Harbor Hills Country Club was looking and playing in its usual impeccable condition when we returned with our Highlander players on Saturday. We really enjoy playing at this Lady Lake venue as it never fails to impress and challenge both new players and those who’ve experienced it with us since we added it to our regular venue rota way back in December 2019.
Thank you to Tom Leimberger and Krista Fabien for everything you do to help our tournament visits run smoothly and thanks as always to the team who distribute the carts to our players and parents for another great job!
No weather issues today, nothing but warm and bright sunshine with a fresh breeze and another great turnout of talented young players across all age groups.
It’s becoming our normal procedure to welcome new players into the fold and Saturday was no different as we were joined for the first time by two aspiring 12 year old boys playing with us for the first time. Welcome to Mason Musatow (Ocala) and Trevor Orobitg (First Academy, Leesburg) , we very much hope you enjoyed the experience of playing with us and that you were welcomed by everyone. We hope to see you both back playing with us again really soon!
We will begin our results round up with our player flight which consists solely of players (all age) who have won their respective age based player flights on 3 occasions or more during the current season. By doing so each of these players have achieved promotion into our Elite player Flight (The Claret Jug Flight)
The Claret Jug Flight:
On this occasion we were delighted to note that no fewer than 6 of our Claret Jug players were in attendance ensuring this one was going to be really competitive and really tough to win. This certainly proved to be the case.
We often say that on some of our tournament days factors like weather, course conditions etc. can all have a bearing on a winning score. While this can be true the BIGGEST factor of all in this particular player flight is without doubt the caliber of player within it. What we mean by that is it has become apparent that when you have a player flight that contains 6 top players, who have collectively, this year alone won no fewer than 29 winners medals you are extremely unlikely to take the medal this time without shooting a very low score.
Normally when I start writing these post competition blogs I am faced with only two, sometimes 3 players who have been in contention for the prize. This time around I think we need to do this a little different and recognize all of them on this occasion as, especially over the first 9 holes, they were ALL close and any one of them could have taken the prize!
Our Claret Jug Players and their scores were:
Bobby Jones Potash (Eustis) 35-37-72
Nick Zarillo (Mike Bender Golf Academy) 34-40-74
Riley Sillaway (Longwood) 36-41-77
Maggie Potash (Eustis) 35-42-77
Tripp Watkins (Harbor Hills CC) 38-39-77
Braden Hawkins (Clermont) 39-39-78
On a golf course that always plays tough, and where the back 9 is traditionally tougher to close out than the front, we want to say well done to all of you for making it a superb day to be a spectator! There was some exciting golf on display and you showed us why you each deserve to be representing our Claret Jug Flight in 2021.
We also want to give a special shout out to Bobby, Nick and Maggie for putting that red marker pen to good use. There’s nothing more satisfying, or exciting, for us to see under par red figures on the board! Good job players!
Our medal winner of course deserves special recognition and credit for being the most consistent player of the day and making a better job of the back 9 holes than anyone else. Bobby Jones Potash is our youngest Claret Jug player and one of our most consistent too! We’ve had the pleasure of watching him continue to develop as a player over the last 18 months or so and we’ve seen him change for the better in a number of ways.
There is no question we’ve all watched his ability continue to improve, as he becomes stronger and more experienced, but when you add to that the fact he seems more confident and relaxed about his play you can understand why this young talent is in a very good place right now with his game! Bobby’s 18 holes on Saturday at Harbor Hills consisted of 4 birdies, 10 par makes and he kept any errors made down to single dropped strokes only on the way to recording his level par 72 Claret Jug Flight medal success!
Good job Bobby and congratulations from everyone at Highlander on a great round of golf!
The Old Tom Morris Flight:
Our 15-18’s in this one and from an early stage it looked like two players were destined to battle it out for the lowest flight score and the medal prize.
Cole Chastain (Orlando) picked up a medal earlier in the year with us on our first visit to Orange Lake. Cole is a very experienced young competitor who works hard at his game and he has developed strongly in preparation for his next step and the challenges he will face soon in college golf. If you know Cole you will I’m sure echo what we also like about how he plays, he is always honest about his game and he plays because he enjoys doing it!
Now don’t get me wrong on this, Cole is without doubt a talented player who’s out to shoot low every time he competes however he also has the experience of many years of junior competition behind him that allows him to keep his temperament level and he knows there just isn’t any point beating yourself up if not everything goes right for you out there…and let’s face it everyone this is Golf so how often can we really say it ALWAYS goes right for us out there?
We love Cole’s attitude to the game. He’s fun to watch play and, in our opinion, there are many his age and younger who may just find their playing ability and enjoyment of the game might improve if they can match their own ability with a similar temperament.
Cole shot +2 38 on those opening 9 holes with birdie at 3 being a highlight.
Kylan Johnson (Clermont) hasn’t played with us long but we spotted from the beginning that, while a couple years younger than Cole, he too shares a similar attitude…he plays the game with an attacking strategy in mind and he does it with a smile on his face! Kylan is a really strong player with a powerful all round game and a lot of experience behind him already but it’s his strength of belief in his game and confidence to go for shots others may not that ensures he’s always going to be a contender and, if something doesn’t work out, don’t expect Kylan to be inconsolable and sulking about it, that’s just NOT his way! His way is to smile, learn from it (hopefully!) and work harder next time!
Kylan made us all very happy with some under par red on the board early on with a -1 (35) which included birdies on 1,7 and 9 to lead the flight by 3 strokes at the turn. Unfortunately, and despite starting the homeward holes strongly and even adding a 4th birdie at 12, Kylan was to experience two major setbacks at 15 and 17 that would open the door to Cole. Kylan scorecard after 18 wasn’t what he had hoped for after the early play and read 35-44-(79)
Cole didn’t have it all his own way either on the tough back 9 of Harbor Hills. An early error at 10 cost him two shots but following this he did steady things with 5 pars made and any errors kept to a single shot dropped. Coming off 18 and securing par gave Cole a final total of 38-41-(79) to tie the Flight low score with Kylan.
We’ve said many times that few players relish the idea of an extra hole(s) play off to separate tied scores but the fact remains it’s a fair way to decide who takes the medal. On this occasion neither of them expected to be doing so and we have to thank them both enormously for raising the required enthusiasm to go again especially after both had experienced a full range of good and not so good in the earlier 18!
Back to number 1 they went and as often the case in play-offs it really was all about who made and who missed THE important putt. In this case Cole made it to secure his 2nd medal win of 2021 with us! As you would expect of both players there was exceptional sportsmanship and the utmost respect on display, and still plenty of laughs too! Thank you both gentlemen, we love your attitude to playing our great game, DON’T ever change!
Congratulations Cole Chastain from everyone at Highlander on securing the Old Tom Morris Flight win. Good job!
The Young Tommy Morris Flight:
Our 13 and 14’s in this one and once again from an early start it was going to be about two players in this one both working hard to post their lowest score against a venue that was always going to keep challenging right to the end of the day.
Delaney Sillaway (Longwood) has won already this year, and at Mission Inn Resort no less, one of the toughest venues we play! She is a young lady with enormous potential and talent who works hard and is playing regularly in competitions and challenging herself as often as she can. We believe this season is going to be an important one for Delaney who, like most strong junior players, is seeking the consistency that will elevate her to the next level of her development. We love watching her play, she is measured and controlled and never appears to put unnecessary pressure on herself, and that’s an important and hugely positive feature of her game that will stand her in good stead over the next few important years in her golf journey!
Delaney started this one well making no fewer than 6 pars and keeping errors to single stroke minimums over the opening 9 holes to record a +3(39)
Zach Phan (Ocala) is one of our most promising junior players who, even at 13, already has vast experience of playing and competing in junior golf. At this age I honestly can’t think of a harder working and more focused young player than Zach and, I also have to say, that there are also strong signs that he is developing a stronger attitude towards his play too. Not so long ago I would have said he carried with him a level of intensity that could possibly result in a temporary loss of focus when things went a little wrong for him. This is very common in young players who are SO very driven to succeed that a setback, a missed putt perhaps or a wayward drive could cause them so much tension that it could mean the next few holes might not go their way either because of the inability to let go what went before and focus only on what you can influence, the remaining holes still to play!
I suspect (and hope I’m right!) that we are now seeing a more mature and relaxed Zach who’s happier during competition play and less likely to be affected by things that are outwith his control as I think he’s capable of being one of our top performers in 2021. Zach made very few errors over those opening 9 holes shooting +3(39) to tie the Young Tommy Morris Flight lowest score front 9 at the halfway stage.
Delaney started those closing holes well with Par successfully made at 10 and 11 however costly setbacks on 3 of the closing holes were tough to come back from and they would result in a final scorecard of 39-44-(83). Not what our Longwood youngster would want but it happens. Knowing Delaney one thing is certain, she will take something from it and learn, she’s too good a player not to!
Zach took his front 9 form and kept it at exactly the same tempo and level of consistency as we hoped he would. It’s a simple plan really, make par as often as you can, avoid errors of more than a stroke and if better than par presents itself try to convert it! He did all of that, par was secured on 6 of the back 9 and errors were no worse than single shots dropped. A mirror score of his front 9 gave him a scorecard of 39-39-(78) to round off a good day for our young lefty. It would be enough to take his second HJT win of 2021 and leaves him within touching distance of making The Claret Jug Flight for the remainder of 2021.
Congratulations Zach from everyone at Highlander Tour. It was great to watch some of your play today!
The Bobby Jones Flight:
Our youngest players in this one and always great to watch. Despite their young age this is still a real mixed bag of players as some of these youngsters already boast several years of junior tournament competition behind them while others are just starting out in competition as away of adding to their existing development.
Three players that we want to acknowledge for coming along and the first is HJT newcomer Mason Musatow (Ocala). Mason was joining us for the first time and no one should ever forget how much character that takes. To step up and challenge yourself for the first time in competition takes strength of character and determination to improve as a young golfer.
Mason played exactly the way most new players we have welcomed over the last 18 months do in tournament golf, he started nervously and gradually, with the help and support, of others eased himself in to his real game. Mason had some great highlights to reflect and build on. Remember how tough we said that back 9 stretch is at HH ? Well young Mason made par on no fewer than 3 of those closing holes and as his confidence built he played the back 9 holes in 9 strokes fewer than the front 9! Great job Mason, we hope you enjoyed the day and you are back with us again soon!
Trevor Orobitg (First Academy) in his first outing with us started slowly but came to life on the back 9 too with no less than 7 pars and only a couple of single shot errors to record a +2(38) back 9 and a 45-38-(83) total for the day. That was a very impressive closing holes display Trevor, well played. We hope to see you back with us soon.
Ryker Huther and HJT have a lot of history together! The exceptional young talent from Sorrento was an extra hole(s) play-off contender for our Champion Golfer of the Year award, only narrowly missing out to Nick Zarillo in the end. This year Ryker is back, a little wiser, a few inches taller and a little bit stronger too!
His game is impressive. It’s controlled, measured and already good in every area and for those of us who know him well we cannot wait to see this young man’s golf journey developing over the next few years! Like one or two others we’ve mentioned something else we are starting to see is how his golf “personality” is developing too as there are great signs that Ryker, who was previously so focused on doing everything well, that occasionally a setback could trigger an emotional reaction is learning that’s not going to be helpful to his game! Ryker’s always going to be fighting hard for a win and to challenge himself to make his very best score he can achieve…it’s part of what makes him as good as he is but I think our “wiser” Ryker is going to be even better at handling what’s gone before and concentrating only on what’s ahead!
Ryker shot 38-40-(78) …consistently making par on 12 occasions and finishing strong with a birdie on 18. A great way to secure win number 3 of the HJT season 2021 which allows us to not only congratulate him on winning The Bobby Jones Flight but also to welcome Ryker back to The Claret Jug Flight for 2021 Season…back where you belong Ryker, good job young man. We are proud of you!
The Player Scores:
Nearest The Pin Winner at Harbor Hills CC.
It was Braden Hawkins (Clermont) who struck an impressive iron to 4 ft this week on number 8 at HH. Well done to Braden who’s another of our Claret Jug Flight and brightest prospects of 2021.
So there we have it. Another great day of HJT Junior Golf. Harbor Hills was great and we will return there later in the year. Next up for us though is something VERY special indeed as we make our debut visit to The Legacy Club at Alaqua Lakes in Longwood. This promises to be another great HJT first as we tackle the course that renowned course architect Tom Fazio describes as one of his best! Thank you to Jeremy Sillaway and family for helping open the door for us into this venue. The Legacy Club are huge supporters of junior golf and they have offered us a remarkable rate of only $35 (HJT Members) to play on Saturday May 22nd with tee times from 2pm. Venue info is available HERE and to register to join us for this one click HERE
Thank you for your support everyone who attended the above HH tournament and well done to ALL of our players.
A final word of thanks as always to our wonderfully supportive sponsor for the above event TCL – Tri County Landscape (Owned by our friends and huge supporters of Junior Golf – Todd and Melissa Coon) Thank you for helping us do what we do. More info about TCL is available HERE.
See you all soon everyone.