US Golfers In Support To Access To Higher Education for Africa University Students

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Africa University

GOLFERS from South Carolina and across the nation are preparing to converge on the Orangeburg Country Club on September 27  for the 8th annual Bishop L. Jonathan Holston Golf Invitational (BLJHGI) Benefiting Africa University.

This year, the charity event—an initiative of South Carolina United Methodists—has a dual focus.

Golfers and friends will gather, as usual, for a day of friendly competition and fellowship. Their gathering will raise funds to support scholarships and other needs at United Methodist-related Africa University in Zimbabwe, southern Africa.

In 2020, the tournament raised more than $35,000 to assist Africa University students and help South Carolina United Methodists meet their annual budget commitment. All 12 United Methodists districts invested and fielded teams in the tournament.

Wespath Institutional Investments, a unit of Wespath Benefits and Investments—the largest reporting faith-based pension fund in the United States—is the tournament’s lead sponsor for a third consecutive year.

“We are pleased to support Africa University’s vision to improve life, peace, and prosperity through higher education,” said Joe Halwax, Wespath Institutional Investments’ managing director, Institutional Investment Relationships.

“Wespath too seeks to drive social change by empowering sustainability through investments on a global scale while stewarding our investors’ assets responsibly. Together with like-minded partners like Africa University, we can continue to elevate this work and ensure a better future for generations to come.”

Representative Gilda Cobb-Hunter, the ranking Democrat in the South Carolina House of Representatives, serving District 66 in Orangeburg County since 1992, is a major sponsor of the tournament. Cobb-Hunter, a friend of Africa University, sees wide-ranging benefits to the local community.

“I have been a supporter of Africa University and Jim Salley (an Orangeburg native and chief advancement officer for Africa University) from the inception of the institution,” said Cobb-Hunter. “It is vital that persons in the Orangeburg community and the State of South Carolina have a world view and assist others less fortunate than we are. This golf tournament brings persons to the community that normally would not visit or pass through. It is a natural venue. The Orangeburg Country Club has the facilities and history for a national event like this. The economic impact to the City of Orangeburg and the county is also a tremendous help to the local community.”

In addition to investing in Africa University, golfers will also use their time together this September to pay special tribute to a lifelong Methodist and dedicated fellow tournament participant. The Rev. John Wesley Hipp died on October 27, barely one month after taking part in the 2020 tournament. He consistently supported the tournament, from its launch in 2013 at the Cobblestone Golf Course in Blythewood, SC.

“I speak for his family and friends in saying we miss his laughter and warm smile every day,” said Houston. “John loved the game of golf. We played many rounds and tournaments together. A great memory I have is the last time he and I played was at the Africa University tournament at Orangeburg Country Club. I am blessed that we will start a scholarship in his memory.”

Bishop L. Jonathan Holston, the resident bishop of the South Carolina Conference and tournament patron, remembers Hipp’s gift for connecting with people.

“From the pulpit to the conference room to the golf course, John could find common ground from which to begin meaningful and humorous dialogue that furthered God’s kingdom here on earth,” said Holston. “John leaves a legacy that challenges each of us to continue the work of building bridges and strengthening relationships that reflect the goodness of God’s creation.”

Hipp’s pastoral ministry spanned four decades. It included 28 years as a chaplain in the South Carolina National Guard. Hipp retired a Lieutenant Colonel in 2008, and held ministerial appointments in Aiken, Wagner, Rock Hill, Saluda, Chapin, Conway, and Charleston.

After 32 years in the pulpit, Hipp became superintendent of the Orangeburg District in 2010. Two years later, the bishop added responsibility for the Florence District. Hipp guided church life and growth and shepherded the pastors in these two districts eight years before retiring in 2018.

Mention of John Hipp among those who knew him immediately triggers reminiscing about his humor, love for people, and of course, food.

“John Hipp knew all of the best eating establishments in Orangeburg and Florence…John cared about food because it was a way to nurture the soul and depths of human relationships,” said Rev. Ken Nelson, superintendent of the Orangeburg District.

“The Orangeburg District is a place where authentic relationships and encounters happen around food and a table,” said Nelson.

“Some may see it just as a meal, but I understand that work as “soul food.” It is often a starting point for tending to the soul! We learned that from John. “

Fellow superintendent, Rev. Timothy Rogers of the Marion District, is looking forward to sharing stories in September with others who knew, loved, and respected John Hipp. He recalls the joy that Hipp brought to life. “People followed John because they knew he cared deeply,” said Rogers.

Following a visit to the Africa University campus in February 2020, Rogers and Marion District-based pastor Rev. J. Elbert Williams launched an effort to endow a scholarship. Now, organizers are earmarking a portion of the proceeds from the 2021 Bishop L. Jonathan Holston Golf Invitational for that effort.

“We are grateful for the help we are receiving from the Holston Golf Invitational as we establish the Marion District Scholarship Endowment for Africa University,” Rogers said.  “The endowment is an opportunity to invest in new leaders for Africa and extend the reach of the love of Christ on the continent.”

Hipp’s Orangeburg connections and church network, the community engagement, and support, and the attributes of the Orangeburg Country Club have the event organizers and sponsors predicting a sold-out tournament this September.

“We are accessible to I-95 and I-26,” noted JP Waldron, the club’s golf professional. “Our facilities and amenities also allow us to cater to the event’s every need…Since hosting the tournament here at Orangeburg Country Club, fundraising has achieved new heights, thanks to the golfers who play in the event, and the businesses who have stepped up with their sponsorships.”

“It is very exciting that the City of Orangeburg was chosen for this tournament, said Mike Butler, Orangeburg City Mayor. “ We always enjoy having individuals visiting our City to see what we have to offer. We hope these individuals will take time to visit not only the Country Club’s golf course, but also other parts of the City as well.  We appreciate the added revenue that will be brought into the City of Orangeburg from this tournament and we welcome visitors from Africa University.”

The Bishop L. Jonathan Holston Golf Invitational (BLJHGI) takes place on Monday, September 27, 2021, at the Orangeburg Country Club.