fundraisers in South Carolina. It’s pretty cool to be a part of that.
And that’s not your only golf tournament, is it?
On my very first tour with country music, I went to St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis with Dierks Bentley, and it just really moved me. I thought it was amazing what they were doing there, and how nobody ever pays a bill or anything. I wanted to do anything I could to help them, and that turned out being a golf tournament and a concert. Now I have two golf tournaments that I do for St. Jude’s, one in Las Vegas and one in Nashville. I’ve raised over a million dollars for St. Jude’s in the last few years. I’m also involved in a couple of college tournaments. We have the Hootie Intercollegiate at Bulls Bay Golf Club, where we have 12 teams, and usually six to 10 of them are ranked. And I have the Darius Rucker Intercollegiate, which is a women’s tournament at Long Cove Club. Both of those are hosted by the University of South Carolina, where we went to college.
Any other charities that are most important to you?
The Medical University of South Carolina Children’s Hospital. My mom worked there as a nurse for 30 years. I’m on the board, and my wife, Beth, puts on a golf tournament for them every year. it seems like children are a big focus for your giving. Yeah, kids and education and hospitals. It sounds cheesy, but I think every kid should have a chance, no matter where they’re from or how much money their parents have. We really try to help kids as much as we can. We’ve always been drawn to them. Even back before Hootie & the Blowfish had a record deal, we used to play a show for an orphanage in Columbia, S.C. We’d get all our friends from other bands together and give all the money to the orphanage.
Golf and country music are known for being pretty white. As an African-American, do you ever feel out of place or even unwelcome in either of those worlds?
There’ve been times, or moments, but I don’t really see it like that. I’m trying to break down barriers. I don’t let myself feel unwanted. If one person doesn’t want me somewhere, that’s on them.
Any advice for young non-white people who are looking to follow in your footsteps?
Don’t listen to the folks who look like you who say this isn’t something you should do, and don’t listen to the folks who don’t look like you who say the same thing. Just go do it.
What’s next for you musically?
I’m going to finish this tour, and then we’re going to release a new Hootie album next year for the 25th anniversary of our first one. It’s been almost 15 years since we’ve recorded new material together, but it feels like breathing, we’ve been doing it for so long.