Season 2021 continues at pace for our HJT players and our merry band of supportive parents, relatives and junior golf loving spectators!
On Saturday we returned to Continental Country Club in Wildwood, this is the venue where it all began for us in late 2019. Our first 3 tournaments were held here. Since then a whole host of reasons have delayed our return to Continental and it was only recently that Mark began talking again about going back. His logic, as always, was driven by the fact that the course is in very good shape right now and so the time seemed right to head back.
Continental CC is a shorter course than many we play. What that gives to players, who are used to playing longer yardages, in benefit is countered by the fact that many of the greens are small and many of the tree lined fairways make it a tough and tight course to work your way around.
As a development tour we do think it’s important to challenge players in as many ways as we can. That can mean there will be times when we play shorter or longer yardages across the whole field of players and we hope both players and parents will understand that. Golf is NOT only about yardages, it’s wrong in our opinion to automatically assume that a shorter yardage course equates to an easier challenge and lower scores, in fact for some players it can actually have the opposite effect when you find you don’t automatically reach for driver on every occasion or that club you regularly use for your approach shot into the green is maybe NOT the right one this time around!
I think most of you, if not all, enjoyed the experience? We certainly got some great feedback and it looks likely that we will go back again at some stage over the next few months.
Before we get started on results we wanted to post the picture below and thank everyone for joining with us in sending our best wishes for a speedy recovery to Tiger. We asked if you would “Go Red” for Tiger and most did. We posted the images on social media on Sunday and The Golf Channel also asked for everyone to send in their posts which we did. Not sure if we were shown but hopefully somehow our best wishes will find their way to him!
On Saturday we welcomed a large field of players, 29 in total (including our 9-hole Wee Highlanders) and another two new players were joining us for their first HJT tournament event. Welcome to Piersen Taylor (12) from Bushnell, Florida and also to Brayden Dock (14) who joins us all the way from Glens Falls, New York. We hope you both had a great day and you felt welcome and we hope to see you both back with us again soon.
The size of the field on Saturday meant we would have 5 age-based flights of players. We will begin as usual with our Claret Jug Flight.
The Claret Jug Flight:
(All ages, players have each won a flight on 3 or more occasions during 2021 season)
This was our first opportunity to put our 4 most successful winners so far in 2021 into our Claret Jug Flight together. All 4 have started the season really strongly and it’s great to see how this group is shaping up. This season we have some very talented new players, Phoenix Wilson and Riley Sillaway both from Longwood,FL who recently secured their Claret Jug spots. They are in fine company as they sit alongside last year’s HJT Golfer of the Year and Claret Jug Winner Nick Zarillo and the exceptionally talented young lady golfer who pushed him all the way for that title, Maggie Potash(Eustis,FL)
As the weeks progress we will add more winners to this group. We recognize all of these players as consistent winners and there is no doubt it takes hard work and determination to get into this flight by winning on 3 or more occasions BUT now the real challenge begins. Can you work even harder knowing that to take a Claret Jug Flight medal you will need to be at your very best? We believe every player in this flight is capable of doing just that!
One player currently leads the way by a distance. Nick Zarillo has made a habit of winning and it doesn’t look like he’s in any mood to change that soon! Coming into Continental CC on Saturday Nick had played 5 and won 5, a remarkable and consistent achievement by the young man from Lake Mary who attends The Mike Bender Academy. This is a big year for Nick as he prepares himself, and his game, for the next huge challenge ahead of him. That challenge is to become a successful college golfer with SEU in Lakeland, Fl.
I sometimes have to remind myself that Maggie Potash is still only 14. She is an exceptional talent. A special young lady who plays the game in such a quiet, thoughtful and mature manner it’s very easy to forget she is a long way from being at her peak and with the great benefit of time on her hands I fully expect her to achieve whatever goals in golf, and life that she chooses to set herself. Watching Maggie play is a pastime I thoroughly recommend to anyone interested in junior golf development!
This Claret Jug Flight was mainly about those two where the medal was concerned however both Phoenix and Riley had good moments too, Phoenix Wilson worked hard all day, had a few setbacks but finished the day really strong with a par-par-birdie-birdie finish to post a 41-37-(78) …under normal flight circumstances that may have been a potential medal place but this is a new challenge…this is The Claret Jug Flight.
Riley too showed some real consistency throughout the day. A pair of dropped shots on 1 and 10 would prove costly overall but he still posted a very respectable 41-39-(80).
Maggie Potash is an experienced young golfer who isn’t fazed by an error, a missed opportunity or a dropped shot. She will always be disappointed but she does understand they will happen but if kept to a minimum you can still recover well from them. Shoot par as often as possible and take advantage of better opportunities as they present themselves is what Maggie does. Maggie’s strong 38-37-(75) included birdies at 1,7 and 16 and dropped shots were kept to a single stroke all day.
Nick Zarillo was focused on going as low as possible once more. He sets his own targets before play, heads to the tee and then works really hard to achieve them. He has great confidence in his ability and that comes from many years of hard work and being dedicated to his sport. Right now Nick is playing some of his very best golf and he’s doing that with a bigger target in mind than just winning junior golf tournaments. As he prepares himself for the next level in his development and a chance to achieve his personal goals playing college golf we understand why he needs to show that single minded and focused approach every time he plays, and we support him 100% in that!
Nick is our finest role model for younger players and I know he won’t mind me saying this. If ANY of our younger players get the opportunity seek out Nick at one of our tournaments and talk to him about his journey, ask him how he practices, ask him for tips to improve and use him to help your own development. Take advantage while we still have him with us to help you improve your game and your habits, I believe you will benefit from doing so! If you do that what you will find is a confident, yet humble young man with not an ounce of arrogance about him, wonderful character traits for anyone playing our great game today!
No surprises here….Nick got his 6…he’s played 6 and won 6! He did it by posting the only level par round of the day 36-36-(72) to take The Claret Jug Medal by 3 strokes. Congratulations once again Nick….another milestone achieved!
The Old Tom Morris Flight:
This was a busy flight on Saturday with 9 players in total and, by my reckoning, over the last few months 7 of them have picked up flight winner medals. With that fact in mind this one SHOULD have been more challenging than it looked for our winner but going low at Continental proved too tough an ask for most of our Old Tom Flight players on this occasion.
EJ Maupin(Lake Mary) signaled his intent that he’s on the right track but unfortunately in this one just left it too late in the day to find his best form at Continental CC. EJ recorded a 44-38-(82) and hopefully that closing 9 is a great sign for him that he’s got that level of consistency in him going forward.
Luke Wood(Inverness,FL) was once again showing good form to get back into a strong position. Luke is always going to be up there and challenging, he’s a very experienced young player whose only issues on Saturday appeared to be mainly around getting those putts to drop! Luke will always keep working hard, his attitude is great and we expect him to be picking up medals again very soon.
Our top performer in the flight stood out from the rest. Tripp Watkins(Harbor Hills CC) is another of those young players with great experience of junior competition golf. A lot of wins at a young age for a junior golfer brings with it some added pressure and expectations as you get older and how these players rise to the challenge of these is always interesting to watch. Competition does NOT get easier as you get older, it gets tougher. A lot tougher!
Good young players with Tripp’s level of experience all share in the knowledge that on any given day your round of golf is going to provide you with good and bad. Dealing with the good is easy, the bad requires you to draw on all your experience and remind yourself that an occasional error doesn’t need to become anything more than that. Forget it, move on and trust in your game and opportunities will come up.
Tripp clearly did that in a round that had a bit of everything in it…it wasn’t error free BUT the very good stuff far outweighed the not so good and included 4 birdies on his way to a nice 38-36-(74) and a medal win in The Old Tom Morris Flight.
There was a bit of a feeling of HJT flashback history to this one! Way back when we first started the Tour and those early days here at Continental I do recall presenting Tripp with one of our earliest medals for his first ever HJT flight win…my memory tells me at the time he was just this little kid with a fine golf swing, where did THAT time go and how did he suddenly become this young man who probably drove home on Saturday night?
Enjoy these moments parents as long as you can as things change really quickly…and yes Tripp DOES still posses that very fine golf swing!
Congratulations Tripp on your medal win from everyone at HJT!
The Young Tommy Morris Flight:
Just before we get to the enthralling story of how this flight turned out we want to take a moment to recognize another of our regular HJT youngsters who deserves a mention for his own achievement on Saturday. Grady Logan is a very promising young golfer who represents The Villages Charter School. He may not have won a medal on Saturday but he did achieve what should certainly be a big confidence booster in his overall development as a junior competition player.
Grady’s closing 9 holes were completed in only 42 strokes…so what’s the significance of that? Well, it not only represented his best HJT competition 9 holes to date but it also bettered his front 9 hole score by no fewer than 14 strokes…golf is not easy when things are not going great, when you can find the mental strength and determination to turn things around and keep playing well following adversity like that it’s a bit special and worthy of our recognition. We certainly feel Grady deserves a huge well done from all of us, good job Grady Logan!
After the first 9 holes at Continental CC it was clear that the winning medalist in this flight was going to be either Braden Hawkins(Clermont, Fl) or debut player Brayden Dock (Glens Falls, NY)Both players were playing together making this a really good match up between two talented young golfers and it was going to be very difficult to separate them.
Braden Hawkins was making his second appearance on HJT having secured a medal first time out last time we played at Eagle Ridge GC. His front nine on Saturday of +3(39) showed his intentions early on and started with a birdie followed by par-par. He worked hard throughout but the odd blemish on his card meant at the turn he sat on a +4(40).
Our young visitor Braden Dock went one better, one stroke better that is for those opening holes. His start was very consistent with a 4 hole par start before dropping 3 shots on his way back to the consistency of making par which he did 7 times over those opening holes. Braden is an experienced young golfer who showed a great attitude and a fairly relaxed manner as he worked his way around Continental CC looking for opportunities to add to his early lead.
As both boys began the closing holes it was Braden Hawkins who would let things slip with an unfortunate dropped shot at the 10th . Brayden Dock’s measured response was another couple of par holes to stretch the lead to 3 strokes.
Braden H. remained intent on pushing him all the way but an unfortunate double bogey midway through the closing holes was the point where it would become a very difficult task for him to catch his playing partner. To his credit he battled all the way and his best run of golf came over the 4 closing holes which were all made in par. Braden Hawkins would finish on 39-40-(79)
Brayden Dock meanwhile kept the pressure on strong and although he encountered the odd dropped shot along the way he kept those errors down to single shots and secured a birdie at the 13th too which helped! As Braden and Brayden both approached 18 the gap was sitting at 3 strokes in Brayden Dock’s favor, a bogey at the last was enough to clinch the flight medal win and a great debut for the talented youngster from New York.
Congratulations to Brayden from everyone at HJT, a fine debut and we look forward to seeing you compete again with us next week at Eagle Ridge GC.
The Bobby Jones Flight:
It was another good day of golf and developing their game for our HJT young guns at Continental on Saturday. It would also be a different type of challenge for them too as this venue does differ somewhat from many of the others we play. Small greens, overhanging trees and some narrow fairways to name just a few.
All of these young players stayed comfortably in double figures on Saturday. Good job players and well done to you all!
When it comes to finding our low scoring medalist for this one in the early stages it looked to be between Rhett Kirkland aged 10 (Wildwood,FL) and Bobby Jones Potash aged 9 (Eustis, FL).
Rhett is a fast improving youngster who is accurate both off the tee and around the greens. We’ve already seen a big improvement in how he is developing already in season 2021. Rhett is the perfect example of a great kid who plays without fear, he clearly loves the game and he wants to develop and always gives his best. He is a strong little competitor but also a great young man for others to play with as there is seldom anything that can change his temperament, expect a smile from Rhett whatever he scores!
Rhett’s +5 (41) for the front 9 had some fine moments. Par made on 4 of those early holes and dropped shots were nothing worse than bogey. Going into the back 9 he would be sitting 4 shots off the leader.
Bobby Jones Potash is another young player who has so much junior tournament experience and success behind him already that you do often have to remind yourself he is still only 9 years old! He’s a very smart young man who has no doubts whatsoever about his ability and he fully understands how hard he needs to work to keep on improving. With that experience on such young shoulders it often brings with it a different kind of pressure, the kind where some expect you to always be on your game and always winning tournaments. It’s only natural that expectation of successful players happens but it is worth noting that’s a tough ask of a 9 year old!
Bobby started this one in fine form. Five par makes and a birdie on 7 helped him to an opening +1(37) over the front 9 holes to grab a 4 stroke lead.
Rhett kept up a challenge but a period of dropped shots in those early back 9 holes put paid to his hopes of picking up the medal. He would settle for runner up spot though with a very good 41-43-(84)
Bobby took on the back 9 just like he had the earlier holes. Four opening holes were all made in par and although there were a couple of minor blips the losses were kept to nothing worse than bogey. In the end he recorded a 37-39-(76) to win it fairly comfortably in the end. For the second time this year Bobby Jones Potash won our Bobby Jones Flight and just like last year he is now closing in fast on the hopes of a 3rd medal win and an early 2021 qualification into our Claret Jug Flight alongside our other 3 times or more medal winners. I think that’s possibly the kind of pressure he enjoys facing up to!
Congratulations Bobby from everyone at HJT on a very good round and a well deserved medal win.
The Player Scores:
**Please note that Devin Lampe had to withdraw from the tournament following injury.
Devin Lampe(Clermont,FL) is a regular HJT player who is a talented and extremely popular figure among fellow players and HJT staff. We would like to take this opportunity to wish Devin a speedy recovery from this setback and we all hope he is back playing again soon.
Our last award from our 18-hole competition goes to Trace Kirkland(Wildwood,FL) who took the prize in our closest to the pin competition at Continental. Trace hit his tee shot to around 8ft. Congratulations Trace from everyone at HJT.
The Wee Highlanders were back at Continental CC.
Saturday saw the return of our Wee Highlanders 9-holes of fun competition for our youngest competition players. Over a shortened yardage course, that we layout prior to play, these very young players get the opportunity to have some fun while testing themselves and their game in a fun setting.
Our intention with our Wee Highlanders is to give them an opportunity to build confidence and experience of what the future holds for them as they progress to play 18-hole competitions when ready to do so. The question of when that may be is one for player/parent and/or coach to decide.
On Saturday we welcomed two young friends who have played out a number of Wee Highlander competitions together previously. Kenzi Kacanich and Eden Wilkins are both aged just 7 and both are enrolled students at The Villages Junior Golf Academy.
When we have kids playing these wee Highlander events we do place the emphasis much more on having fun, showing great sportsmanship and building confidence than the importance of scores. We do of course keep scores and award a medal for the lowest scorer but it’s very much our view that any youngster at this stage of their golf journey who is prepared to challenge themselves in this way deserves all the credit and support we can give them.
Kenzi and Eden had their usual huge following of family and supportive friends along to watch them play. This is so good to see as EVERYONE supports every shot made by every player, not JUST their favorite and that gives these kids a huge boost of confidence.
Both girls played well and had great moments throughout this one and the important thing is throughout there were laughs and lots of encouragement and sportsmanship between the players. Just the way golf should be when friends play together!
In the end Kenzi took the medal with her lowest score yet for 9 holes of junior competition with a 48. Very well done to both players and Congratulations to Kenzi. We hope you both enjoyed the afternoon at Continental CC.
Continental CC was another great event for Highlander Junior Tour. Great weather, a great bunch of players and a lot of fun.
We now head home this week (Saturday March 6th) to our regular venue at Eagle Ridge GC where, in addition to our regular competition we will be launching our Eagle Ridge Highlander Series. A new competition for all players which will run for 2021 aimed at rewarding our best performers at Eagle Ridge GC throughout the year. More info on that will be emailed to you this week but we certainly hope it will be another exciting addition for HJT players of all ages.
Registration for Eagle Ridge GC is open now. HJT Members Entry fee is only $25 and Non Members pay $35. To register click HERE If you have a Wee Highlander looking to play at Eagle Ridge you can also register HERE
We have noticed recently that a number of our regular HJT players have not yet joined as HJT Member players, remember that doing so saves you at least $10 on every entry fee and your $50 Membership Fee is valid for a full 12 months from date of purchase. During the last year we have also held a number of Member only events which we plan on continuing and shortly it is our plan to provide some additional member benefits so consider joining if you haven’t already. Click HERE for membership info and to sign up.
As always before we sign off we would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone for coming along to Continental and for your support of our Tour. We really do appreciate it!
Finally, Thank you to our Tour Sponsor (TCL) Tri-County Landscapes who support what we do and believe, like us, that it is important to provide kids with opportunities to become involved in our sport for life. Thank you Todd and Melissa Coon of TCL. More info on TCL is available by clicking the link HERE
See you all soon!