BY DARREN REESE
SUN SPORTS EDITOR
Darius Rucker would have one believe that his golfing prowess isn't up to par.
But that probably shouldn't be taken at face value.
The country music star is an avid golfer, and was in Bristol Monday showing off his repertoire while helping raise money in the Niswonger Children's Hospital Celebrity Golf Classic at The Virginian.
"I play a lot of golf, but I still suck at it," Rucker said with a grin. "I'm not very good."
America first learned of his affection for the game in the Hootie & the Blowfish music video "Only Wanna Be With You" back in 1994.
Rucker was the front-man for the group, and the video featured among other things, the Blowfish golfing with Freddie Couples.
In actuality, Rucker started playing golf around the age of 14. He grew up in Charleston, so there was no shortage of quality courses to play at.
Over the years, Rucker sang for Tiger Woods at his birthday, at Woods' wedding, and at the funeral of Woods' father, Earl, back in 2006.
Rucker has always used his love for golf to attach his name to several charitable causes.
His longest-running effort is the Hootie & the Blowfish Monday After The Masters Celebrity Pro-Am in Myrtle Beach, which raises money for the educational needs of South Carolina and the South Carolina Junior Golf Foundation.
He also hosts the Darius Rucker Intercollegiate Golf Tournament at Hilton Head, which welcomes some of the top NCAA women's golf teams from across the country and features a private concert by the namesake.
"When we first started doing the tournament 20 years ago, I was amazed at the amount of money you could raise just by putting together a golf tournament," Rucker said.
"You can do so much good through the game of golf, so every time I can get involved with one, I try to help out."
One cause that has always been close to Rucker's heart is the St. Jude Children's Research Hospital. He intertwines his love for St. Jude and his passion for golf by hosting the "Darius and Friends" charity concert and tournament each year in Nashville.
"I went to visit there one time and decided that I was going to do anything to help them that I can," Rucker said. "It's always a no-brainer for St. Jude."
The Niswonger Children's Hospital in Johnson City is an affiliate of St. Jude Memphis - one of only five affiliates in the world. So when Rucker was asked by Niswonger tournament co-chairman and friend Steve Johnson if he would play in the event, he didn't hesitate.
In fact, Rucker also suggested that he play a benefit concert the night before the golf tournament to help raise addition funds for the Niswonger Children's Hospital.
That event was held Sunday at the Niswonger Performing Arts Center in Greeneville.
"After the concert, Darius said, 'Let's auction off the guitar that I just played with'," Scott Niswonger, chief benefactor of the hospital, explained.
"We had three people bid over $20,000 dollars. Darius turned to me and said, 'How about we auction off three then'. It was just great for him to do something like that."