It was another first for Highlander Junior Tour last week as we made our way South to play our debut tournament at a venue that came highly recommended to us. The Legends at Orange Lake is one of two great championship courses located within one of Kissimmee’s biggest resort communities and those who recommended it to us all said we would not be disappointed. They were absolutely right about that!
A golf course in excellent shape, challenging greens and two 9 hole layouts that were different enough to keep everyone interested all the way through the day. In addition the Legends has great practice facilities and welcoming staff. The GM (Jimmy Bilsky III) deserves great credit for operating a venue that we and our players really enjoyed visiting, so much so that next month (Saturday May 8th) we will be back to do it all again on their second championship course The Reserve at Orange Lake.
Visiting new venues always opens up the possibility of new players joining us. Perhaps its the proximity to their home base that does that? Regardless of the reasons though it’s always the case that playing in these new locations usually does bring new players into the group and it keeps many of our regular players interested, who doesn’t enjoy the opportunity to play somewhere new after all ?
On this occasion we not only welcomed 4 new players to their first HJT, Carson Yonge(Orlando) Ethan Breth (Maitland) and Alex and Ryan Oats (Lake Mary) we also welcomed a couple of very strong players back who we hadn’t seen in HJT competition since season 2020. Orlando’s Cole Chastain and Bella Dovhey.
We hope that all of you enjoyed the experience and that you all felt welcomed by players and HJT staff and that you will return to play with us again soon.
Our results round up for this one, as always, begins with our Claret Jug Flight of players. For those newcomers out there, perhaps reading our tournament report for the first time, our Claret Jug Flight is our all-age player flight which is made up only of players who have won their previous, regular age based player flight, on 3 or more occasions in season 2021 so far.
The Claret Jug Flight
Braden Hawkins (Clermont) captured his 3rd win of the season so far in our previous week’s tournament event at one of the toughest venues we visit (El Campeon at Mission Inn) and that medal win meant immediate promotion for the remainder of 2021 to The Claret Jug Flight. He’s currently playing really well and we think 2021 is going to be an exceptionally good year for Braden if he continues to work as hard on his game as he has so far. He was going into this one looking to make it two medal wins in a row.
Braden started this one in really impressive fashion by playing steady and very consistently. The first 7 holes were made in par and a troublesome bogey 6 at number 8 was very quickly forgotten as he followed it up at 9 with his first birdie of the day. The Legends was proving to be a tough place to score low for many, Braden made that front 9 look easier than it is with an exceptional level par 37. He looked calm throughout (to be honest, he always does!) and in total control of his game at this stage.
Riley Sillaway (Longwood) can ALWAYS be relied upon to give it his very best every time he competes. Already in 2021 he has shown us all just how strong a competitor he is! He’s had some really fine moments already and he’s given us plenty to get excited about for the future. Riley appears to have way more experience than we should expect from such a young player and already he has demonstrated his understanding of the need to be resilient and focus only on what’s ahead, especially when things don’t go in your favor!
Riley started this one in the best possible way with a birdie at number 1. The birdie would help keep him in contention though the remaining holes in that front 9 would prove tougher for him. He did achieve par on 4 of those to finish on +4(41) for those opening 9 holes. Not a disastrous start by any means but, particularly in the Claret Jug Flight, Riley will already know that the back 9 would most likely have to give up a lower score than that to enjoy another medal win.
A bogey start at 10 was a setback for Riley but he did what he’s known for and kept on battling. The next three holes made in par showed signs of his consistency returning but were unfortunately to be followed by a couple of single stroke bogey losses. Par on 16 was followed by the disappointment of an uncharacteristic double bogey at 17. Par at 18 just served to remind us all that this young man is the real deal as, despite how he would be feeling, he still had the strength of character to give it everything right up to the final putt dropped on 18! Riley didn’t have his best day, based on the high standards he sets himself, and his final scorecard read 41-40-(81)
Braden was heading into the back 9 looking for that same consistency as earlier. 10 through 12 were all made in par. 13 was a stroke lost but, just like earlier, was immediately corrected when he made his second birdie of the day at 14 and he then followed that up by par at 15 too. 16 presented Braden with his biggest setback of the day. I’m not quite sure what went wrong here but I can tell you that it’s very unusual to see a triple bogey recorded by this talented young player. It happens however and best strategy is to quickly forget, refocus on what’s ahead and give it your best. Braden’s response, making par on the next hole, showed great mental strength and resilience, two of the strengths we know he has in abundance !
Braden closed out his day with a final scorecard of 37-39-(76) and an overall performance that was most certainly worthy of him achieving his 4th overall HJT medal win of 2021. This one may have tasted just a little sweeter though as it carried the wording of The Claret Jug Flight Winner on it for the first time! Congratulations Braden from everyone at HJT. We are delighted to see you developing so well and we feel certain this season is going to be a very special one indeed if you continue to work hard.
The Old Tom Morris Flight:
Our 16-18 year old’s in this one and early on it looked like one player was finding a bit more consistency than the rest. Cole Chastain returned to play with us for the first time this year and he immediately reminded us just how strong a player he is AND, just as important, how much we, and his fellow players, enjoy having him compete on our Tour.
As well as his obvious ability around the golf course Cole is a great young man to have around! He is a big personality, funny and relaxed while at the same time very much aware of his strengths as a competitor. He enjoys himself on the golf course and the biggest compliment we can pay him is that his attitude is infectious as both of his playing partners commented on how much THEY enjoyed the experience too! To those of us, me included, who can occasionally forget why we are all here Cole helped to remind us that golf is a game that should always be FUN!
Cole’s front 9 of +2(39) highlights were made up of birdies at 2 and 4 and par on 4 of the other opening holes. On a tough day at Orange Lake that was going to give him an early 3 shot advantage over last week’s lowest scoring medalist (at Mission Inn) Drew Miller from Seminole (42) and staying close by was Jonathan Ring (Rhineland) on (44)
Each of those close to the leader would require a significantly improved back 9 to close the gap and even then most likely require Cole to drop a few strokes too. Drew Miller unfortunately was first to drop out of the race. Despite starting those closing holes really well, including birdie at 12 Drew’s score suffered over a stretch of only 3 holes which damaged his chances significantly. That would have been really tough to take for such a talented and strong competitor BUT we also need to point out that while some would have found that setback hard to shrug off Drew finished 17 and 18 by making par. A really strong reminder of how a good player has that mental strength and confidence in his ability to refocus and giving his best.
Jonathan Ring is a player who enjoys his golf. He enjoys it as much for the camaraderie and the sportsmanship of the game as he does the challenge of competing. He’s self taught, extremely humble and respectful of others and without question he has the ability to shoot low to mid 70’s competition golf regularly. Jonathan’s back 9 served to remind us all just how strong his game can be with a level par 35 over those closing holes that included birdies at 11,17 and 18 and par on another 4 of the remaining holes. It was really good to see him back to his best and having a lot of fun doing it too! Jonathan’s final scorecard showed 44-35-(79).
Cole Chastain continued where he left off from earlier as he confidently approached the closing 9 holes. Good players with his level of experience understand the simple 3 step strategy of competition stroke-play golf 1.Consistently make Par 2.Keep errors down to single stroke wherever possible and 3. Take your opportunities to better Par as they arise.
He ticked all of those boxes. A birdie at 13 (his third of the day) Par on seven of the closing 9 holes and only one single shot bogey. Cole closed out the day with a scorecard of 39-35-(74) to take the Old Tom Morris Flight Medal. Congratulations Cole on a very well deserved medal win from everyone at Highlander Tour. We enjoyed having you back playing with us once again!
The Young Tommy Morris Flight
Our 14/15 year old boys and girls in this one and in the early stages 4 of our competing players were all fairly close after the opening 9 holes were counted.
Leading the group was HJT debut player Carson Yonge(Orlando. It was great to welcome Carson along to this event. He is a young player we already know a little about from watching who’s competing regularly in other tournament events in the State. He is clearly a very focused and talented young player with a great deal of competition experience. He’s also an extremely respectful young man who shows fine sportsmanship and it was a pleasure to have him join us for this event.
Carson showed his experience early making par on 7 of the opening 9 holes. A setback double bogey at 9 was unfortunate but still kept him top of the flight leaderboard after 9 with a +3 (40).
Close by and hoping for an opportunity to get closer still on the back 9 holes were AJ Burns(Hernando) with a +4 (41), Ann Burel (Orlando +6(43) and Luke Wood (Lakeside CC) +6(43)
Of the chasing pack it was only Ann Burel who was able to keep the challenge going on Carson as she put in a very strong performance on those closing holes. Without doubt Ann is one of the most experienced and talented junior lady players we know. She has a really powerful game and a great attitude too and it was great to watch her playing some of her very best golf over those closing holes. A real highlight was at 15 where an exquisite iron shot to around 12 feet was followed by the dropping of the best putt we’d watched all day for birdie! Ann made par on 7 of those closing 9 holes too to finish the day on 43-36-(79)
It was a very strong finish for Ann but also a case of what could have been if that solid consistency had shown up a little earlier in the day.
Carson set about the back 9 looking for improvement. A bogey start at 10, although disappointing, would prove to be not overly damaging as he cancelled it out immediately with a fine birdie at number 11. 12 and 13 were also secured safely in par. Bogey at 14 would prove to be his last error of the day as he finished strongly par-par-par-birdie to close out an impressive back 9 in level par. Carson final scorecard reads 40-35-(75) which was enough to take his debut HJT Flight Medal win by 4 strokes.
Congratulations Carson from everyone at HJT on a thoroughly deserved debut medal win.
The R.T. Jones Flight:
When we go looking for lowest score and best overall performance this one proved to be about one player in particular on Saturday. Bella Dovhey (Orlando) is a young lady we first met during the early stages of our 2020 season. At that time she was 12 years old.
Bella has been competing, and regularly winning, for a number of years at junior tournament venues throughout the country and we were delighted to welcome her back once again to The Highlander Tour for this one. She is now 13, taller and stronger, and watching her compete at The Legends just reminded us all that she is an exceptional young player with enormous potential to achieve whatever goals she may set herself in our game if she continues on this path.
Bella’s opening 9 holes included 3 birdies at 1,4 and 8. Par was safely secured at five of those opening holes and the only minor blemish on the front 9 was bogey at 9. It was still enough to secure her an exceptional -2(35) halfway total which represented the best front 9 in the player field and the only sub-par front 9 of the field too!
The back 9, while it didn’t offer the same birdie opportunities as the front, was still a display of very consistent golf returning no fewer than 8 pars made and a single bogey. Bella’s final competition scorecard was -1 overall and reads: 35-36-(71), our lowest score of the entire player field and the only under par score of the player field too!
Congratulations Bella from everyone at HJT, it was an impressive return and we really enjoyed watching you compete once again. It’s very clear that, even at such a young age, you are doing a lot of things right in order to be the very best that you can be. No one should forget however that talent in this sport only leads to results through many, many hours of hard work and perseverance and you are already proving to be a fine role model for junior players of what can be achieved.
The Results in full:
Our Nearest the Pin Winner:
On Saturday at The Legends it was Carson Yonge who hit the best shot of the day into the par 3 15th to take the golf store voucher $25 prize. Great shot and a good day all round for Carson when it came to the prizes!
That pretty much wraps things up for another week. It was an exceptional day at The Legends at Orange Lake and we look forward to returning next month to play the sister course (The Reserve at Orange Lake) on Saturday May 8th. Hopefully you can join us for that one.
Before then our next tournament event is something very special. It’s our first Major Tour Event of 2021. The Highlander Masters is a 36-hole stroke play event at Eagle Ridge GC in Summerfield on Saturday May 1st and Sunday May 2nd.
This event is ranked by Junior Golf Scoreboard (JGS) and Global Junior Golf Rankings (GJGR). Medals will be presented to lowest scoring flight winners and the player with the overall lowest score will take home our exclusive The Highlander Masters Glass Trophy engraved with the winners name.
In addition to the above we are providing EVERY player with FREE Highlander Tour merchandise including a branded lightweight quarter zip top and your choice of a one of a kind HJT hat or visor. Registration is now open for this and future events by clicking HERE
**UPDATE – LAST FEW PLAYER ENTRY SPOTS FOR THE HIGHLANDER MASTERS. THIS EVENT IS ALMOST SOLD OUT. PLEASE REGISTER ASAP TO GUARANTEE ENTRY**