Bob Gillespie



Home Course: Darius Rucker

Posted 2/15/2012 11:20:00 AM

If you spot Darius Rucker anywhere around South Carolina these days, chances are he’s either playing golf (as he was on a recent afternoon at Bulls Bay Golf Club, his home course in Awendaw, near Mount Pleasant), dining at one of his hometown’s great restaurants or hanging out at the beach with his family. “I like the beach a lot; that’s one of the main reasons I live in Charleston,” he says with a grin.

Away from Charleston, you’re most likely to see the one-time lead singer and guitarist for Hootie & the Blowfish pursuing the latest chapter in his storied music career: country. In 2008, Rucker signed with Capitol Records Nashville, and later that year released his first country album, “Learn to Live.” His single, “Don’t Think I Don’t Think About It,” went to No. 1 on the Hot Country Songs charts – the first such ranking for an African-American singer since Charley Pride in 1983.

Rucker, Mark Bryan, Dean Felber and Jim “Soni” Sonefeld burst on the music world in 1986 when, as University of South Carolina students, they formed their soon-to-be-famous band. Hootie & the Blowfish went from local gigs in Columbia to superstardom, producing six Top 40 hits on Billboard’s Hot 100 and becoming icons in their home state.

Later, when members of the band began performing as solo acts, Rucker tried rhythm and blues before finding his niche in country. In 2009, he was the first African-American to win the Country Music Association’s “New Artist” award.

Now 45, Rucker, Bryan and Felber are founding members of the private Bulls Bay, and the Mike Strantz design is his favorite, Rucker says. But he also plays wherever and whenever his schedule allows.

“We (Hootie members) all started playing as kids, and when we got to know each other in college, and formed the band, we played together,” he says. “I like being outside – I’ve never seen an ugly golf course – and it’s such a challenging game, no two rounds alike. I like that a lot.”

Back in his Hootie days, the band even did a music video with S.C. golf “godfather” Jay Haas, Masters champion Fred Couples, Miami Dolphins Hall of Fame quarterback Dan Marino and other athletes. He’s traveled the world, but says it’s hard to beat South Carolina for golf options.

“One thing I love about our state (is) we have a lot of great golf courses,” Rucker says, and laughs. “And I try to play them all.”

Hometown: Charleston

Bio: Co-founded Hootie & the Blowfish in 1986; the band released five studio albums, with Rucker co-writing the majority of the band’s songs. In 1994, their album, “Cracked Rear View,” went platinum 16 times in the U.S. and was the best-selling album of 1995, with four singles hits. The band was named “Best New Artists” at the 1996 Grammy Awards.

Highlights: Hootie & the Blowfish helped establish an annual fund-raiser, the Hootie & the Blowfish Monday After the Masters Pro-Am, which in 18 years has generated nearly $2 million for the S.C. Junior Golf Foundation and associated causes. … Rucker’s 2010 country album, “Charleston SC 1966,” included a pair of No. 1 singles: “Come Back Song” and “This.”

Where I play: “Bulls Bay is my favorite; I like the pace of play, and it’s a beautiful course, fair but hard, which is what I ask of any course, plus it’s my course and anyone likes their course. I love it out here.

“Harbour Town is great, and I also love Dunes West (Mount Pleasant), Chanticleer (Greenville). There are so many great courses in Myrtle Beach; the Dye Club at Barefoot Landing is an amazing golf course, I love it. Patriots Point is one of the most beautiful courses in (Charleston); the views on No. 17 are just amazing.

“And I still play LinRick when I’m in Columbia. I have a love for that course because that’s where we played all the time in college. I like to go there and remember those days.”

Where I eat: “I don’t really eat out in other towns, but I can give you a few (in Charleston). Fig, Oak, Husk … I still love going to Peninsula Grill. The Sewee Grill is a meat-and-three – it’s awesome. When I go to Columbia, I’ve got to get to Yesterday’s and Garibaldi’s. I was up there the other day and ate at Harper’s. Columbia’s got some great restaurants now.”

What I do for fun: “South Carolina is such a cool place to just people-watch; I like to go downtown (Charleston) and just walk around. The beaches and golfing, hanging out with the family (wife Beth, two children), that’s pretty much all I do. I don’t own a boat, but I have a lot of friends with boats. What kind do you want to go out on? I can get you on pretty much any kind you want (laughs).”