Chad Cox always seemed destined for the greatness of the golf course. When he was just a seventh-grader at Hickory Grove Christian, he shot a 2-under par in his first practice for the Lions' varsity team.
Two years later, after firing a first-round 74 in the NCISAA 3A tournament as a freshman, Cox came roaring back to beat Covenant Day junior John Varol, shooting a final round 69 to win the individual state championship.
While some would be satisfied, Cox did it again beating out Varol (now a Wake Forest golfer) again to win his second consecutive state title in only his sophomore season.
Then, last year, as the favorite to three-peat as the NCISAA 3A champion, Cox came up one shot short of co-champions Davis Womble (Wesleyan Academy) and Davis Bateman (Providence Day).
"I wanted to win it all again really bad, but I didn't play well enough to do that," said Cox, who did win the North-South junior tournament in Pinehurst. "There would be no better way to finish my high school career than winning a state championship."
Cox, 18, has established himself as one of the best high school and junior golfers in the country over the past three years.
Cox, who signed to play for N.C. State, is also ranked No. 14 in the country, according to juniorgolfscoreboard.com, on a list that includes some of the nation's top college freshmen.
Cox plays five to six days a week for most of the year, and practices and plays about eight hours per day in the summer, primarily out of his home course, Pine Lake Country Club, but also across the Southeast in junior tournaments.
Cox (now 5-foot-10, 155 pounds), who averages between a 69 and 70 per round, also averages more than 290 yards per drive on par-5 holes.
He's worked hard on his short game and putting. He has two hole-in-one's on Pine Lake's par-3 third hole.
"Given his success, and the fact that he's signed with N.C. State, you would think he'd let off the gas, but that's not him," Hickory Grove golf coach Todd Staples said. "He is very focused on finishing his high school career on top."
Observer Area Boys' Golf Players to Watch
Chad Cox, Hickory Ridge: N.C. State signee won NCISAA 3A individual state titles as freshman, sophomore, now after near miss as junior (lost by one shot), wants to get back on top
Davis Bateman, Providence Day: Co-medalist at NCISAA 3A state championships also helped lead Chargers to state title, now tries to do it again
Mitch Schneider, Ardrey Kell: Winthrop commit leads talented Knights team with another standout, Andrew Klasing
Andy Simmons, Myers Park: Two-time SW4A Player of the Year, now a junior, also finished 11th at states in 2011
Phillip Oweida, Myers Park: Another talented junior who was a medalist at 4A West Regionals last year
Miller Capps, North Lincoln: Clemson signee is a three-time all-state player
David Sargent, Hough: I-Meck champion in 2011 signed with Davidson, forms dynamic duo with Conner Lewis (Radford)
Tyler Lail, Bunker Hill: Catawba Valley Conference Player of the Year looking for big senior season, Western Carolina signee
Archer Price, Gaston Day: Finished second in the NCISAA 2A state meet as freshman, also won Gaston County Amateur title (2011)
Keegan Hoff, Charlotte Catholic: Finished ninth at 3A states as sophomore, now looks to step up even more