WHITE LAKE — Cade Hancock earned perhaps his biggest win on the links of his young golfing career Tuesday, but this one was a reversal of roles to a degree.
Hancock presented Pete Hansen, a representative of Operation Smile, with a check for $12,640 that represented half of what was raised between March and October in USGA-sanctioned events. The other half — another $12,640 — also represented the largest amount ever raised by a youth golfer during the American Junior Golf Association’s annual “Leadership Links” effort.
The money for Operation Smile will go toward repairing clefts around the world, and the money to the AJGA will be used to sponsor underprivileged children who show golf talent to play in tournaments.
“I was told early on that this would be a win-win-win,” Hancock said during a ceremony at Vineyard Golf at White Lake. “It would be a win for me because of how I would feel by doing this; it is a win for Operation Smile; and it is a win for the American Junior Golf Association.”
Hancock went into the fundraising effort with an early goal of $1,000 and quickly surpassed it. The goal was increased to $7,500 and, that too, was soon surpassed as Hancock continued to gather sponsors for each birdie and eagle he carded, as well as one-time contributors.
Hancock’s father Jim said the fundraising seemed daunting at first.
“We decided to give this to the Lord and make this His project, too,” he said. “And look what happened. In the end, Cade had to write a lot of thank-you cards.”
Operation Smile, right from the start, was Hancock’s charity of choice — primarily to honor his sister Cassie, who was born with a cleft palette.
“This whole thing has been mind-blowing,” Hancock said. “I didn’t do it for the awards. I did it for my sister and the kids.”
Hansen gave Hancock a lot of credit for what he was able to accomplish.
“I couldn’t be any more proud to be here and accept this gift from Cade,” Hansen said. “(He) will change the lives of 52 kids with this gift — what a powerful thing for a young man to do.”
Hancock, a junior at Harrells Christian Academy from Elizabethtown, has won 13 times on the Carolinas Junior Golf Tour and has his sights set on a college career at Wake Forest and beyond.
“That’s my dream … and then to go as far as I can go,” he said.
During the eight month raising money, Hancock was able to gather up 116 donors and carded 118 birdies and one eagle.
As the fundraiser’s largest-ever contributor, Hancock was presented with a complete set of TaylorMade irons, a driver and 3-wood made just for him. He was also able to play golf with PGA Tour pro Ricky Fowler last month at Jupiter Island Club in Florida.
“That was a little overwhelming at first,” Hancock said. “But he was a real nice guy and I tried to pick his brain a little.”
Hancock said he might give the fundraising effort another try in 2018, but wasn’t sure what charity he might play for.
W. Curt Vincent can be reached at 910-862-4163 or firstname.lastname@example.org.