It’s always good to get back to Eagle Ridge. Our home venue offers a variety of choice with 4 9 hole layouts ensuring each visit is a little different. On Saturday it was the Champions to Masters layouts and despite the chilly conditions and challenging winds the day proved to be a very successful and exciting one when it comes to good scores being posted!
As usual at this point we do like to take the opportunity to welcome new players who were making their debut appearance on Highlander Tour. This week we were delighted to welcome a threesome of young players. 17 year old Tiana Eldem (Ocala) was joined by the Anderson brothers from Longwood, Manning aged 14 and Winston aged 13. It was great to welcome you all to an HJT competition, we hope you enjoyed the experience and we really look forward to seeing you again at some stage in the future.
We begin our results round up with our Claret Jug Flight.
The Claret Jug Flight:
Within the Claret Jug Flight are our (no age restriction) players who are all consistent top performers. Each of these players has won their relevant age based player flights on 3 or more occasions achieving promotion to our top flight.
On Saturday our Claret Jug representatives, Nick Zarillo, Maggie Potash, Phoenix Wilson and Bobby Jones Potash, once again showed that they are all in deservedly in this flight on merit. The point we often make about it NEVER being easy to win a Claret Jug Medal was also proved true once again, as our winner clearly demonstrated, with another impressive performance and low score win!
The Champions front 9 saw 3 players, who’ve contested strongly in numerous HJT competitions over the last year, once again post impressive early scores.
Bobby Jones Potash (Eustis) earned his Claret Jug qualification only last week with his third medal win of 2021 and there’s no doubt that Bobby will once again be a force for all others to consider in this flight this year. Our youngest competitor had to show all of his resilience and talent in this one as, after a disappointing opening bogey at the first, Bobby simply reset and dispatched the next 9 holes in par! After an impressive 9 Bobby was in a good place at +1(37).
Maggie Potash (Eustis) is the golf definition of quietly efficient in golf competition. A hugely experienced young player who is very much aware of her capabilities and enough confidence in her ability to know she can shoot low every time she plays. Maggie started really well in this one with the first 6 holes made in par and even her first birdie of the day at the 7th to add to a great start, aside from a couple of dropped shots over those last few opening holes it was still all to play for as Maggie also returned a +1(37)
Nick Zarillo (Mike Bender Golf Academy) is in top form right now and, not surprisingly, that always makes him the likely favorite to shoot the low score. Nick sets his own competition targets and works as hard as any player we know to ensure his game is always at the highest level, we hope it remains that way for a long time to come as it’s a huge year for the young man from Lake Mary who will soon depart the junior golf circuit and begin a new chapter as a college player later this year. Nick has so often demonstrated the ability to recover well from setbacks and showed this quality once again when, after a steady par start on 1, number 2 resulted in an uncharacteristic double bogey! His response? Birdies at 3 and 6 and par on the remaining 5 holes on the opening 9 to lead the group after 9 by a single stroke with a level par (36)
Maggie’s luck on the closing 9 holes was mixed by her own high standards. Highlight was birdie at 17 and par was secured on 4 occasions but unfortunately the dropped shots in between proved costly, especially in a flight that already looked as if a low 70’s score was going to be required to win it! After 18 Maggie’s card showed 37-41-(78)
Bobby Jones Potash was hoping to improve a little on the back 9, he had chances to do so but the combination of several putts not dropping and birdies proving elusive meant he would have to settle for a similar result to his earlier holes. The big positive for Bobby is that his overall round was still really consistent though with only a couple of shots dropped on the closing holes and even those were kept to single shot losses! In the end Bobby shot a very decent 37-38-(75)
Nick started the back 9 holes with a mirror image of the front 9. Par was followed by a single shot bogey drop at 11. Could he quickly recover again this time? Well, in anyone’s eyes this one is pretty impressive, Nick went Par-Eagle-Par-Birdie-Par-Par-Par to close out yet another positive chapter in his golf journey with us and card a 36-34– (70) for a -2 total and another deserved Claret Jug Medal win.
Well played Nick and congratulations from everyone at HJT on yet another top performance. The finish on this one was exceptional and showed us once again just how strong your game, and your attitude, are right now!
The Old Tom Morris Flight:
Our 16/17’s were battling it out in this one and amazingly it was one single group of 3 players playing together that were all so close in scoring that it came down to the final hole they played to separate them.
Drawn to play together in our 12.08pm group Elle Folland (The Villages HS), newcomer Tiana Eldem (Ocala) and Will Giger (Kissimmee) it became clear from early on that there was a very high probability that our medalist at Eagle Ridge GC was going to be one of these young players.
In addition to those three we also want to give a special mention to another of our regular players from our Old Tom Morris Flight who came close to joining them in the mix. Trenton Waters (Montverede) eventually finished just behind those three but deserves praise for how well he is playing in big parts of these competitions. Having watched Trenton recently he is one of my biggest hopes for this season as he is doing so much right and often just not getting the breaks his overall play warrants.
Golf is about many things, technique, resilience, good attitude and good luck too and often the latter is the last piece of the jigsaw to fall into place! Trenton has all the rest and I think it’s only a matter of time before he gets where he should be and starts achieving his scoring goals regularly….don’t get me wrong though he may not always be getting all the breaks he deserves right now but his game is certainly not all bad luck, for example on Saturday he made par on 8 occasions and, just as we’re talking about LUCK, on hole 13 he had a spectacular piece of good fortune and made an Eagle 3 on the par 5! Great job Trenton…please just keep doing what you’re doing!
Elle Folland was our medalist at Continental CC last week. At Eagle Ridge GC she was hoping to make it a double win on a course she knows very well indeed. Her start was not exactly what she hoped for with 3 shots dropped over the first 4 holes but as we are very much aware Elle plays with the mindset of a very experienced junior competition veteran! She accepts that errors and dropped shots are sometimes going to happen, putting them behind you quickly and focusing only on what’s ahead is a skill good players have and Elle showed it’s possible once again by playing the next 8 holes par and adding a birdie too. Through the front 9 holes Elle shot +3(39)
Tiana Eldem is another very experienced young competition player who we were delighted to welcome to her first HJT event. She has a very strong all round game and in this one had some really good moments to enjoy, especially early on in the day. Tiana’s front 9 total of +2(38) consisted of a couple of troublesome holes but dropped shots were mainly balanced out as she made par on 4 occasions and added two very impressive birdies too. At the turn Tiana would lead the flight by a stroke.
Will Giger joined us recently and has already shown he is more than capable of competing strongly and shooting low scores in competition. Playing in the same pairing as Elle and Tiana in this one Will actually started the better of the group. The first 3 holes played to par was followed by a couple of single dropped shots over holes 4 and 5. He did steady things making par over the next couple before giving another two shots back at 8 and 9. Will was still ensuring he was staying in close contention at the turn with a +4(40) to leave him 2 shots off the lead.
Going into the back 9 holes Will was eager to keep the pressure on. Unfortunately a dropped shot at 10 was costly although immediately following it he had his most consistent stretch of holes with 3 pars and a birdie on the par 5 13th. He did improve overall on those closing 9 holes and in the end his scorecard would read 40-38-(78) for the day.
Tiana was looking to extend that narrow lead and it looked likely as the first of the back nine holes was made in par. Unfortunately at 11 and 12 she suffered the misfortune of dropping a combined 4 strokes before steadying and playing out a really impressive level par finish over those remaining 6 holes. A highlight was another birdie, her third of the day at the tricky par 3 14th. Tiana finished the day 38-40-(78)
Elle went into the back 9 only one stroke back of the leader. A birdie at 10 would quickly put her level at the top of the scoreboard. Par-Par at 11 and 12 put her ahead before a run of 3 holes where a stroke was lost on each. This one was clearly going to go right to the wire between these three players and if Elle was to secure her win this week nothing short of consistency over the final holes was going to be enough for an outright win. Par at 16, Par at 17 was made. It all came down to the last hole and Elle had a tricky 6 foot uphill putt for Par. She made the stroke confidently into the center of the cup for a -2 back 9 and a final total of 39-38-(77) to take the medal win by a stroke from Tiana and Will.
Our congratulations go to Elle Folland but what a great match this proved to be between all three of these exceptional players. Each of them had opportunities, each had some great moments of play and each had setbacks to overcome. Well done to all of you for your efforts and for making it so exciting to watch for the rest of us!
So, Elle did it again! A fine medal win, her second in successive weeks on HJT and her third flight medal win this year which means of course she becomes our latest multi-medal winner to qualify for promotion into our elite Claret Jug Flight for the remainder of 2021. Congratulations to a very popular winner and a great competitor from everyone at HJT!
The Young Tommy Morris Flight:
It was our 14/15 year old’s competing in this one and while there was no shortage of strong golfers in the flight it’s fair to say that most of them didn’t enjoy their strongest scoring day at a rather blustery and cool Eagle Ridge GC.
Players who have already taken medals in this flight this year included Delaney Sillaway (Longwood) and AJ Burns (Hernando) and while they worked hard all day they just couldn’t find the consistency needed to get close to our eventual winner who was playing exceptionally well.
It doesn’t often happen this way, especially in this age group, but it was all about one young man who started strong and finished even stronger than everyone else.
Xavier Sahajpal (Ocala) played, and won, with us earlier in the year on his home course at Ocala GC. and right from the start he looked like he was focused on making it another medal win. His round was a good one but he didn’t have it all easy. He did have to show good resilience and bounce back from a few setbacks especially early in his round but when required to correct things he did just that!
Xavier dropped a shot at the 1st. bounced back with par at 2 and followed that impressively with a birdie at the par 5 3rd. Bogey at 4 was a setback and made worse by double bogey at 5 it’s at times like that you see the real character of a young player come to the fore. Did he have the mental strength to put that behind him? You bet he did, he made par on the next 6 holes he played and although there was a single stroke bogey at 12 it wasn’t too damaging and it would prove to be the last error he would make all day!
Xavier’s finish from 13-18 was outstanding. Birdie-Par-Par-Par-Par and another Birdie at the last, his third of the day completed a really impressive 39-35-(74) and enough to make it two wins from two HJT appearances.
Xavier really is becoming a formidable young player. It’s great to see him developing so quickly this year and he clearly works very hard to achieve his golfing goals. In addition to those practical skills he is a wonderful young man who is respectful to everyone, humble and polite and a joy to have playing with us. Congratulations Xavier from everyone at HJT on your second medal win this year, only one more and you will earn promotion to our Claret Jug Flight !
The Bobby Jones Flight:
Unusually this week our Bobby Jones was filled predominantly with our 12 and 13 year old players. There were a lot of familiar names in there including no fewer than 5 previous medal winners making it a very competitive and exciting flight.
Based on how each player started it was Owen Sahajpal (Ocala) who was first to show his class and fine form in the early stages. Owen made par on 5 of those opening holes and added an impressive birdie at the 5th to lead the flight at the halfway point with a +2(38)
Kale Fashik (Belleview) was keeping close and hoping for an even better back 9 total. Kale was tucked in only a couple back on the leader with a +4(40) which included a birdie at 4. Unfortunately for Kale the back 9 proved tougher to handle on this occasion and eventually his scorecard would read 40-43-(83) On this occasion not quite enough to be in with a medal chance but another good improvement on last time out on HJT for Kale.
Winston Anderson (Longwood) in his first HJT event also deserves a mention for persevering well and staying in the medal hunt. Winston played some impressive golf but left it just a little late to show his best form of the day. Despite some setbacks he recorded a 42-39-(81) and the youngster from Longwood should be reasonably pleased, especially with his finish in this competition. I suspect there’s more to come from Winston and we look forward to seeing him play with us again soon.
Zachary Phan (Ocala GC) is a player we know well. Our young “lefty” is a driven and focused young player with a very good all round game. He works hard and is developing quickly into a top performer who without question has the ability to be shooting low consistently and picking up medals. Zach started with a bogey, not what he wanted but he is a very experienced competition player who knows that good golf scores begin by making par. He also understands that if you do drop shots the priority is to keep them, whenever possible, to single shot losses as often you can recover from them. Zach did exactly that and his front 9 scorecard showed a +4(40) to keep him only two back of Owen’s lead.
Zach’s back 9 was better by a stroke than his front. A highlight was a birdie at 7 which would prove significant in what happened next. Zach finished on 40-39-(79) and he would hold the clubhouse lead for the flight while waiting on challenger Owen Sahajpal to finish.
Owen begun the back 9 two strokes ahead of Zach. Unfortunately 10 and 11 proved difficult and as he made his way to the 12th tee it was back to all square between these two talented Ocala youngsters. Owen had to keep it consistent and that proved to be the case with him playing some of his best golf on those closing holes. 12 through 17 were all made in Par, a par at the last would be enough to record a 78 and take the win. That uphill finishing hole can be a real tough one to make and there’s NO spot on that green where you haven’t got a tough putt. Owen’s putt for Par didn’t drop and left him with a 38-41-(79) tied with Zachary Phan.
Extra hole play-offs are becoming regular occurences here at HJT. This time it was Owen and Zach who made their way down Champions number 1. Incidentally thank you to the group of early evening member players from Eagle Ridge GC who happily stepped aside to let our two juniors finish this off, what a great piece of sportsmanship that was!
Play-off ties usually end the same way. They are always nervy and more often than not they end with a made putt by one and a missed putt by another. Once again it was the case. Zach made his and Owen just missed his!
Well done to both players for your resilience, determination and the fine golf you showed over 19 holes of play. It didn’t turn out as Owen hoped but he is a very solid young player who we know will bounce back very quickly. He and Zach are friends and they both showed great respect and sportsmanship to each other at the end of this one.
Congratulations Zach! We are very happy for you that you finally got your hands on that medal after so many occasions where you were so very close. I’m the one from HJT who usually gets to hear all about Zach’s round as we’re completing the scoreboard and I can tell you there is no player who is more driven and passionate than this young man. Good job Zach!
The Player Scores:
Our Nearest The Pin Winner:
This week it was Kale Fashik who got it closest and took the prize of a $25 Golf Store Voucher. Good job Kale!
That’s it from us and another great weekend of Junior Golf. We had 3 new players joining us this week and no fewr than 10 players shooting under 80 on a windy and cold Florida afternoon. One player (Nick Zarillo) recorded a sub par round and there were Eagles and Birdies to celebrate too!
Next up for us it’s one of the best in Florida. Mission Inn Resort (Howey-in- the-Hills, FL)and the challenge of the course they call..El Campeon! It isn’t for everyone, it’s TOUGH and never easy to score low on but it’s the one every good golfer wants to master and the venue for every Florida State High School Championship since 2012. We have limited tee times from 12pm on El Campeon. Join us if you can on Saturday April 10th.
The following week (Saturday April 17th) it’s another great new venue for HJT. The Legends Course at Orange Lake in Kissimmee. This is an exceptional and really exciting new venue and we think it’s going to sell out quickly based on entries so far and player and parent interest. Don’t delay in signing up if you can make it!
To Register for our next or any future event please click HERE
Thank you to all of our players and parents for your support of HJT. We appreciate it and always welcome your feedback. Thank you to Eagle Ridge GC for providing us with such a challenging venue.
Last but not least thank you to our Tour Sponsor. Todd and Melissa Coon of TCL (Tri-County Landscapes) for your support of us and for helping us reach our goals of getting as many kids playing regular junior competition golf as possible in our communities.
See you all soon at an upcoming event. Keith
More info on our sponsor is available by clicking HERE