We are now on the home stretch and heading rapidly towards our showpiece Champion Golfer of the Year competition (December 19th and 20th- click HERE for more info) where one of our players will take our beautiful Claret Jug Trophy home with them. Just to remind everyone that this 36 hole stroke-play competition is open to all players to enter however ONLY those players who are already HJT Members, and who have played in at least 8 HJT competitions by that stage, can compete for The Claret Jug and the title of Highlander Junior Tour Champion Golfer of the Year.
On Saturday we confirmed, with a number of our regular players, that they have already qualified for the above and during the next week we will email all of our remaining members to advise you all if you have qualified so far. What we do know so far is that many of you who may not have played in 8 so far CAN still qualify based on how many you HAVE played so far and how many competitions remain between now and the year end event.
First competition up in the race to The Claret Jug and it was back to our home course venue on Saturday and as always when it came to the golf played by many the day certainly didn’t disappoint! There was plenty of fine golf on display from so many of our young players and we even managed to throw in a little extra drama just as darkness began with an extra hole play-off required to separate two of our talented group.
As usual we had several new players making their HJT competition debut with us on Saturday. Welcome to Cole Signoretti(Inverness Middle School) and Jonathan Mcleroy (Circle Christian School). It was a pleasure to have you and your families joining us and we hope you both felt welcome and enjoyed the experience of competition golf with Highlander Junior Tour.
Eagle Ridge gave us their Champions and Masters courses on Saturday and unfortunately due to a change they (Eagle Ridge) had to make to another scheduled tournament the operational side of things was not exactly as smooth as it usually is when we visit. A lack of golf cart rentals and a delay of 20 minutes getting the last of their golfers, who were playing ahead of us, off the tee meant it would be unlikely that our normally extremely quick groups would be in a position to play as quickly as we would have hoped.
We do want to let you know that the Eagle Ridge GM.(Dale Smauder) did recognize the issues and he has asked us to pass his sincere apologies on to any of our group who was adversely affected. They did work hard to resolve as many of the issues as quickly as they could, even to the extent that several staff members gave our players/spectators their own personal golf carts to use. Hopefully, and having spoken to many of you after we concluded, you were not too inconvenienced.
When we did get going it was clear from the outset that it was going to be a bit of a challenge on the course too..strong gusting winds played a part for most of the day making it difficult for many. It would be a day for trying to keep it safe, in play and for using your experience to keep it below the worst of the wind!
The Claret Jug Flight:
Our Claret Jug Flight is populated by players of all age groups who share one thing in common. Each player has won at least 3 HJT winners medals. This flight therefore is arguably always going to be the toughest of all to achieve a win in as every player in the flight ,when playing to form, will challenge for the medal.
Even from the early stages it looked like another two-sided battle. Despite the winds Jonathan Ring (Rhineland) was doing well to keep it fairly consistent. Despite dropping a couple of early strokes he looked to be pulling things back with a nice run of 3 par holes and a birdie. Jonathan carded a +3(39) front nine. Unfortunately it would prove difficult to keep that consistency going and a run of frustrating bogey holes early into the back 9 meant it would prove to be too much of an uphill battle to win this one. Jonathan tied for runner-up spot and finished on 84.
Another of our very experienced Claret Jug players suffering frustrations was Elle Folland(The Villages High School). One thing is for certain though and its the fact that, just like Jonathan, Elle will keep battling to try to find a consistent run that will allow her to post her best effort every time she plays. Two birdies on the back 9 were nice highlights but unfortunately came just too late to make a difference to the winner of this one. In the end Elle shared the runner-up spot with Jonathan.
Our youngest Claret Jug representative Bobby Jones Potash (Black Bear Golf Club) was facing similar issues. Three dropped shots through the first 5 holes was frustrating. Following these with 3 pars and a birdie helped steady the ship for the competitive youngster who, under these conditions, must have been reasonably happy to card a +2(38) at the halfway stage.
Everyone who knows this young lad recognizes that Bobby is an extremely talented young player with a bright future that will be very much in his own hands. Talent however doesn’t come easy, regardless of age, it takes a lot of hard work and dedication and real future improvement will only come through time, experience and attitude. Those of us who know him well know how hard he can be on himself when things go wrong…when you’re 9…yes 9… a missed birdie putt can often seem like the end of the world when you’re playing to win a golf competition, and to be honest that’s the only way he does play…to win!
Bobby did miss a couple of those aforementioned birdie putts so not everything went his way however he did a good job of keeping things consistent throughout the day with nothing worse than bogey. His final count of 38-40-78 was joint best score on a tough day and it was enough to ensure he left with a Claret Jug Medal around his neck.
Congratulations Bobby Jones Potash from everyone at HJT.
The Old Tom Morris Flight:
This one really went to the wire! Right up until the final putts were made the winner of this one could have been chosen from any one of 4 players! In the end it took an extra hole play off in fading light to seperate two of them …it’s always a dramatic and exciting way to end a golf competition and find your winner if you’re a neutral supporter …however if you’re a player (or a player’s parent) it’s nerve shredding followed by either joy or despair with no grey area in the middle!
How did we get there ? Well choose any one from the following, Cody Royston(Suntree), Caleb Dearing(Sorrento), EJ Maupin(Lake Mary) or Brock Jones(Fruitland Park) ….watching the scoreboard throughout the day the leading player changed time after time. No one charged ahead at any stage and not one of the 4 dropped off more than a couple of strokes at any stage either.
The front 9 highlights belonged to Brock Jones. A +2(38) was achieved by birdies at 8 and 9 however just as it looked like he might be on a charge a couple of early bogeys in the beginning stages of the back 9 brought others back into contention again. Cody Royston’s front 9 (40) had him closing the gap on Brock too although his costliest error just as he was finding some consistency was to come at 11 where he unfortunately shot a double bogey. Cody would keep battling on and made birdie on 13 however in the end he came up just short finishing with an 80.
Our 4th contender Caleb Dearing looked out of it after a disappointing front 9 gave him a bit of a mountain to climb however we have seen this story before from Caleb who’s experienced enough to know its a game that can quickly turn fortunes around! Caleb’s level par back nine total (36) was the best of the field and could have been even better if the exceptionally tough downhill birdie putt on 18 had dropped! In the end Caleb too would come up just short also finishing on 80.
EJ Maupin’s front 9 (41) had him 3 back at the turn but an impressive 3 pars and a birdie meant by the time he and Brock reached 14 they were sharing the lead. For the next few holes they could not be separated. Both players made bogey at the last to each card a final score of 78.
The drama of an extra hole play-off beckoned as darkness fell. It was settled at the par 3 14th hole and luckily so as I’m not sure we could have got another one in if it had been required! It’s a fair way to settle a tied match but you can’t help but wishing you could play more as both EJ and Brock had both played some excellent golf throughout the day.
Well done to both players for providing us all with such entertaining golf throughout the day. In the end the winning putt was made by Brock.
Congratulations Brock from everyone at HJT, we believe that makes 2/2 on the medal count. 1 more and you will be a Claret Jug player!
The Young Tommy Morris Flight:
Our 14 year old’s made up our Young Tommy Morris Flight this week and it’s fair to say the conditions took their toll on players scores here too. We know some of the players in this one will certainly feel they can shoot lower scores on another day however, and this especially applies when the golf course is playing tough and things may not be going your way, the best strategy of all is just to keep on battling to post the best you can…chances are if you’re finding it tough everyone else is too so keep on working hard!
At HJT we are blessed to have some exceptional young people who come along to play in our tournaments. Jason Kaiser (Circle Christian) only joined us a few short months back and we are extremely thankful that he did! We love having him play with us regularly as he is not only a very talented young player…he is also an exceptional young man. He plays his golf game with a smile on his face and he is the definition of politeness and respect to everyone who meets him or plays with him at our events.
Jason was paired in this one with HJT debut player Jonathan McLeroy who did very well in his first outing with us. Jonathan made birdie on both par 5’s on the front nine but unfortunately, just like so many others at Eagle Ridge, could not follow them up and find a way of putting a consistent run together. We hope that you still managed to enjoy the day Jonathan and we hope to welcome you back to play with us again soon.
Jason’s scoring highlights at Eagle Ridge were all about battling on to post his best score possible…6 pars on his card which in itself was no easy task. On this occasion though it proved enough as Jason carded an 88 to take the Young Tommy Morris Flight medal by 3 strokes from Jonathan. Good battling Jason and congratulations from everyone at HJT…we are extremely pleased to see your hard work and perseverance rewarded!
The Bobby Jones Flight:
Our youngest compete in this one. On Saturday this was our 11/13 year old’s (Boys and Girls) and one 9 year old in there too (Brantley Flannery).
This is always a great flight of players to watch as each of these young players are still at an early stage of development in their individual golf journeys. As they grow the lessons they are learning now about their golf game, their temperament and their desire to compete will, we hope, prove valuable to them.
Scores are not always something we get too hung up on in this flight..of course some are worthy of mention and some of these players highlights are pretty special too so we will always try to report these to you. We do also like to talk about attitude as much as ability and point out where we see development and consistency forming.
When the wind is blowing hard in your face and you are slight in stature hitting a golf ball even close to your normal yardage becomes tough to achieve…FACT! Take that into account and it will help you realize just how good our youngest players are!
At this stage we want to mention one of those highlights from some of these young players. Tyler Budill (The Villages) joined us recently and despite the toughness of the golf course shot not one but two birdies on the front 9 on Saturday, we feel sure his caddie will want some of the credit for that too! Your score on Saturday placed you in runner-up spot too…Go Tyler…good job! We hope that you’re enjoying playing competition golf with HJT?
In the matter of reporting scores we do want to talk a little about this one. Our Bobby Jones Flight winner on Saturday is a young lady who is no stranger to us here at HJT. Katie Allen (Fruitland Park) started playing with us many months ago and we could not be any happier to see her progressing and developing her game in the way she has recently.
A few weeks back Katie joined us to play at the iconic Mission Inn where she played an exceptional round of golf at the toughest of venues while playing alongside 3 highly ranked and more experienced young lady golfers, she did an amazing job there and shot an 89 to place 3rd in that group…on Saturday Katie once again produced the goods with an 86 to take the HJT medal.
Katie has great potential, she’s never short of supporters when she plays with us and we firmly believe that if she continues to focus on improvement, keeps practicing and competing she can have a really bright future in our great game. We are delighted to have her playing with us and hope we can help her continue to develop and achieve every goal she sets herself.
Congratulations Katie , we are all delighted to see you playing consistently well and we look forward to many more wins in the future.
That wraps up another one for HJT. Thank you everyone who came along, we appreciate your support! You may have heard or spotted on our Facebook page that this week it’s our birthday at HJT…we are 1! Officially the actual corresponding date of our first ever competition (we had 7 kids entered!) is this coming Saturday and as we are heading for the wonderful Harbor Hills we thought we’d celebrate there…there MAY be a cake…there will CERTAINLY be Fiona’s home baked scottish shortbread!
We hope as many of you as possible can make it…Saturday 14th November at Harbor Hills in Lady Lake with tee times from 1pm. Registration is open NOW and you can find it by clicking the link HERE
See you all soon…swing easy!