This week we created yet another first for HJT. We made our junior competition debut at Ocala GC and it certainly made an impression on our players and on our staff.
What a great layout they have here at “muni” and what great condition they keep it in too! If you know anything about the golf industry worldwide you will be very much aware of how many city owned courses there used to be and how few still remain today. This is not just an issue in the US, its the same issue that exists right across Europe where its often the decision of the cash-strapped local city council who owned and operated these public courses to sell them off for profit to the first developer that shows any interest.
Finding somewhere like Ocala GC is like finding a little piece of golf history on our doorstep. It may not have the luxurious feel of some of those fine country club venues we visit to play but we think that’s another big part of it’s appeal, we’ll take “muni” and its golf history all day long! After all how many times will our junior players get to play somewhere so good and walk in the footsteps of kids their age who would have played here almost a century ago?
Ok, you get the picture, we love Ocala GC and we WILL return again soon.
On Saturday we were also joined by Mr Greg Wise and his wife Beverley who were representing Golf Central Magazine who came along to talk with us about the growth of our tour, our players and our ambitions to grow even further in 2021. Greg took some incredible golf images of each of our players, if you haven’t seen them yet we will be putting them all up on the site over the next few days. Thank you Greg and Beverley, we hope you enjoyed your time with us and we gave you a little bit of a feel for what we are about? The images you took are awesome and we hope you can join us again soon ?
Here’s just one example of how the professionals get results, it certainly puts my iPhone camera work to shame!
Saturday’s debut visit to Ocala GC saw a strong field of players in each of our 3 age-based flights. As always we start with how things turned out for our oldest and most experienced players, our 16-18 age group.
The Old Tom Morris Flight:
The very best of the day’s play was centered around 3 of the players in this flight. 3 players who were drawn on the tee sheet to play together and, while they are very good friends off the course, they are all strong and single minded competitors on it!
Cody Royston (Melbourne, FL) Hunter Lewis (Belleview HS) and Jonathan Ring (Rhineland Cutlery) are all experienced junior golf competition players. Between them they have racked up hundreds of competition appearances since first picking up a golf club at a young age. They each know their fellow competitors game very well and they each know that to take the top spot means they will have to bring their very best game to secure it.
It was Jonathan who set the strong early pace. An almost flawless +1(37) tough front nine, that caused the majority of the field major problems on the day, secured him an early 4 shot lead over Cody. Jonathan’s only blemish was on the 1st hole of the day, always a tough one to take but when you note what followed it’s a sign of a really strong competitor who’s able to quickly put an error behind him and play with the kind of confidence in his ability that was evident as he secured par on the next 8 holes following it!
Hunter Lewis, our medalist last week, and Cody Royston both struggled to get going over those same early holes. It’s worth noting though that they both share that same trait of self confidence and perseverance and each was determined to ensure Jonathan wasn’t going to have it all his own way over the closing holes. Hunter deserves a special mention here for bringing his very best on the back 9 , a -1(35) of real consistency including birdies on 13 and 14. The only player in the flight to hit the red number for that under par back 9 and its great see Hunter is really hitting a rich vein of form right now.
Cody also made a really good job of pushing hard recording a (4 shot improved) back 9 total of +1(37). Good job Cody!
It was to be Jonathan’s day though. That single error on the 1st oddly enough was repeated on the 10th. It was to be a very rare error and what followed was very impressive and even stronger than earlier, 7 pars over the last 8 holes and he even managed to wipe out that single blemish with birdie on 17 too to take the HJT medal recording a +1(73)
Jonathan is a very popular winner on HJT. He does work hard at improving and he’s never far from the top spot of our leader board, although we have had a bit of a running joke between us that he should play more in preparation of these competitions, his reason for not always doing so is very valid though as its WORK that can often get in the way of him doing that! I am very pleased to hear though that he did manage to practice and play more this week and the result therefore speaks for itself…as if anyone needs me to remind them but it appears once again that your best golf will arrive if you Practice-Compete-Repeat !
Well played Jonathan and congratulations from everyone on a fine medal win in this one. Well done too to Cody and Hunter who finished joint runners-up with both recording a +6(78)
The Young Tommy Morris Flight:
Our mid-teens typically aged 13-15 and always some fine golf and excitement around this group. Saturday was no exception, and for the 4th time in 4 weeks it would take an extra hole play-off to separate our top two scorers after 18 holes.
In total our Young Tommy Morris flight had 8 very strong players competing in this flight. Surprisingly only 3 of them shot under 80 at Ocala GC this week. Clearly conditions had a bit of a bearing and the layout caused many issues as looking down the list of names there is absolutely no doubt in our minds that each of those who didn’t are more than capable of doing so!
The three who did were Zach Phan (Ocala GC), Trace Kirkland (The Villages) and Xavier Sahajpal (Ocala) and for the early part of the day it wasn’t possible to separate them. Later in the day it would take an extra hole play off to separate the remaining two of them!
On the front 9 it was Trace and Zachary who were narrowly sharing the top spot both shooting an impressive +3 (39). Xavier was close by, only a stroke back on them. As they moved to the remaining 9 it was becoming clear that only a level par score through these final holes, or better, was going to be good enough to take the win. Zach played a consistent round and on another day his 18 hole tally of 39-39-78 may have been enough but not today as both Trace and Xavier were making those closing holes look easy!
Trace was playing as well as he ever has and closed off the back nine with a strong and consistent level par 36 to record a 39-36-75 and hold the clubhouse lead. Xavier too was performing to his own similar and exceptional high standard and by the time he reached 18 he knew par would be enough to force a play-off with Trace. That requirement was duly achieved and proved to be the final putt of an extremely impressive back 9 total of -1(35) for Xavier.
An extra hole sudden death play-off always raises the excitement level at tournaments. I’m not sure excitement is what the players feel though but there’s no denying that it does separate tied players in as fair a way as possible, it’s an extra special feeling to win one and it’s frustratingly painful to lose one. If you can say you performed to the best of your ability and your opponent can create something a bit special then arguably that’s a little bit easier to take than perhaps missing your putt or making an error, in this case it was Xavier who produced the special moment, holing a long birdie putt to take the medal win.
Well done Xavier for getting it done in some style and congratulations from everyone at HJT. Well done too to Trace, it could not have been any closer and although its disappointing not to win your very special 75 is a powerful reminder that you are well on your way to a great year of golf !
The Bobby Jones Flight:
Our youngest, 9-12 year old’s, and I say this every week… if you possibly can get out and watch these kids play. The real future of our game and despite their age many of them are already showing they have the temperament, sportsmanship and ability to put a great score up.
This one gave us our first opportunity to see at close hand two young players and long time friends who play at a very similar high standard. Riley Sillaway (Longwood,Fl) joined us at the beginning of the year and made an immediate impression on us all, he’s a gifted young golfer and an exceptional young man with great temperament and a calm head for one so young. On his debut at Eagle Ridge GC he won, what we all believe, will be the first of many junior competition medals.
The following week he returned to us with good friends and his sister Delaney to play. His good friend Phoenix Wilson(Longwood,Fl) is only a shade older and we understand he and Riley are regular playing partners. On his debut last week at Summerglen GC Phoenix came very close to mirroring what his friend had achieved a week earlier however a sudden death extra hole play-off saw him just miss out to another regular HJT medal winner Bobby Jones Potash.
On Saturday Phoenix and Riley stood out together as our top performers in a flight that already has no shortage of strong and talented young golfers.
It was Phoenix who set the early pace and it doesn’t get much better than a birdie to start. He had very few errors in that front nine +1(37) with 6 consistently notched pars added to that early birdie. Riley was always looking like Phoenix strongest challenger during the day and after his front 9 of +4(40) he was sitting 4 shots back of the lead.
We all know that 4 shots can disappear quickly in junior competition and both players would know that only a strong and consistent back 9 would give them a chance to win. Not surprisingly both boys showed that consistency and neither of them faltered much with Riley shooting a +3(39) to post an overall 40-39-(79) and Phoenix showing real determination and bettering even his own front 9 with a +1(37) for an overall 38-37-(75) to take the win by 4 strokes and to take his first HJT medal home. THAT was very impressive indeed Phoenix, very well done and congratulations from everyone at HJT.
As mentioned earlier we are very lucky to already have such a strong line up of talented young players who are capable of shooting low scores and performing consistently well. The recent addition of the 4 junior players from Longwood, and we include all 4 of them, as both Delaney Sillaway and Chase Wilson are also showing great signs already of being strong competitors and gifted players, will make overall competition even more challenging for all and even more exciting to watch. Good players with good habits and experience will always bring out the very best in other good players and we are delighted that you are with us. We really hope that you are enjoying the challenge and having fun playing with us?
Nearest the pin competition award:
Last week it was younger brother Rhett, this week it was the turn of Trace Kirkland (The Villages High School) to take the prize, a $25 Edwin Watts voucher. Well done Trace, enjoy spending it!
That wraps up another one for us. Competition number 3 of season 2021 is complete. Thank you to our sponsors at TCL (www.tricountylandscapes.com) and Rhineland Cutlery (www.rhinelandcutlery.com) and of course our venue hosts at Ocala GC, head pro Richard Hildenbrandt and his team.
Next up we head to the unique links-style gem that is Red Tail GC in Sorrento, if you haven’t yet played it you are in for a REAL treat. It’s tough and uncompromising with a finishing stretch of holes that will demand your full concentration and your very best golf right up until the last putt drops, possibly one of the toughest venues we visit but always in great shape and undoubtedly one of the most beautiful golf course settings in Florida too!
Registration is open now for Red Tail and many of our future tournament venues. Click HERE to register and for more info. See you all soon