MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. — Cade Hancock, an Elizabethtown, N.C., teen and Harrells Christian Academy sophomore, traveled to Myrtle Beach over the weekend to defend his title in The Hurricane Junior Golf Tour’s Myrtle Beach Junior Challenge, played at the Myrtle Beach National’s West Course.
The challenge facing Hancock was daunting.
“The Greg Norman Academy of Myrtle Beach along with The Junior Players Academy out of Hilton Head brought two bus loads of some of the best young talent in the world to compete over the weekend,” said Cade’s father James.
On top of that, the weather conditions were soggy, which made for a longer and more difficult course.
On Saturday, Hancock was paired with a familiar player from Myrtle Beach, Holden Griggs.
“Cade felt this was a good pairing because he knew is fellow competitor and was comfortable playing with someone he knew,” James Hancock said. “This boosted his expectations to make a good showing, plus gave him a shot at beating his friendly competition.”
Starting on hole No. 10, each of the golfers took a par on the first two holes before Hancock punched an errant tee shot on No. 12 out of the trees to the back of the green. He then rolled in a 20-foot putt for a birdie and took a one-stroke lead.
On No. 13, Hancock carded a par and watched as Griggs struggled to a bogey — and Hancock went on to par the next five holes. Griggs finished the first nine holes with four pars and a bogey to fall three strokes back.
After making the turn to the front nine, Hancock birdied hole No. 1 and earned a par on No. 2 before suffering his first bogey at No. 3. Three straight pars were followed by a birdie and two pars to close out the round with a two-under 70 and a three-stroke lead over Griggs.
Hancock was hopeful when he checked the leaderboard but, when he did, he saw that a competitor from Spain had carded a 68 for the lead.
On Sunday, the second-place Hancock was paired with two players from Spain who were both students at The Greg Norman Academy of Golf.
Through the first nine holes, Hancock earned three birdies, four pars and two bogeys for a one-under 35 — his two competitors were at 38 and 37 — and taken a one-stroke lead over the field.
On the back nine, Hancock faltered slightly with a bogey on the first two holes. But he quickly got back on track by carding seven straight pars to finish the day at 35-38—73 and held a one-shot lead over the first-day leader. But the second player from Spain rallied on the back nine and carded a 35 to knot the two-day match with Hancock at 143 each.
According to tournament rules, a sudden death playoff would determine the winner.
The two youngsters advanced to hole No. 10, where Hancock rocketed his tee shot down the right side of the fairway. He then pulled his 3-wood out of his bag in the hopes of finding the green in two.
“He wanted to go for it so he could hopefully end it on the first playoff hole,” James Hancock said.
Cade’s competitor hit a second shot short of the green and then chipped to within 6 feet for a solid shot at a birdie. Hancock’s second shot went left and came to rest just short of the bunker, where he chipped to within 12 feet of the pin.
With a huge crowd watching the action, Hancock rolled his putt into the cup for his birdie and then watched as his opposition drained his own birdie putt.
The two competitors moved on to the second playoff hole, a 421-yard uphill par four.
Each reached the green in two and had birdie putts — but Hancock’s was from 30 feet and his competitor’s from 12 feet.
Hancock bumped a low running chip that trickled down and clipped the edge of the hole, coming to rest less than 3 feet away to save his par. The playoff continued when his competitor also carded a par.
The Spaniard’s drive found tree, while Hancock found the center of the fairway — and the Elizabethtown teen went on to outduel his competitor with a par, while his opposition carded a bogey, giving Hancock his second straight championship.
“This was about 2 o’clock in the afternoon,” said James Hancock, who had his son pose next to the sculpture of Arnold Palmer, who designed the course. “At the time we had no idea of the news we would learn five hours later after returning home. One of the most legendary, iconic names in the history of golf, the King Arnold Palmer, had passed away at the age of 87.”