PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. — Despite a challenging first round, Tropical Storm Emily in the second round, a palm tree in the third round and two devastating holes in the final round and Cade Hancock may have challenged for a Top 20 finish at the Optimist International Junior World Championships this week.
Played at the famous PGA National Resort in Palm Beach Gardens, the annual tournament featured 152 youth golfers from around the world in Hancock’s 16- to 18-year-old division.
Hancock, 16, opened the competition with a 79, putting him at No. 74 for the day with hopes for a big jump on the second day.
But Mother Nature had other plans, as Tropical Storm Emily moved into Florida and gave the young golfers fits. Still, Hancock managed to put together a round of 76 in the dreary, wet conditions and moved up to No. 46 for the tournament.
“It was awful weather that day,” said Jim Hancock, Cade’s father. “He was soaked before he swung the first club, but we got things dried off and he just kept battling. Once the rain stopped going sideways, he was one-under the rest of the way.”
With a cut coming at the top 50 looming after the third round, Hancock attacked the course with a vengeance and carded a 73 — despite a two-stroke penalty after getting a ball lost … in a palm tree. But the 73 gave him a three-day total of 228 and jumped him to No. 32 in the division, well ahead of the cut.
In the final round, Hancock ran into two tough holes that cost him five strokes — a double-bogey at No. 5 and a triple-bogey on No. 17. Still, he carded a 77 to finish tied for No. 34 overall. He finished six strokes off the Top 20 and 22 strokes off the lead.
“He was hoping for a Top 20, and might have been right there had it not been for those two bad holes and the lost ball,” Jim Hancock said. “But he was playing against kids who have graduated from high school — some who have college scholarships for golf — so I think he did very well.”
The tournament featured 11 golfers from North Carolina. Only two made the cut and Hancock was the top finisher from North Carolina.
On Sunday, Hancock will play in a qualifier in Myrtle Beach for eight spots in the Greg Norman Champions Golf Academy Junior Championship. If he qualifies, the four-day tournament runs Monday through Thursday.
W. Curt Vincent can be reached by calling 910-862-4163 or by email at email@example.com.