Parker Pearson benefited greatly from last year’s Arkansas District Optimist Junior Championships at the Pine Bluff Country Club.

Even though Pearson finished second in the 16-18 age division last year, the first-place player was unable to make the Optimist International Junior Golf Championships in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla. That meant Pearson earned the free trip. He qualified with the second-place finish, but had to pay his own way.

His performance at Nationals caught the eye of the Delta State University (Miss.) coach and he earned a scholarship to play golf there.

That did not slow down Pearson, of Cabot, this year, though. The 18-year-old finished with a 74, which was good enough to win his age division this year at the district.

“I had a good feeling [Saturday], I just had to go out there and get it done,” Pearson said. “I would like to thank the Pine Bluff Country Club and the Optimist. It was a lot of relief to see that I won and feels really good to be going back to Palm Beach Gardens.”

Pearson won the event by two strokes with his three-over-par day. Carson Roberts of Conway finished in second place with a 76.

Pearson’s last nine holes were rocky — he needed a birdie on his last hole, No. 8, to put his mind at ease.

“I had a double [bogey] and I knew it was going to be close, so I had to make some birdies coming in,” Pearson said. “Hole eight is a par-five and I pressed and pulled it off for a bogey and it worked. “I knew it would give me a chance to win.”

All of the winners except for the 10-11 age range in the boys division earned a trip to Palm Beach Gardens. Devan Mishra of Maumelle shot a 104 for the top score in the 10-11 age division, but it was above the maximum score of 95 to make it to Florida.

The 14-15 age range in the boys division also sent the top two golfers to Palm Beach Gardens.

Pearson’s score was the second-lowest in the boys division. Trey DePriest, a 13-year-old, won the 12-13 age division with a 3-under-par 68.