Our first HJT visit to Black Bear GC in Eustis was much anticipated. This P.B. Dye design was one I had heard of but never visited and it comes with a strong reputation as a fine championship course that can be both tough and rewarding to play.
“Dare the Bear” is the motto they use. We did and we can report they are absolutely correct …it WAS tough and our players overall scores reflect this. It was hopefully a great overall experience for them to have, in terms of their own personal golf development, and lets face it THAT’s why we do what we do!
At this stage its worth noting that yesterday was a little unusual for us. Due to the fact we are still taking the current health situation seriously we are pairing players together. This helps us keep safe AND it helps us play at a good pace when there is little or no golfer traffic in front of us however yesterday at Black Bear GC we know proved a little frustrating for some who ended up waiting behind 4 ball groups for a big part of the day…we hope this did not impact your day too much?
Black Bear is a busy golf course right now and many of those visitors play as 4’s so on occasion this is inevitably going to happen. Purely from a health perspective we still feel the right thing to do in the current climate is to play in small groups for everyone’s safety.
As usual we were welcoming some new players to the ranks of the Highlander Tour. Making their debuts with us yesterday were Kamryn Rotz, Krishny Elwin, Caleb Dearing and Ayden Febres. Welcome to you all from all of us at HJT…we hope you enjoyed the experience and we look forward to welcoming you back again in the near future.
We had a strong field of almost 30 competing in our events yesterday including our Wee Highlanders and players were seperated into 3 flights by age ( The Old Tom Morris, The Young Tommy Morris and The Bobby Jones) In addition yesterday was our first opportunity to have no fewer than 7 players competing in The Claret Jug, our recently created Flight exclusively for winners (of ALL ages) who have picked up 3 or more flight wins during the 2020 season while playing with us.
The Claret Jug Flight
To gain entry into The Claret Jug is not easy. Winning 3 times is a challenge and we congratulate all of those who have made it in so far. We now know that winning a Claret Jug medal in a busy flight requires yet another big leap as its NOT going to be won with anything other than a low score being posted.
3 players from our field of 7 in this flight held the lead at various times of the day. Jack Panigoni (The Villages HS), Nick Zarillo( Lyman HS) and Ryker Huther(Eustis). Nick shot the best front 9 total by one stroke from Jack, and two from Ryker, with the reverse being the story on the back 9. It was a tough day at times for everyone including our leaders and it was clear that par was proving hard to achieve especially around these greens.
All of our Claret Jug players (even our youngest at aged only 8) are already experienced competition players and on different days they have all been in the position of grinding their way through a day where strokes are lost and errors made. What makes them all fine players is they all know they have the ability to win and the perseverance to hang in there… best of them yesterday to keep on going was Jack Panigoni who showed strong character and some fine putting too to post a strong back nine total of 37 (+1) to take The Claret Jug medal by 2 strokes from Nick and Ryker.
Well done Jack and congratulations on the win from everyone at Highlander Junior Tour.
The Old Tom Morris Flight
Five players yesterday were competing in this one. Our 16-18 group boasts a lot of experienced competition players and we expect to see several of them stepping up to The Claret Jug soon.
Yesterday we welcomed back Michael Woodley(Leesburg HS) to HJT. Michael is playing consistently well and he made his intentions clear early on in the round that he was in the mood for taking on “The Bear”! Michael started strong and posted an excellent 38 front nine (+2) Only Trenton Waters(Montverde) and HJT debut player Caleb Dearing(Sorrento) could get close to that.
The back 9 was a bit tougher for all 3 however and when the scores were counted Michael took the medal with a 79 to win by 3 strokes from Caleb.
Congratulations Michael on a great job and for finally getting your hands on what we expect may be the first of many HJT medal wins!
The Young Tommy Morris Flight
At HJT we are extremely lucky to have so many dedicated and talented young players competing each time we play. In our Young Tommy Morris 13-15 flight yesterday we had 6 players and 3 of them were previous medal winners.
At Black Bear yesterday two of our players in this flight swapped the lead at different times of the day. EJ Maupin (Lyman HS) is a strong competitor and previous flight winner. After 9 yesterday he had the lead by a couple of strokes from Caden Fockler (The Villages HS).
The picture was to change as they took on the back 9 holes as Caden powered his way to no fewer than 3 birdies in a 5 hole stretch to take a lead that would remain his for the rest of the day despite giving a few strokes back to the golf course on the home stretch.
When the scores were in Caden took the medal with an 80 to win by 4 strokes from EJ.
We know Caden Fockler well. He has played with us since the beginning of HJT and we also know him well from our involvement with High School golf in The Villages. He is a young player with a great deal of talent who plays the game the right way. He is dedicated to his chosen sport and he works hard to improve both at practice and in competition. Caden is a tough competitor to beat as he knows how to deal with adversity and keep on giving his best … everyone at Highlander is delighted to see him achieve this recognition and his first HJT win, we expect to see many more in the future. Congratulations Caden Fockler.
The Bobby Jones Flight
Our youngest players compete in The Bobby Jones. Yesterday 6 of them took to the fairways of Black Bear including two previous HJT medal winners.
Once again it was to prove to be a battle between two debut players on HJT to decide the honours. Ayden Febres(Orlando) and Krishny Elwin(Dorado Beach, Puerto Rico) were within a single stroke of each other through the front 9 with Ayden posting 39 and Krishny 40.
Both of these extremely talented young players are clearly very experienced competition players who work really hard to improve and develop further every time they play. It was great to welcome both of them into our competition yesterday and we hope they enjoyed the challenge of trying to secure their first HJT win.
The back 9 was decided over a period of solid and consistent golf as Ayden shot par on 5 of the remaining holes to bring it home in 40 strokes for an overall 79 and a win by 4 strokes.
Well done Ayden. Congratulations from everyone here at Highlander Junior Tour on securing a fine debut win. We hope to welcome you back again soon.
And so that wrapped up another great day of junior golf. It was exciting and great to watch …a debut win for Ayden and 2 long standing HJT players securing their first wins with us was a fantastic way to end the day. Our Claret Jug flight threw up another great battle among our strongest and most experienced players too, just as we hoped it would!
One unfortunate negative on a great day was the loss of a young golfer who sustained an injury and had to withdraw early on. Kamryn Rotz we are so sorry you had to withdraw from your debut HJT event. Player safety is always our priority and you did the sensible thing. We hope you are recovering well today and hope to welcome you back to an event soon.
Black Bear GC was a great venue and we WILL return for another chance to “Dare the Bear” soon! Thank you to all of the staff there for making us feel so welcome.
Next up we head back to another great pair of venues, next Saturday its Red Tail GC in Sorrento followed by another favorite of ours Harbor Hills in Lady Lake. Details on each and to register please follow the link HERE.
We hope to see as many of you as possible at an event soon.