Let me start by saying this….Red Tail GC is an exceptionally good golf course! It’s tough, its fair and each time we return there, in our collective HJT opinion, it keeps getting better!
Add to the above that Gage Hodges and his team at Red Tail are great supporters of junior golf development and what WE are trying to do and it all sounds great right? Well it is, except for one little thing… RAIN! It’s become a bit of a running joke between us and Gage that every time we visit Red Tail GC it rains on us….!
So as expected, it rained on Saturday. The good news however is that unlike previous visits where it created lengthy delays and even on occasion having to cut short the tournament this was more like NORMAL rain…you know the kind where it hurtles down for a bit then disappears, let’s say it’s more like Scottish rain, rain you can play golf in and thankfully that’s what we got. It may not help you play your very best golf but we got everyone round without any delay being required.
Thank you to all of our players and supporting parents/spectators for making it another great day, and for not complaining too much about the Red Tail rain!
Before we get into the results we’d also like to take this opportunity to mention what we affectionately refer to as the “School Golf” effect that we are experiencing at this time of year. less than 12 months ago Mark and I formed Highlander Junior Tour partly through our frustrations at seeing young players (in our case mainly The Villages HS players) most of who had already completed their 3 month “whirlwind” regular school golf season and who were now being left with few local options to continue developing their golf game. One option is playing expensive, often far from home junior tour competitions which some do. In some cases we know of some even switch to playing an alternative Fall sport and return to golf the following school year.
The message we have been really keen to promote since we began is a very simple one. It’s an undisputable FACT that the one single thing that makes our top players better and more consistent performers than all the rest is they play competitively all or most of the year round and not just during school golf season.
With that said we could not be any more delighted to share the fact that on Saturday at Red Tail GC we welcomed 8 players (7 boys and 1 girl) in total who ALL represent The Villages HS golf team(s). Well done to all of you for attending and understanding that challenging yourself in junior competition is exactly how you will become a better and more confident junior player. We hope to see you with us as often as you can make it along to future competitions.
As always during our tournaments we witnessed some highlights for some and some disappointment for others and we will begin with our players representing the Claret Jug.
The Claret Jug Flight:
As we get closer to the end of the 2020 season we are delighted to be seeing exceptional competition taking place within this flight. As a reminder The Claret Jug Flight was created to allow us to reward our 3 times or more medal winners (regardless of age) with an opportunity to continue developing by competing against fellow winners. This has been really successful in ensuring that no one gets it easy and to go on and then win a Claret Jug Medal the successful player will have to be returning a very competitive score.
On Saturday 6 of our previous winners were representing The Claret Jug flight and once again it was a tale of two players and their fortunes over two contrasting 9’s that ended in disappointment for one and success for the other.
Jack Panigoni (The Villages Charter School) is our leading overall medal winner and it’s fair to say it’s an unusual day for us if he’s NOT in the mix. Jack set his intentions out early with the best front 9 (level par 36) carded including birdies on 5 and 9. The only other Claret Jug player keeping him in his sights during those early stages was Jonathan Ring (Rhineland Cutlery) who was once again showing great consistency and confidence in his play. At the turn there were two strokes between them, Jonathan posting a 38.
Jonathan is a very strong young player who seldom changes his outlook or strategy towards his game regardless of where he sits on the leaderboard. He has plenty of junior competition experience and he is very much aware how quickly things can turn in his favor, or in some cases against him. He understands only too well that this is a game of slim margins and rather than take things too seriously and worry about a result he’d much prefer to play his own game in his own way…he thoroughly enjoys competing and at his age(16) that can’t be said of every young player we see.
Those slim margins began to gradually shift at 13. An uncharacteristic couple of shots dropped by Jack opened the door and both players were now level. By 16 Jack had fought back and now led by 1. Unfortunately for him though a lapse of concentration and dropped shots at 17 opened the door fully for Jonathan who kept that display of consistent golf going to record a 78 and take the medal win.
Jonathan is a very popular winner among our staff and his fellow players and it’s a pleasure to have him as one of our most regular competitors. Congratulations Jonathan from everyone at HJT on your first Claret Jug Medal win!
The Old Tom Morris Flight:
It was yet another pair battling it out in our Old Tom Morris Flight (our aged 16’s) on Saturday and just like before it was a case of an impressive front 9 leader (Cole Bullen- The Villages HS) trying to build on a slender lead and hold off the very strong challenge of our previous week’s medal winner (Gabriel Zhang – Lake Mary)
Cole Bullen is a powerful player who gives himself lots of opportunities to score well by playing long and consistently straight off the tee. He carded the best in flight front 9 at Red Tail with an impressive 37(+1) including a birdie at 6.
At that stage only one shot back of Cole through 9 with a +2(38) and very close on his heels Gabriel Zhang is another experienced young player who knows only too well that his game is strong enough to compete at the very highest level. On his way he had birdied both 6 and 9.
The 13th would again be where an opportunity presented itself for Gabriel to take the flight lead as he posted his 3rd birdie of the day. From that point, despite battling on, Cole couldn’t find the same level of earlier consistency in his game. For Gabriel another birdie would follow at 16 as he powered his way to a back to back HJT medal win with a back nine best of the field 37 and a final scorecard ,and again, best of the field total of 75(+3) It was another very impressive performance from Gabriel at a tough venue and his win now takes him within touching distance of joining our Claret Jug Flight.
Congratulations Gabriel once again from everyone at HJT. Good job young man.
The Young Tommy Morris Flight:
Our 14-15’s battled this one out and its starting to get a bit repetitive in here now…yes ,once again, it was yet another nervy head to head between two of our talented young players to decide who would take the flight medal home with them. In this one though the margins were so tight it couldn’t be decided until the last putt had been holed!
Curtis Douglas (The Villages HS) and Cash Luck (Rockledge, FL) could not be separated through the front 9. Both players are performing really well and on Saturday it was difficult to pinpoint any particular weakness that either had that was going to play a big part in letting one break free from the other.
The front 9 was covered by both players in 39 strokes(+3). Curtis had started slowly and dropped a few shots early in his round before coming on to a wonderfully consistent run of 9 holes including 3 birdies and 6 pars through the middle of the course. Cash took his own similarly consistent route to maintain the chase and although his only birdie turned up late in the day on 17 when the final cards were in he had made up strong ground for that by making par on no fewer than 10 of the 18 Red Tail holes.
Cash was first back to the clubhouse and his impressive 78 remained unchallenged as most of the others in the flight found it tough to get near the standard he had set. Curtis, playing in the last group of the day, had by this time developed a slender lead but he wasn’t guaranteed the win yet. He was just about to experience the worst possible way to try and close out a win as that aforementioned and never too far away Red Tail GC rain began to really fall on our remaining two pairs still out on the course.
It was a tough way to finish the difficult closing holes BUT give great credit to Curtis for holding on. As his putt dropped on 18 he secured the win by a single stroke from Cash with a 77. It was an excellent competition with lots of great moments for both of these talented players. It was no doubt a little disappointing for Cash to lose by only a stroke but he’s got strong character and a fine golf game so no one here doubts he will be back in the medal hunt again very soon.
Curtis secured not only the win but as it was his 3rd this year he has now achieved promotion to our Claret Jug Flight of winners. He very much deserves it! Curtis is a confident player and a real character and when he’s on his game he is exceptionally tough to beat and more than capable of shooting very low.
Congratulations Curtis from everyone at HJT on a fine job. We think there could be many more days like today!
So that’s another one wrapped up from Red Tail GC. We got some rain (but managed to finish without delay) we also got some very good junior golf played over a very tough layout. We enjoyed seeing one of our Claret Jug players secure his first exclusive CJ medal, we officially welcomed Curtis Douglas into the Claret Jug flight for future competitions and we saw Gabriel Zhang pick up his 2nd HJT flight winners medal to take him one step closer too!
Things are building up nicely for us just as the High School school golf season is approaching its conclusion with FHSAA District, Regional and then State Championships left to be played for. We want to wish every High School player who has attended an HJT competition the very best of good luck and success if you are playing in any of these.
Next up for us is a trip back to Eagle Ridge GC in Summerfield this coming Saturday. October 17th with tee times from 12.30pm. On Saturday October 24th we head to the historic and renowned Mission Inn at Howey in the Hills. Our timing for that one is pretty good too as the FHSAA State Championships for boys and girls will begin play there two days after we do!
We will have both courses available to us for Mission Inn as the FHSAA Championships will have the boys play El Campeon and the girls competing on Las Colinas, if its good enough for the FHSAA its good enough for HJT.
Join us if you can at these or any of our future competitions by registering HERE
See you all soon.