Let’s start this one with a FACT. 2020 is NOT going to be high up on most folks lists as a favorite year to remember!
We are living in unprecedented and unusual times and for most of us 2021 can’t come soon enough. It’s impending arrival offers us a feeling of fresh hope and a belief that it will be the beginning of better and safer future for us and for our loved ones wherever they are around the World.
2020 will forever get the bad press, and rightly so, but even through this worst of times the one thing we could always do to keep us smiling and together was to continue to celebrate our special occasions together.
This was our key reason for letting everyone know that this particular junior golf competition on Saturday at Harbor Hills CC. was to be in celebration of our 1st anniversary of the birth of Highlander Junior Tour.
November of 2019 and Continental Country Club was where it all began. We had no Website, no Facebook and no customer database to promote our event. We got 9 entries that day and all were word of mouth. We worked hard to ensure we made it a good experience for everyone but we also had more fun than you could ever imagine …and we couldn’t be happier to tell you that the same 9 players still play with us one year on including many who joined us on Saturday to compete in this one.
Our Player Registration/Wee Highlander Manager (Fiona) went all out on the birthday celebrations. There were table decorations, Happy Birthday balloons, Dunkin Donuts and of course her home baked specialty; Scottish Shortbread for every player to help make it fun. What I can say is we arrived with lots and left with none so I assume everyone enjoyed it?
As usual we will start our round up of results with:
The Claret Jug Flight:
A slightly shorter field in today’s Claret Jug Flight than usual with only 3 of our serial medal winners competing. Regardless of that though it’s always going to be necessary to post the best number you possibly can to take this medal home.
Finding their best performance and seeking consistent par scoring was tough on Saturday for our Claret Jug players. The competition early on could have gone either way and after the opening 9 all three players Bobby Jones Potash(Black Bear Golf Club) , Jonathan Ring (Rhineland) and Jack Panigoni (The Villages) remained close on 41-41 and 40 respectively.
A disappointing start on the back 9 made it difficult for Jonathan to claw his way back from while both Bobby and Jack each endured their own tough breaks during an afternoon where the leader changed hands many times. In the end it was Bobby who showed a little more consistency making par on 6 of the back nine to take this one by a single stroke with a final card of 80.
As a footnote, and we say this so many times about experienced players especially, winning is not always going to be celebrating a really low number and full of highpoints. Sometimes you just need to keep battling your way round the golf course to post the best number you can and hope that whatever else is happening around you might be working in your favor.
None of our 3 Claret Jug players will be happy with their scorecard on Saturday and we understand why. They can all play better and all shoot lower scores. Our deserved winner though is exactly that…deserving for having the resilience to take the knocks and battle on to post the best he could on the day.
Bobby Jones Potash won the Claret Jug Medal in our 1st Anniversary Competition. Congratulations Bobby from everyone at HJT.
The Old Tom Morris Flight:
On Saturday this flight was made up of our 15/18 year old’s (playing from their own designated tees based on age) and it proved to be a similar tale to our earlier flight with 3 players showing early promise through the front 9 holes of Harbor Hills.
Marcelo Celi(Orlando) was in contention after 9 holes played with a 42, Brock Jones (First Academy) was too with a 41 and our early leader by a stroke (40) was Hunter Lewis (Belleview HS)
Hunter was battling back, after a bit of early disappointment, to put some consistency on his card and when he reached the 9th and made par it looked like he was getting there, a bogey on 10 however further tested his character!
We know Hunter very well, he’s not a player we’ve ever seen taking his foot off the pedal when it comes to giving his all during our competitions. He works extremely hard to improve in every competition he plays and, just as important, no one spends more time on the practice area either. It was great to see what happened next..
On an afternoon when finding par was difficult on the testing back nine at Harbor Hills CC. Hunter put together a run of pars through the next 7 holes. It was a great way to put any earlier disappointments behind him and the perfect way to demonstrate to us once again just how strong a competitor he is!
Through the remainder of the afternoon it became clear that neither Marcelo or Brock could find that same level of consistency through these closing holes to match Hunter on this occasion. It was a fine run to the finish from Hunter and despite the par streak coming to an end on 18 he showed enough to get the job done and take the medal.
It was a deserved win from a young man who always gives 100%. He will be a little disappointed that he wasn’t able to keep the par run going all the way but in the end his scorecard of 80 was enough to take the win by 3 strokes from Brock Jones.
Congratulations Hunter from everyone at HJT on your win in our 1st Anniversary Competition.
The Young Tommy Morris Flight:
Our 14 year old boys were competing in this one and from the start one young player made his intentions very clear to the rest of the field.
Tripp Watkins is the local kid from Harbor Hills CC. We’ve known Tripp and his family since we began HJT a year ago…he was one of our first competitors and medal winners back then and one (rather crazy) year on here we are again. We would certainly put Tripp in the category of being one of the most talented juniors we have welcomed to play on HJT. He is a very strong junior competitor with a great deal of experience gained over a number of successful years competing in junior tournaments.
None of the above however guarantees you are going to win your next golf tournament. Over the last year we have watched this young man play well and win and we’ve watched him struggle at times too. Like many golfers with a lot of experience and ability Tripp plays to win…and when something goes wrong, as it invariably does for ALL golfers at some stage, it can be tough to deal with at such a young age.
Golf statistics tell us there is more chance of young golfers quitting the game between the ages of 12-14. We believe this is true for a number of reasons but number 1 is they become frustrated with themselves and their game, they are so desperate to improve quickly that they start questioning even their desire to play and that in turn leads to many giving up completely.
As sad as that is, it’s not always what happens! Some quickly realize that they enjoy it way too much to stop, they dig deep, get back to practicing and when they’re ready get right back into developing the only way they can, by playing regular competition golf.
If Saturday at Harbor Hills CC is any measure we think/hope that Tripp might be showing us all he is going to be back stronger and more experienced than before.
While Tripp’s win was never under real threat at any stage we do want to mention another couple of players in this flight who did have some very good moments that will stand them in good stead going forward. The first is Jonathan McLeroy(Orlando) who despite early struggles powered through the back 9 in only 37 strokes. Included in that was a sublime chip in eagle (I was lucky enough to watch that one!) at 14 and birdies at 15 and 18. Jonathan carded a runners up 82.
Luke Wood(Inverness) playing alongside Jonathan also carded a runners up spot 82 and I was also lucky enough to see Luke’s highlight of the day too with a delicate chip in for birdie on 15. Well done to Luke and Jonathan.
Tripp Watkins took the medal. His scorecard is impressive for a number of reasons. He played the front 9 in level par 36. He hit par on every one of those 9 holes. On the back 9 his consistency to achieve par continued hitting 6 of the last 9. Throw in a birdie at the par 3 13th and, although he would be a little frustrated, he could even afford the minor slip up bogey at 18. Tripp shot 37 (+1) on the back 9 to post the best score of the field with an impressive and controlled 73.
Congratulations Tripp from everyone at HJT. We all thoroughly enjoyed seeing you back and playing so well and you are a very fitting winner of our 1st Anniversary Medal. Following this win we are also delighted to advise you that you have also now earned promotion to our exclusive Claret Jug Flight for players with 3 or more medal wins this year.
The Bobby Jones Flight:
It was our 12 and 13 year old boys in this one. Our youngest flight and each of these junior players are working hard to develop a consistent game that will work well for them as they improve and gain strength.
There is no doubt in our collective minds that each of these players already have the fundamentals and ability needed to be exciting prospects over the next few years. In the past year alone we have watched a number of similar age and ability juniors combine playing regular competition golf and combining this with their summer school golf routines to become much better, stronger and more experienced players.
We do count their scores to determine winners of a medal at this age too but in reality we are less inclined to pay too much attention to these scores. We are more interested in watching them develop and achieving their own targets.
Players shooting 100+ at this age and in competition are very much in a good place and on schedule. For them, not us, they will first target to break 100 regularly and from what we’ve seen of each of them this is very much possible.
Not all young players develop the same way of course and other factors will play a part. Playing experience, competition experience, confidence, attitude, height, build, etc are all factors too.
We consider ourselves very lucky to have the interest of so many of these young players and we are excited about the future and being on their golf journey with them.
We want to take the opportunity before talking about our winner to mention a couple of notable contributions to this one. First to our runner up James Calabrese(The Villages). James recently played a big part in ensuring The District Middle School Championship was won by The Villages Charter School. He’s developing quickly into a very strong and competent young player and we are all really excited to see him achieve some of his goals over the next few months.
We also want to mention the performance of Cole Signorette (Inverness Middle School) a young golfer who joined us recently. Cole was playing for only the second time with us and although not a winner yet he displayed a fine example of how your game can be affected by confidence and even just a little bit more experience. A scorecard of 95 at Harbor Hills was 9 strokes better off than his first competition with us and on arguably a tougher golf course too…good job Cole, that was an impressive scoring swing and we hope you are enjoying competition golf.
Our winner on Saturday is another young man who we’ve known for some time. I remember Kale Fashik from one of our earliest competitions in 2020 when he won his first HJT medal…on that day he just couldn’t keep the smile off his face!
It may be less than a year but even since then Kale looks like a stronger player in every way. He has a fine golf game and all the attributes needed for a junior player to keep on developing. Kale knows Harbor Hills and the Head teaching professional (Tom Leimberger) very well indeed and Tom speaks really highly of Kale, his ability and his attitude.
It was great to see his surprise at the end of this one when he checked out the leaderboard and realised he had won his flight. James Calabrese ran him pretty close but the win on this occasion went to Kale…and that cheeky smile was back! Following this win we are also delighted to promote Kale Fashik to our exclusive Claret Jug flight for the remainder of 2020.
Congratulations Kale from everyone at HJT on your win.
So there we have it. Competition number 33 done and dusted! Our 1st Anniversary Competition and it was just as much fun for us to host as the first one back in 2019.Thank you Tom Leimberger and Krista and the whole team at Harbor Hills for always welcoming our players and for being such great supporters and friends of junior golf development.
Thank you everyone else reading this for all of the kind words you have sent us and written on social media etc. and thank you to everyone who’s been with us in some way over the last year. Players, parents, spectators, supporters and sponsors. We appreciate you all! Here’s to a great 1st year doing something we love to do…and to many more of them we hope!
Word of mouth is incidentally STILL how most young golfers hear about HJT Competitions. We may now have a database and social media but the majority of our players still hear about us from someone like YOU. So if you do know of any young players, regardless of age and competition experience please consider putting them in touch with us. We have had a great year and the future looks bright but bringing in even more players helps us in so many ways, from keeping our competitions more challenging for everyone to having more success in bringing on more venues player numbers help enormously.
Thanks everyone from Fiona, Keith and Mark.