ELIZABETHTOWN — Cade Hancock is bringing two of his most important loves — family and golf — together for the next seven months as he takes part in the American Junior Golf Association’s ACE Grant Program.
Hancock, 15, is a sophomore at Harrells Christian Academy, where he will tee up the high-school golf season on Thursday. But there will be added importance to his spring and summer on the links.
The young golf phenom is hoping to raise at least $3,000 through the AJGA ACE Grant Program by lining up pledges for each birdie and eagle he makes in competition through the end of September.
“A lot of good golfers play in the AJGA, and I’m just honored to be able to play there,” Hancock said. “This is a win-win, because it will give me a lot of good exposure and help raise money for a good cause.”
That cause is Operation Smile, an organization that assists those children born with a cleft lip and palate to have the needed surgeries to correct those challenges.
“My sister was born with a cleft lip and palate, and since 3 months of age she has had 10 surgeries … ” Hancock said. “She is now a thriving junior (at East Carolina University).
“I think my sister was surprised and happy I chose that charity,” he added.
Whatever money Hancock raises will be split 50-50 between his charity of choice, Operation Smile, and the AJGA, which will use the money for college scholarships. He has already put up 17 birdies during recent competitions toward the goal.
On Feb. 18-19, Hancock competed in the Winternational Junior Series at Pinehurst and finished second. On the first day, playing Pinehurst No. 2, he carded a 73; on the second day, playing Pinehurst No. 1, Hancock put up a 77 for a two-day total of 150.
“I putted real well that first day,” Hancock said. “I’m still working on some things, but my game feels solid right now.”
Between his high-school season and the upcoming weekend tournaments, Hancock thinks he will be playing between 15 and 20 more competitive rounds before the end of September — giving him ample opportunity to rack up the birdies and eagles.
“I’m really looking forward to the next several months,” he said. “There’s a lot more incentive for me to keep improving and do well.”
And if there isn’t already enough incentive for Hancock, the AJGA has added one more.
The top nine money raisers in the ACE Grant program will have the chance to play golf with PGA Tour professional Ricky Fowler, as well as meet Jack Nicklaus.
Individuals and groups who would like to help Hancock reach and exceed his goal can do so online anytime during the next seven months. Simply go to www.ajga.org/LL, click on “Websites” — “Find a Junior,” then click on Cade Hancock. Go to DONATE NOW and fill in the necessary information. Donors can make one-time contributions or a specific dollar amount pledge for each birdie and eagle Hancock makes.
Checks should be made out to American Junior Golf Association with Hancock’s name in the memo line. The address is: AJGA-leadership Links, 1980 Sports Club Drive, Braselton, Ga. 30517.
Tax letters for donations totaling at least $100 will be emailed upon receipt.
Anyone who might have difficulty with the website or has questions can call James Hancock at 910-874-4435 for assistance.
W. Curt Vincent can be reached by calling 910-862-4163.