Concert veteran debuts

Rucker headlines show solo for first time

Gusty winds didn't keep music lovers from gathering for First Tee of Augusta's seventh annual Drive for Show, Rock Fore! Dough concert Tuesday.


A major entertainment draw during Masters Week, the local event featured country singer Darius Rucker, along with Southern pop and country rock band Sister Hazel, Southern soul singer Edwin McCain and local folk-rock band Sibling String.

Rucker, the former front man of the popular rock band Hootie & the Blowfish, has performed at the event four times with his Hootie band mates, but this was his first time appearing solo.

"It's pretty cool to do it all these years," Rucker said during an interview before the concert. "Now to be doing it myself and still be doing pretty well with it, it's just a cool gig. It's a great organization to be doing a charity gig for."

Though he's now a country artist, Rucker said that he will always sing Hootie songs for his fans at Rock Fore! Dough.

"I think I would be ripping people off if I didn't sing Hootie songs, so always," Rucker said.

To prove his point, Rucker was joined onstage by Blowfish guitarist Mark Bryan for the song Let Her Cry .

Rucker and his former bandmates will come together again for the 17th annual Hootie & the Blowfish Monday After the Masters celebrity pro-am golf tournament in Myrtle Beach, S.C. The tournament benefits the Hootie & the Blowfish Foundation, which supports the education of children in South Carolina and school music programs nationwide.

"It's a great cause. It's one of those things that we started to see what would happen, and 17 years later, we've raised $5 million for charities. We're really proud of that," Rucker said.

Ken Block, a vocalist for Sister Hazel, said the band participated in Rock Fore! Dough during its inaugural year, so performing in this year's concert is "like a reunion" for the band. Sister Hazel also hopes to participate in future Rock Fore! Dough concerts.

"It's fantastic for us. We really love what First Tee stands for and the impact they're having on these kids, supplying a solid foundation for them and building their core values of integrity, honesty, self-discipline, respect. It's really phenomenal," Block said. "A couple of us are parents now, and we see how much those things are important as kids grow up, as a solid foundation for the rest of their life. And being back here, we get to play with our old friend Darius and Edwin McCain. This is a pretty amazing week to be in Augusta. We love to be here around that energy."

All proceeds of the Rock Fore! Dough concert will support the Augusta chapter of the First Tee Network. First Tee of Augusta has 415 active students in the Augusta area and has exposed more than 4,700 students to the game of golf.

Brycen Bessey, 11, has been a part of First Tee of Augusta for five years. As a result of his golf instruction with the program, he now plays tournament golf with First Tee of Augusta and the Augusta Area Junior Golf Association. When he gets older, Brycen said, he hopes to play on a golf team in school.

In addition to golf, Martin Longtin, 12, of Augusta said that First Tee of Augusta has taught him some valuable lessons. He has been active with the organization for two years. His 9-year-old brother, Kevin Longtin, is also a member of First Tee.

"I've learned how to play golf, golf skills, major life skills such as respect, honesty, judgment, how to talk to people, how to do handshakes with somebody and state your name loud and clear," Martin said.

A pupil at St. Mary on the Hill Catholic School, Martin said he is a member of his school's golf team. He plays in golf tournaments and doesn't think he would have learned the game without the help of First Tee.

"My interest would never have made it if it weren't for First Tee. I think all kids should at least give the interest to come to First Tee, to know what it is, to look at it at least. Maybe you want to learn golf or maybe you just want to come learn life skills," Martin said.