Glenview Champions Country Club in The Villages, Florida was the venue chosen for our 2nd Major Championship Tournament of the 2021 Season. This was the Inaugural TCL Junior Open Championship, an event we always believed should be heavily associated with The Villages. This is OUR home and our community. It’s where we began Highlander Junior Tour in 2019 and it’s a thriving and ever growing community where our great sport is celebrated and played in more venues per head of population than anywhere else in the USA! We fully expect this event to become a regular fixture played each July by many of Florida’s junior players.
We also felt it very important that this tournament event bears the name of our Tour Sponsor:
TCL- Tri County Landscapes (More info HERE) are a Villages based organization owned by Todd and Melissa Coon and since the beginning of 2021 they have helped us enormously and in so many ways by agreeing to become our Main Tour Sponsor. We really do value this relationship hugely as we believe both Highlander Tour and TCL share the same key goal in working together. Just like us they also believe that attracting kids of all ages to the sport of golf, and giving them a regular platform to compete and play, can help them learn great values and become better and more confident young adults in the future.
Thank you again TCL for your amazing support.
The TCL Junior Open Championship Trophy
Before we head into the tournament report and results we would also like to thank the following for their support of this event.
Mr Marc Iceberg and Liquid Lights (More Info HERE) who are great friends of our tour and always happy to help us out anytime we ask them to get involved with junior golf. On this occasion Liquid Lights donated the funds required to allow us to offer these unique hand painted St Andrews Old Course ceramic tile trophy awards to all of our flight winners and our Junior Open Champion. Thank you again Liquid Lights, you guys are awesome and helped to make this a great tournament.
Thank you also to David and Jonathan Ring of Rhineland Cutlery (More info HERE) for your loyal and ongoing support. Rhineland kindly provide us with a beautiful, personally engraved, Chef’s knife from their incredible range of products bearing the golf club logo and GM’s details each time we visit a new venue. Thank you David for always being such a great supporter AND a special thank you to longtime player on Highlander Tour Jonathan who has been with us since we began and for always being such a great example and role model for our younger players.
Without strong local support and great friends of Junior Golf who believe in what we are trying to do we would struggle to bring events like this to you. Thank you Greg Curtis for always being one of our biggest advocates and supporters. We truly do appreciate you and everything you do for Highlander Junior Tour.
Thank you also to our good friend and fellow Villager Bob Flynn. Bob has made a financial donation to Highlander on a number of occasions. On each occasion he does not seek any personal recognition for doing. He always asks that we just use his donation for something for the kids!
On this occasion, and with a donation from Greg and Bob, we took these funds and were able to purchase enough Taylor Made TP-5 limited edition golf balls to provide each player with a sleeve of balls at registration check in. Thank you both for this extremely kind gesture, judging by the number of players using these balls on the 1st tee I think between us we did a very good job!
Throughout this report and on other social media pages you will see some great images and video of this event. For all of that we must give enormous thanks and great credit to Greg and Bev Wise. Professional images taken by them are being released to all parents/players free of charge, a wonderful gesture made to us by these two great friends of Highlander Tour who came along on Sunday to make sure the occasion was even more memorable!
Greg and Bev…on behalf of Highlander Tour and every one of our players and parents a huge thank you for being with us! We are so very grateful and the images and video are OUTSTANDING! #GolfTheWiseWay are on FaceBook.
To The Villages, Thank you Tyler Krager, Ron and all of the staff at Glenview for your amazing welcome and your assistance in making this event such a great success! Thank you to The Villages Golf and Tennis Management for working with us and helping us to make this event happen in our community and a special thank you too to Dan Machande for being such a good friend of Highlander Tour.
Thank you also to The Villages Daily Sun Newspaper and in particular Jeff Shain for everything you do to help us grow Highlander Junior Tour in our community and beyond. We appreciate every word you write about us and we are always forever grateful for the publicity it generates. Thank you too for contacting us and printing a wrap up following the event and for passing our final day information and results to The Villages TV who picked up the story too and were replaying it several times this week on their Daily Local News segment!
The final exciting day of any Golf Championship is ALWAYS going to be made even more special when you can hear the ancient and haunting sound of bagpipes. Returning for this one was 2018 World Bagpipe Champion – Sean Buchta. Thank you Sean….once again you did us proud! It was stirring, emotional and you played a big part in making it truly memorable…you are a true professional and we can’t wait for the next one!
The TCL Junior Open Championship 2021 – Tournament Results and Report:
It was indeed a memorable couple of days as the drama began to unfold over both of the challenging layouts our competitors played. Fox Run and Stirrup Cup are both challenging championship layouts and for any player to triumph it would require their very best levels of concentration and perseverance.
Multi-day Tournament golf requires players to think a little more about their overall strategy and remain as positive as they can. Mistakes on day one can often be corrected on day two and we all know only too well how often a day one leaderboard can quickly change in tournament golf.
As always our players, all 36 of them, were placed into their own age-based player flights with the only exception to that being our 6 player (all age) Claret Jug Flight for our Highlander Elite players who have already won 3 or more player flights during our season 2021.
The remaining 3 player flights would be reserved for the following age group players : The Old Tom Morris Flight for aged 16-17, The Young Tommy Morris Flight for aged 13-15 and our Bobby Jones Flight for aged 12 and under.
Each player Flight would result in a winning lowest scorer who would be rewarded with a commemorative championship medal and a St Andrews hand painted ceramic trophy. One player from the entire field who shoots lowest score would also receive The TCL Junior Open Champion title and be presented with The Claret Jug Trophy.
In addition each day we would operate a nearest the pin competition with the winner receiving a Highlander Tour branded Tervis Water bottle prize. There would also be a Highlander Tervis prize on final day for the player who had shown the best score improvement from day one total score to day two total score.
DAY 1; The Old Tom Morris Flight;
Our 16’s and 17’s Flight is always a close thing and this one was no different. It’s become the norm now that we usually attract some new faces to these 36-hole events and this time we were able to welcome Brandon Godfrey(Ormond Beach) and Nathan Williams(Clermont) to their 1st Highlander Tour Event. In addition it was also a welcome return to competition with us to Quinton Barnhill(Montverde Academy), we hope you all enjoyed the experience.
Over the opening 9 holes of day 1 it was proving difficult to separate a whole group of young players all playing good golf and all within a shot or two of the lead. Debut player Nathan Williams was playing consistent and steady golf over those opening holes and highlights included making birdie at the par 5 3rd. He made par on every other hole on that front 9 with the exception of an unfortunate double bogey on 5. Despite that though his near perfect opening 9 resulted in an impressive +1(37) at the turn.
Close on the halfway flight leader was recent medalist EJ Maupin(Lake Mary) who’s now starting to show some real quality in his overall game. We know EJ very well and we think this is going to be a season where he can take another big step up in overall tournament consistency. He’s shown us some of that quality over the last few weeks and it’s great to see him being rewarded by wins or finishing high on tournament leaderboards. EJ worked hard and stayed pretty consistent over those opening 9 holes making par on 7 of them and only giving back a couple of single strokes on each of the others. At the turn he was sitting only 1 back of our Day 1 halfway leader with a +2(38)
Alongside EJ was our other debut player Brandon Godfrey who was also showing great tenacity to stay close to the leader. His opening 9 was a mirror image of EJ’s with 7 par makes and only a couple of single stroke errors. Brandon too was at +2(38) after the opening 9 holes. Tucked in only one shot back of EJ and Brandon was Trenton Waters (Montverde) another of those previous medalist players we know very well and who is capable of producing some real high quality golf. Trenton was sitting at +3(39) at the Day 1 halfway point.
Nathan Williams consistency continued well into the beginning of the closing 9 holes. At one stage it looked like our early leader was going to leave the rest of the field behind him! A birdie at 10 brought him to level par and he stayed there all the way up to the point where he reached the 15th tee box. How many times do we talk about how quickly this game can change ? For good and for bad, unfortunately for Nathan it was the latter as he endured a frustrating finishing 4 holes with shots dropped at each. After Day 1 was complete Nathan had recorded a +5(77) …NOT what he hoped for after such a strong early performance BUT still another 18 holes to regroup and go again tomorrow!
Brandon Godfrey found the closing three holes of the back 9 of Day 1 to be hugely frustrating. Despite securing an early birdie at 12 he was unable to keep the consistency going and dropped shots on each of those finishing holes. Brandon is clearly a strong player and he would be hoping for a better finish on Day 2.
EJ Maupin’s closing 9 holes had a bit of everything in it. A birdie at 10 and another at 18 were real highlights. Making par on four of those other closing holes was also positive and helped his scorecard but dropped shots including a frustrating double bogey at 12 would leave him thinking it COULD have been an even better afternoon! There was however enough good golf in his game to help him hit the top spot as our flight leader after Day 1 with a +2 scorecard of 38-38-(76)
Another youngster, who’s certainly worthy of a mention, also did really well to haul himself back into contention was Villages High School’s Caden Fockler (Ocala) who, despite a tough early start, showed all his experience to shoot a best in flight back 9 total of +1(37). A real highlight for Caden was making an Eagle 3 on the par 5 12th of Stirrup Cup. Caden was back in the hunt and only 3 back after Day one carding a 42-37-(79). Trenton Waters was also hoping he’d done enough to stay in contention with a 39-40-(79)
DAY 2; The Old Tom Morris Flight;
Day 2 and our Old Tom Morris Flight was going to be just as exciting as the previous day. EJ Maupin led the way from Day 1 but unfortunately was unable to get off to the start he would have wanted. A front 9 total of +7(43) was not what he was hoping for and the door to the leaderboard at this stage was now open to the challengers.
Nathan Williams fared better early on by securing birdies at 5 and 7 and making par on 2,3 and again on 9 to put himself right back into contention for the flight lead with a +3 (39)
Our other newcomer, Brandon Godfrey was showing us all his real character and determination after the disappointment of those closing holes yesterday. Brandon was determined to show more of his real game and birdies secured at 1, 3 and 7 on his way to a best in flight +2(38) brought him right back into the medal mix.
When the players began the turn into the closing 9 holes the lead was held by Nathan who had a 3 shot advantage ahead of both EJ and Brandon. That’s a nice cushion to have but we all know how easy things can change so no one would be counting on anything being decided at this stage!
At 10 EJ knew he’d need to battle hard. He’s an experienced and calm player who has strong belief in his ability and his improvement started with birdies at both 11 and 12…this signaled his best period of play today and from 11 through 17 he played in level par. A bogey on 18 was a disappointing way to finish but he had improved his day dramatically and put himself back in contention by carding a Day 2 final round 0f 81. EJ 36 hole total was 76-81-(157).
Brandon Godfrey was still on the charge and playing more consistently through Day 2 than any other player in this flight. A birdie at 10 and par on 6 of the final nine holes was really impressive and he was also controlling the few dropped shots he made too by keeping them to nothing worse than bogey. Brandon’s back 9 Day 2 total was the best in flight at +3(75) and his overall scorecard reads 81-75-(156)
Nathan Williams had started the back 9 with the flight lead by 3 strokes and he was determined to maintain that position. Par at 10 and 11 and a very welcome birdie at 12 kept him ahead and despite a bogey at 13 he was still showing really strong consistency. Making par at 14,15 and 16 it was beginning to look like his debut was going to result in a fairly strong win however, and just in case we needed a timely reminder once again, golf tournaments can very quickly change!
At the par 3 17th Nathan dropped two shots to make it a nervy finishing hole. In the end that earlier cushion he’d worked so hard to secure would most definitely be needed and a 5 on the final hole would be required for the win, a 6 would mean a nervy play-off over extra holes with Brandon Godfrey. As his fellow players stood quietly over the 18th green Nathan rolled his final putt of the day into the cup for his 5! By doing so he had secured a debut Highlander Tour Medal win as our Old Tom Morris Flight Winner. Nathan’s scorecard over both days reads 77-78-(155).
Well done to all of our players who made this one so exciting to watch and Congratulations Nathan from everyone at Highlander Tour on a very well deserved debut win. We hope you enjoyed the experience!
Nathan is pictured below with his Old Tom Morris Flight medal and our additional Junior Open award presented to each flight winner of a hand painted commemorative ceramic golf tile showing The Old Course, St Andrews, Scotland.
DAY 1; The Young Tommy Morris Flight:
Our 13-15’s were competing for the prizes in this one and right from the start one player made his intentions REALLY clear. Luke Wood (Inverness) had prepared well for this one and was playing some of his very best golf. This tournament would prove to be a great opportunity for Luke to show the rest of the field that his game has improved yet again this season!
Looking at the quality in this player flight told us it was not going to be easy for any player. Recent HJT flight medal winners AJ Burns (Lecanto HS) and Katie Allen (The Villages) would expect to challenge strongly. Braxton Williams (The Villages) is another of these improving young talents that make this age group flight really exciting to watch! Also competing for the first time in an HJT Tournament and in this flight was 14 year old Reagan Chaires (Heathrow). Welcome Reagan, we hope you enjoyed the experience?
Luke Wood works really hard to find consistency every time he tees it up. He is a hugely experienced junior competition player and a winner by nature. He leaves everything out there and like many kids his age he can’t hide his feelings very well! Don’t misinterpret that however as a bad thing, in his case it’s NOT! Luke is a tenacious and entertaining young player who shows his emotions when things are going well and when things are not! This is all part of his individual character, he wants to do well every shot and he’s a great example of sportsmanship and a good role model for younger players too!
Luke started Day 1 with intent. Making par is the start point if you want to win tournaments and keeping any dropped shots to a minimum is just as important. Luke made 6 pars on those opening 9 holes and apart from a stumble at 8 resulting in a double bogey he was in a good spot at +4 (40) at the halfway point on Day 1.
Luke would lead by two strokes at this stage from Braxton Williams. Four back of the leader was AJ Burns who despite the fact that his front nine was not what he would have hoped for did an exceptional job of regrouping his thoughts and turning things around on the closing nine. AJ found form and consistency with birdies at 11 and 16 and par on 4 of the remaining closing holes. He also did a good job of correcting his earlier issues by ensuring shots dropped were nothing worse than bogey. AJ played those 9 holes in +1(37) to finish day one positively with a 44-37-(81)
The back 9 was also where things began to really click for Luke. A birdie at 16 was a highlight but that consistency he was striving for was also now showing up too as he made par on no fewer than 6 occasions on those closing holes AND shots dropped were kept to nothing worse than single shot losses. Luke did a great job on that closing stretch to also finish those holes on +1(37) and present a Day 1 scorecard of 40-37-(77)
At the end of Day 1 Luke led the Young Tommy Morris flight by 4 from AJ Burns.
DAY 2; The Young Tommy Morris Flight:
A 4 shot cushion at the top of this flight leaderboard for Luke Wood then as we began Day 2. It’s a good position to be in, ask any golfer if they’d rather be leading or chasing in this scenario and you should always get the response, “leading”! However we know only too well from so many previous tournaments how quickly things can change in golf!
Luke’s mindset would be exactly what you would expect from such an experienced competition player. Day one finished with his best golf so just go out and keep it going the same way today! He did just that for the first 9 holes of day 2 as that consistency in making par kicked right back in to his early game. The first 5 holes were all made in par. A couple of single shot errors followed at 6 and 7 but his response was great with par at 8 and the bonus of a birdie at the par 4 9th.
Luke had mirrored his score on Day 1 back nine and kept it going this time on Day 2 front nine. An impressive +1 (37) meant he had further stretched his lead at the top. Unfortunately none of the chasing players could close the gap on him and it was beginning to look like he was going to close this one out fairly comfortably.
Of those chasing Luke closest was AJ Burns who once again found the front 9 holes of Fox Run hard to manage. The young man from Hernando however does deserve great credit for staying focused and battling on in an effort to find his best form and it did pay off, albeit a little too late to affect the leaderboard on this occasion. AJ made birdie on 12 and par on 4 of those closing 9 holes to make a significant improvement on his Day 2 front 9 scorecard and overall for the tournament AJ recorded 81-83-(164)
Another player who deserves great credit for her Day 2 performance is Katie Allen (The Villages) who, despite a really tough opening day, was now showing us her absolute best form. Katie is a quiet and highly intelligent young player that carries the added pressure of being one of the brightest future hopes for ladies golf in The Villages. Her ability is there for all to see and her attitude to continual improvement is exemplary. If she needs to add anything at this stage it’s simply MORE regular tournament experience. Remember, Katie’s real competitive ability has surfaced only over the last couple of years and she is is now competing with players who have hundreds of tournament appearances and countless wins already behind them!
That all adds up to valuable experience and it’s building up well for Katie so far. Her goal over the last few months has been to break 80 in tournament competition and anyone who knows her will agree it was only a matter of time before she did so. On Sunday 25th July at Glenview Champions Katie Allen improved on her disappointing day 1 total by 13 shots….Katie achieved her goal shooting a fantastic 78 in the final round of our TCL Junior Open Championship and she did it by making birdie at 12 and hitting par on 9 of those 18 holes.
Katie is a very smart golf “realist” who knows she still has a long way to go to in her golf journey but what a great time to achieve a BIG goal! Well done Katie, we are all very proud of you! Katie shared (with debut player Reagan Chaires) the award for best day on day improvement by taking those 13 strokes off from Day 1!
Back to our Young Tommy Morris leader on 10 and could Luke Wood finish this one off the way he hoped to ? There was certainly no shortage of effort on his part but it was a tough finish for Luke. A shot dropped at 10 and another at 11. Par at 12 and another shot given back at 13. Par at 14 was then followed by a hugely frustrating run of 3 holes where 5 shots were lost. Great credit is due though as you’d expect from Luke he never stopped giving it his all, Par at 18 in front of a strong support, many of them who know Luke well, was a good way to finish this one off on a positive note!
Luke needed that early cushion of a lead BUT let’s not forget how well he played at times to secure it in the first place and just how much character it takes to keep coming back when setbacks present themselves, Luke shot a tournament total of 77-81-(158) to secure the flight win by 6 strokes. He showed a great deal of mental strength and used all his experience to get it over the line and that’s what counts to us, a win is a win after all and when they come along they can come in all shapes and sizes!
Experienced young players who set themselves really high standards like Luke Wood always hope to win one way, by playing great and always shooting really low scores, nothing at all wrong with that however as he gets older he will learn that golf is not always like that and when a win does come along grab it with both hands, give yourself a huge pat on the back and learn from the experience!
Luke Wood is a very worthy winner of our TCL Junior Open Young Tommy Morris Flight. Congratulations Luke from everyone at HJT.
Luke is pictured below with his Young Tommy Morris Flight medal and our additional Junior Open award presented to each flight winner of a hand painted commemorative ceramic golf tile showing The Old Course, St Andrews, Scotland.
DAY 1; The Bobby Jones Flight:
Our youngest players (11 and under) compete in this one and it’s always great to see them play. These are typically young players playing at different development levels ranging from novice or new to competition youngsters up to fairly experienced young competition players developing quickly. Each player based on age plays from a tee box suitable for their age.
On this occasion we welcomed a new player to HJT tournament competition. Christopher Belen aged 8 from Ocala was making his debut with us. Under normal circumstances players as young as Christopher often start playing in our 9 hole Wee Highlander matches but following some discussion with his parents and based on his previous US kids competition experience we included him in this one.
It’s no easy challenge asking an 8 year old to play 18 holes each day but Christopher should be very proud of his achievements. Despite the tough task he made par twice and on Day 2 improved on his Day 1 score by a huge 11 strokes! Good job Christopher we hope you enjoyed the experience and we hope to see you back with us again soon!
We were delighted to be welcoming back young players from The Villages, Jackson Platt-Scarbrough and AJ Sims to HJT competition and Ocala’s Christopher Wallace who’s doing a great job and improving well after joining us earlier this year.
Our two most experienced Highlander players in this flight were also representing The Villages and in most people’s minds would rightly be favorites to take the lowest scorer prizes in this Bobby Jones player flight. Aiden Skrocki has shown already how competitive and strong his game has become and he’s no stranger to winning our competition medals although since his 11th birthday he has faced the additional challenge of having to get to grips with the additional yardage that comes with age!
Aiden has improved yet again this year in so many ways including in the area that many young players need help with, Aiden’s showing everyone that he’s much better equipped to deal with setbacks in his round that perhaps in the past would have resulted in loss of focus and concentration. Adding that mental strength will be a huge advantage to his overall game as gets older and gains valuable tournament experience.
Rhett Kirkland, aged 10 and also representing The Villages is a great little competitor with very few weaknesses in his overall game. He is always capable of carding a low score and he never stops working hard to give his very best on the golf course. He started this one consistently finding par on four of the opening five holes of Fox Run. Unfortunately the next four proved tougher with a shot given back on each, he did however do a good job of keeping those losses to single shot bogeys only and that allowed him to return a front 9 total on Day 1 of +5(41).
Right now, as he works hard to deal with added yardage, Aiden is focusing as much as he can on making par as often as he can. That wasn’t an easy ask early on and its most noticeable that his biggest problems are going to arise on those longer hole par 5’s until he gets up to speed with the yardages he now faces. After the opening 9 Aiden was 5 shots back of Rhett.
The tougher back 9 of Stirrup Cup saw Aiden play better and more consistent golf including making par on the par 5 16th and par on 3 of the other closing holes. That’s progress right there when your game is in transition.
Rhett kept it as consistent on the back 9 as the front. A birdie at 11 was a highlight and par was made on 12,13,17 and 18. His Day 1 total of 41-40-(81) put him in a commanding spot leading the field in the Bobby Jones flight going into Day 2.
DAY 2; The Bobby Jones Flight:
Going into any final day as strong favorite and with a decent cushion on the leaderboard can be favorable to young players. Better golf comes when you feel good and can relax and just play without worrying too much about the pressure of being chased by others. Rhett did exactly that.
I feel sure he would have had a target score in mind and I suspect he maybe did a little bit better than he hoped ?
A birdie at 3 and 4 par makes resulted in a very impressive +3(39) after his Day 2 front 9 was complete. On the back 9 another welcome birdie at 12 and this time 5 pars on that closing stretch gave Rhett a closing hole finish of +2(38)
What a superb round of tournament golf from Rhett that was…his tournament scorecard of 81-77-(158) underlined just how well he had played in this one and it meant he was confirmed as the lowest scorer in our Bobby Jones flight.
Well done to all the players and in particular Aiden Skrocki who again on Day 2 showed he is gradually getting to grips with those long par 5’s. Aiden, as always, was one of the first to warmly congratulate his good friend Rhett on a fine tournament score and medal win!
Congratulations Rhett from everyone at HJT, you played a great tournament and you are thoroughly deserving of this achievement!
Rhett is pictured below with his Bobby Jones Flight medal and our additional Junior Open award presented to each flight winner of a hand painted commemorative ceramic golf tile showing The Old Course, St Andrews, Scotland.
DAY 1 – The Claret Jug Flight:
Under normal circumstances we lead into these reports with our Elite Claret Jug Flight of players first however the reason for reversing it this time will become clear to you. The only thing remaining to resolve now is WHO would be our Tournament’s lowest overall scorer and, in addition to winning their player flight, would also be crowned the TCL Junior Open Championship Winner of 2021 ? A Claret Jug player perhaps?
We enjoyed a great turnout of our Claret Jug players with no fewer than 6 of them competing in this 36 hole event. Between these 6 players they have collected an unbelievable 22 medal wins in 2021. This group of serial medal winners range in age from the youngest at age 9 (Bobby Jones Potash) to 15.
Bobby Jones Potash (Eustis) aged 9
Ryker Huther (Sorrento) aged 11
Riley Sillaway (Longwood) aged 12
Maggie Potash (Eustis) aged 14
Zach Phan (Ocala GC) aged 14
Tripp Watkins (Harbor Hills CC) aged 15
That is a VERY impressive list of junior golf talent and, perhaps not surprisingly, if you asked any of our neutral junior golf supporters ahead of this one to pick a favorite to be lifting The TCL Junior Open Championship Trophy on Sunday afternoon it’s more than likely they would pick one of the above players based on their competition experience and achievements in junior golf to date.
One player who started day 1 in positive and impressive form was Riley Sillaway. The Longwood youngster birdied 1 on his way to a field leading -2 (34) to put some red figures on the leaderboard early. In addition to the birdie at 1 there were two more at 3 and 7. This was a show of intent from a player in fine form right now who’s clearly enjoying his golf!
Keeping sight of Riley, and only 3 back, over those early 9 holes was Ryker Huther with a “birdie blitz” of his own. Ryker hit no fewer than 4 birdies at 1,3,4 and 9 to card a front nine +1(37) and despite giving a few shots back over a frustrating three holes he was still well placed at this early stage and after only 9 holes played.
Bobby Jones Potash, Zach Phan and Tripp Watkins were all showing their experience to keep as close to the leader as possible, all 4 shot +2(38) over those opening 9 holes. THIS was going to be exciting to watch over the next 27 holes of play!
The back 9 holes of day 1 were going to be memorable for several reasons and two key questions would be answered. Could Riley Sillaway sustain his blistering early form and if a challenge was to come, who would provide it?
Step up Bobby Jones Potash! Birdie-Par-Birdie-Birdie for the first 4 holes of the closing 9 at around the same time Riley was giving back a couple meant Bobby had closed the gap to only 1 stroke and THAT slender margin would be important over the remainder of this competition!
Riley’s response was every bit as dramatic..13 through 17 brought Par-Birdie-Birdie-Birdie-Par! This was golf of the very highest caliber from both of these players. Bobby kept the pressure on all the way as he completed the final four holes of Day one by making par on each to become our clubhouse leader on a -1 total 38-33–71
There was still a significant twist to come in this two player race for Day 1 lowest scorer as the golf course was now becoming even more challenging and the winds began to increase.
Coming onto the 18th Riley Sillaway was in a good place. A solid drive found the fairway and a fine iron shot into the green saw him sitting with a tricky, but achievable by his own standards, downhill putt that could see him finish the day on a possible -4 (68) !
Now it seemed like every one of our earlier finished players, parents and even some spectating Villages residents were present around that green to see if Riley could finish this round off …..would this add to the pressure Riley was under ? It may have had a little bit of a bearing on things BUT knowing him as we do in his mind he would most likely only be thinking about one thing, this is a real chance to break 70 for the first time in competition!
Golf is TOUGH….it can also be devastatingly cruel! In the space of only a few seconds it can take us from the edge of significant achievement and exhilaration to disbelief and despair!
Riley’s downhill putt ran past the hole, though not by much! 68 was gone but 69 was very much still in his grasp! Now if, like me, you are ever lucky enough to be able to say that your job, or one of them, is watching and supporting kids like Riley play junior tournament golf you will know what I mean when I say NOTHING about what happened next felt right! I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve watched players like Riley Sillaway or Bobby Jones Potash walk up confidently and smoothly stroke putts like this next one into the middle of the cup!
By now you’ve probably got the picture, the nerve-jangling putt for his 69 was not a confident stroke and it fell short! Riley’s 70th shot to finish off Day 1 as our 1st round low scorer was an easy little tap in! Can you possibly imagine how the events of the last few minutes would feel to a 12 year old? Golf can indeed be cruel at times BUT here’s the best possible way I can come up with to summarize what happened on that 18th green.
Riley played exceptional golf over 18 tough holes, he never had it easy, as Bobby was pushing him all the way for the top spot. FACT. He birdied 6 of 18 holes carding a hugely impressive -2 (70) on the way to becoming our day 1 leader by a stroke from Bobby. FACT. Riley Sillaway learnt a valuable lesson about himself and the game he loves on 18 and he WILL be a better and more experienced player in future for having that experience behind him. FACT.
Day 2 would therefore begin with Riley leading the field by 1 stroke from Bobby. Not far back and joining the leaders group of players drawn together was Ryker Huther who was still hoping to overcome both of them. Ryker was 4 back of Riley. Day 2 was shaping up to be a very special day!
DAY 2: The Claret Jug Flight:
At 1.08pm Riley Sillaway hit his first competition shot of the day as our leading player after Day 1 of The TCL Junior Open Championship. He was closely followed by Bobby Jones Potash and then by Ryker Huther.
I cannot think of a stronger or more talented group of young players to contest the final day of this tournament. We are immensely proud of each of them for so many reasons. Each of them share a lot of similarities and on any given day any one of them could win this flight and the championship itself! They each posses exceptional talent and great future potential but in competitive junior golf today if you want to be successful that’s a requirement!
The things that we feel are as important as their ability are the things that make these kids special to us. They play the game the way we all want to see it played! Their individual characters and approach may be different BUT they each display good manners and respect to others at all times and win, lose or draw they never display anything but good sportsmanship and class beyond their young years.
All 3 of them also typify how junior golf can play a vital role in creating strong family ties and a lifetime of family memories too as Riley, Bobby and Ryker, like many others, employ the unpaid assistance of Dad “on the bag” alongside them each time they compete! Speaking as a Dad, whose son has now advanced to having a family of his own, I know only too well how memorable these experiences on the golf course together are! Problem is, in my honest opinion, most of us don’t actually realize just how wonderful these experiences are until later as you look back on them as a parent so, message to ALL caddie Dads, don’t EVER Forget to enjoy these very special times spent together with your young players!
Perhaps the biggest question mark hanging over from Day 1 was how would Riley react to his disappointment in closing out that final hole yesterday ? Our leader had started yesterday by making birdie at the first. Today it started with a bogey. Ryker also made bogey and Bobby made par. Only one hole played and Riley and Bobby were now tied. Was this a sign of things beginning to turn in Bobby’s favor?
Riley Sillaway is a focused and driven player. Very possibly the most focused and intense player of his age that we know! He works extremely hard on his game and he displays a maturity that’s not often evident in such a young player AND he believes strongly in his ability to work through a setback. To demonstrate, and in case anyone was thinking he was about to relinquish his position as leader in this one, he regrouped and hit back immediately with Par, Birdie, Birdie, Par.
Bobby had not put a foot wrong since the day began! He had secured par on three of those first 4 holes and even welcomed his own first birdie of the final day at the par 5 3rd. Bogey at 5 from Bobby allowed Riley to extend his lead to two strokes for the first time but just as quickly as before it turned again as Bobby showed his strength and character to hit back quickly making consistent pars at 6 and 8 as Riley could do no better than bogey on each. Number 9 was birdied by both players with great approach shots and fine finishing putts…at the turn Bobby had played only 35 shots for a -1 halfway total and Riley one more at level par 36. The lead was now shared by both players! This was junior tournament golf of the highest calibre!
At this point we need to mention the fact that Ryker was playing some exceptional golf of his own while trying desperately to keep sight of the leaders. He had birdied no fewer than 4 of those opening 9 holes but alongside those wins he’d unfortunately given some back with errors that now meant his chances of overtaking Riley and Bobby were fading. He would however do what we’ve come to expect of him and keep giving it his very best shot right up until the last putt of the day dropped!
For Riley and Bobby it was now down to the final closing 9 holes. All square and everything to play for. Par for both players at 10 followed. At 11 Bobby made birdie and Riley made par. It was a return to the top of the leaderboard for the powerful youngster from Eustis but could he stay there? Riley’s response was just as emphatic, a birdie at 12 and Bobby made par. All square AGAIN! At 13 it would swing once more in Riley’s direction as Bobby dropped a stroke. Par on 14 for both players so still it was Riley ahead by a stroke. On 15 Bobby once again kept the pressure on making par and this time it was Riley’s turn to drop one…BACK to all square once more!
At 16 now and close to home, a par 5 opportunity for both players that neither could take advantage of. Both secured par and made their way to the tricky par 3 17th. Was there to be more drama in this one as the crowds were gathering around 18, many of them glued to phones and watching the leaders scoreboard change frequently! You bet there was more drama and this time it was HUGE!
An exceptional putt under huge pressure resulted in a birdie for Riley at 17, maybe one of the most important he’s ever made in his relatively short golf career to date? Bobby’s response unfortunately was a bogey 4. In one short hole and over only a few minutes the TCL Junior Open Championship had swung two shots in favor of Riley Sillaway. It was a huge advantage to take down the last but of course an advantage of 2 is NO guarantee of a win, you only have to think back 24 hours to remind yourself of that, and no player would be MORE aware of that than Riley!
Bobby Jones Potash loves to win golf tournaments! He’s been doing so for a number of years! Two shots back and 1 hole left isn’t ever going to be enough for him to quit giving his absolute best, he’s shown it can be done already today and he could do it again. Bobby drove deep into the middle of the fairway from the tee, struck a pure iron close to the pin and like a veteran strode up, took his putter back and cool as you like sank the putt for a birdie 3 !! Bobby completed Day 2 in level par (72) to record a -1 overall 71-72-(143)
Seriously, you could not write a more dramatic ending to a golf tournament even if you tried!
Over to you Riley. Make par and the prize is yours. His drive was good and his approach shot in was perhaps just a little short of where he’d have liked it to be, a birdie opportunity was a possibility but the important thing was always to ensure it was going to be left close. It finished maybe 5 or 6 feet from the hole? It’s all now down to this one shot, hopefully for Riley, his final shot of the day! Make it and win, miss it and both players will head to an extra hole play off. I wondered if Riley was thinking about the last time he was on this green ? If so had he learnt from THAT experience?
There was NO hesitation this time! As confident and as assured as you would expect from him he was NOT going to miss this one, he lined it up, he sent it on its way and, just as he expected it to, it dropped right in the center of the cup! Riley finished Day 2 on a level par (72) to record a championship winning -2 overall 70-72-(142)
A fist bump, a sporting handshake and thanks exchanged with Bobby and Ryker and it was time to celebrate with his family!
What an unbelievable way to finish this tournament! It was an emotional rollercoaster for these two young players, and for us! It’s always SO tough to see one young player give everything, and yet not quite make it, and at the same time it’s also a huge thrill to see another achieve his goal! It’s a reminder to us that golf is such a unique and character building sport and like no other. One where we first need to learn that regardless of how good we are there are always going to be more days where you leave without the prize than days when you win it!
Very well played Bobby Jones Potash! You should be extremely proud of every aspect of your performance. You showed us all another glimpse of the quality player you are fast becoming and you are a very special young man!
We’d also like to say well done to our remaining Claret Jug players who were all still in with a chance of winning after Day 1 was complete. As the chasing pack they always knew however it would be tough to catch the leaders on Day 2 and that’s exactly how it unfolded however well done to Ryker Huther who finished 75-72-147 and Tripp Watkins 77-72-149
Our congratulations go to Riley Sillaway. Over two days and 36 holes he showed us not only great perseverance and character but also how strong he can be mentally too. Ability on its own doesn’t win you golf tournaments, even at junior level, you have to be able to cope with the huge highs it can bring when you are doing well and the desperate lows you are going to face when things seem like they are turning against you too, Riley did exactly that!
The TCL Junior Open Champion 2021 – Riley Sillaway
So there we have it. Riley is our Champion. Fittingly he was presented that beautiful little TCL Junior Championship Claret Jug by Todd Coon, owner of TCL. Thank you again Todd for coming along and for your support, everyone involved with Highlander including players, parents and supporters thank you for your support of junior golf!
There were a couple of additional prizes to award before we conclude things. Believe it or not Day 1 and Day 2 nearest the pin awards were BOTH won by Michael Woodley (Leesburg HS)Well done Michael!
The award for best score improvement from Day 1 to Day 2 was shared by The Villages Katie Allen and Reagan Chaires (Heathrow) with both players improving by 13 strokes. Well done to you both!
We will leave you with the short video below with images of all of our players and the sound of the bagpipes expertly played by our friend Sean Buchta. Incidentally we are working on sending all players the images that are contained in this video. Look out for those coming to you over the next few days. Thanks again Greg and Bev Wise for making that possible!
Thank you players and everyone who played their part in making this event our best yet. Get ready to do it all again at the end of the year as we now gear up for our end of season Champion Golfer of the Year 36 hole Event. More details about that one coming soon.
Enjoy the bagpipes, Keith