PINEHURST — Cade Hancock, the 14-year-old golf phenom from Elizabethtown, opened the 2016 season with a two-stroke win in the Hurricane Junior Golf Tour’s two-day tournament at the historic Pinehurst Country Club’s Course No. 5 last weekend.
Playing in the 14- and 15-year-old division, Hancock was the lone golfer from North Carolina. He was paired with a 14-year-old from Rome, Ga., and 15-year-old from Cincinnati, Ohio.
Hancock opened the tournament with a bogey, but it didn’t take him long to get a string of good holes going — he parred the next four holes before bogeying holes six, seven and eight. But Hancock righted the ship with pars on holes nine and 10 before draining a 30-foot putt for birdie on No. 11 to keep the run going.
Two pars followed on Nos. 12 and 13, but he slipped up on two of the next three holes and carded pars on Nos. 15, 17 and 18 to put himself at 77 for the round, five strokes over par — giving Hancock the lead along with his playing partner from Georgia.
The threesomes were re-paired for the second round and Hancock found himself playing with his original partner from Georgia and another player out of Baldwin N.Y.
Hancock opened the second day with four straight pars before a birdie on No. 5 and par on No. 6, giving him a five-stroke lead on the day and seven-stroke edge in the tournament.
But three consecutive bogeys on Nos. 7, 8 and 9 closed the gap some — but Hancock still maintained a three-stroke edge over his nearest competitor in the round, Liam Boyle of N.Y.
On the back nine, Hancock card pars on No. 10, No. 11, No. 12 — but on No. 13, he bogeyed and lost a stroke on his lead, which was now at two. He managed to par No. 14 after overshooting the green, but his lead was whittled to one when his closest competitor birdied the hole.
Hancock birdied the par 3 No. 15 and watched as his lead grew back to three strokes on the round when Boyle bogeyed the hole.
On No. 16, Hancock ruined a good drive when his second shot found the bunker and he double-bogeyed the hole. Boyle, meanwhile, managed to par the hole and pull back within a stroke with two holes to play.
The drama continued to build, as Hancock chipped into the cup from 3 feet off the green for a birdie. Boyle followed with his own birdie to stay one stroke behind as the two young golfers went to No. 18.
That drama was magnified when both Hancock and Boyle finished their round at 76 following a bogey by Hancock and par by Boyle — giving Hancock the overall win by two strokes.
Hancock’s two-day total was a nine-over-par 153, while Boyle finished at 155.
“Not only did Cade win his division, but he had the lowest two-day total in the 16-18 year old division as well,” Hancock’s father James said. “All the players in both divisions played from the same tees (and) Cade beat the best score from the older division by five strokes.
“It was a great weekend and a great start to the 2016 season,” he added.
W. Curt Vincent can be reached by calling 910-862-4163.