He finished at the bottom of the leaderboard at the Sanderson Farms Championship. It was one of the best weeks of his life

JACKSON, Miss. – Scanning through a leaderboard at a PGA Tour event can lead to many different stories.

You have your stars trying to add another sentence to their legacy. You have rookies trying to break out. You have amateurs trying to prove they belong on the big stage.

If you scrolled to the bottom of the leaderboard of the 2022 Sanderson Farms Championship and saw the guy at the bottom by a mile, well, his name is Joseph Hanko. He’s not a Tour pro. He’s the director of golf operations at Elm Lake Golf Course in Columbus, Mississippi, near the Alabama border.

So, how did he get into his first PGA Tour event with the best players in the world? He won a qualifier more than a year ago. Hanko earned an exemption after winning the PGA 2021 Gulf States E-Z-GO Section Championship last September in Madison, Mississippi. He shot a 2-under 70 in the second and final round to take first place.

“I was prepared, for the most part,” Hanko told Golfweek. “The pro here let me come down a lot. I came down a lot and knew the golf course. My game kind of fell apart, honestly, like eight days ago.”

Don’t let Hanko’s score fool you, he’s better than most golfers on the planet. He shot 84 on Thursday and 82 on Friday. He recorded three birdies during his 36 holes, including consecutive circles on Nos. 3 and 4 on Friday.

Sanderson Farms: Saturday tee times | PGA Tour live on ESPN+ | Third-round live updates from the Clarion Ledger

Joseph Hanko plays a shot on the 14th hole during the Sanderson Farms Championship at The Country Club of Jackson on September 29, 2022, in Jackson, Mississippi. (Photo by Raj Mehta/Getty Images)

But being inside the ropes for the week helped give him a different perspective on what it’s like to be a Tour pro, even if he waited more than a year to tee it up.

“It was too long to wait,” Hanko said while laughing. “You exhaust the emotions of the moment. It didn’t really hit me until Wednesday night when we started talking about what time we wanted to come to the golf course, and that’s when I couldn’t sleep.

“It took me until the 11th hole (Thursday) for my insides to stop moving.”

Hanko’s caddie was Drew Spradley, a 25-year Air Force veteran who’s a member at Hanko’s course. He also had about 10 members and a handful of colleagues come out and watch him.

That doesn’t even include his family, some of whom flew down from Wisconsin to watch him compete while others drove two hours from Starkville. As the sun set behind the 18th grandstand on Friday night, Hanko’s group was the last on the course, yet it was one of the biggest galleries of the week.

That’s why, regardless of score, the week was a memorable one for Hanko.

“It didn’t get to me,” Hanko said. “I was playing really good until a week ago, just didn’t this week. I think I did good preparing as far as the emotions until it came to sleeping. I still enjoyed it.”

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