HILTON HEAD, S.C. — Cade Hancock, an all-conference golfer at Harrells Christian Academy and resident of Elizabethtown, N.C., battled to a second-place finish over the weekend in the 2016 Bluffton Open at Crescent Point Golf Course in Hilton Head.
Hancock opened the two-day tournament with a bogey on the first hole, but rebounded with seven pars and a birdie over the front nine to stand at even par 35.
The back nine, however, proved to be more challenging.
Hancock struggled through a double-bogey and four bogeys — offset by a birdie and three pars — to card a 41 and a first-day total of 76. That was still good enough to find himself in a first-place tie.
On Sunday, Hancock was grouped with the golfer from Massachusetts who had also carded a 76 and a Georgia golfer who was one stroke back.
It was the Georgian who rose to the top and gave Hancock all he could handle to the end.
Hancock parred the first hole, but Jackson Toole answered with a birdie that knotted the match; Hancock came back with a par on the second hole and regained the lead when Toole bogeyed. That lead was short-lived, however, as Toole parred No. 3 and Hancock carded a bogey.
Both competitors had a bogey on No. 4 and they each carded birdies on No. 5 — with Hancock draining a 15-footer to get his bird.
Neither golfer could gain any footing through the next three holes, but No. 9 brought some drama as Toole carded an easy birdie on the par 3. Hancock was facing another 15-footer for his birdie, and he calmly sank the putt to keep the match even after the front nine.
Things swayed ever so slightly at the start of the back nine, when Toole took a par at No. 10 and a lipped-out putt gave Hancock a bogey. The two parred No. 11, but Toole took a birdie at No. 12 and picked up another shot when Hancock bogeyed, giving the Georgian a two-shot edge with six holes to play.
Hancock, however, got both strokes back on No. 13 when he carded a par and Toole struggled to a double-bogey, knotting the match once again.
The pendulum swung again on No. 14, when Toole rebounded with a par and Hancock took a bogey. But No. 15 proved to be oozing with trouble for both golfers — Hancock found trees with his drive and went on to card a double-bogey that could have been disastrous, except that Toole’s drive went out of bounds and forced him to settle for a triple-bogey.
The match was knotted again.
Toole came back with a par on No. 16 and Hancock had to work out of a bunker to take a bogey and fell one shot back. But on No. 17, Hancock used a par to tie things up when Toole carded a bogey.
Match tied, one hole left.
Both competitors hit good drives off the tee, but Hancock’s second shot nicked a Live Oak tree and sent his ball into a bunker left of the green. Toole’s second shot fell neatly onto the green 14 feet from the hole.
Facing a near-impossible chip as limbs hung over his path to the green, Hancock struck a low bullet that somehow checked up 4 feet from the pin. When Toole missed his birdie attempt, Hancock had a chance to even the match and force extra holes — but his 4-footer lipped out and ended his chance at a title, instead finishing one shot back when Toole tapped in for his par.
The event was sponsored by The Hurricane Junior Golf Tour.
Hancock will next play for the Crusaders at the state playoffs on May 16-17 in High Point, N.C.
W. Curt Vincent can be reached by calling 910-862-4163.