For those of you who like to keep up to date with our weekly blog on report and results we’d first like to say sorry for the delay in this one, usually it’s published a couple of days earlier but it’s turned into a bit of a crazy week for us here at HJT. Time seems to have been eaten up this week with lots of other things that needed attention!
On the positive side of that though we are pleased to say that next week we will be sending you an update on all of the great things we have planned for the rest of 2021….this will include some exciting news about great new venues, some new competition formats and the opportunity for YOU to give us the feedback we desperately need on what works well and what we can improve on going forward.
We want to do everything we can to ensure you enjoy attending our tournament events and that your junior golfer can continue to improve by playing regularly in these competitions.
Back to Saturday and it was a return to a venue we enjoyed immensely on our first visit there in January of this year. Ocala GC (affectionately referred to as Muni over the years!) is just a little bit different in the style of challenge it provides. The layout is a good one that really hasn’t changed much in around 100 years….it’s fairly compact and easy to navigate and like many of the old courses I know of from back home it always looks deceptively easy to play and score well on! Make no mistake though, it’s not, especially when you throw in a bit of nasty weather in the form of some misty rain showers and a very fresh breeze, yes you guessed it, that’s exactly what we got on Saturday!
In our report we always like to take time to welcome new players who are making their HJT tournament debuts. On Saturday we welcomed Will Giger (Kissimmee, FL). We are very grateful you came along Will and we hope you felt welcome and enjoyed the experience. I enjoyed watching you play and hope to see you back competing with us again soon.
We had a strong field of 4 flights competing on Saturday. As usual we will start with our Claret Jug players.
The Claret Jug Flight:
Our top 3 winning medalists made up our Claret Jug Flight on Saturday. 3-time medalist Maggie Potash (Eustis,FL), 3-time medalist Riley Sillaway(Longwood,FL) and our most decorated stand-out player Nick Zarillo (Mike Bender Golf Academy) with an outstanding record in competition so far this year with no fewer than 7 winners medals.
Maggie had a tough day at “Muni”! Normally, one of our most consistent ball strikers, things started with some bad luck in the opening few holes that made it hard to recover from. When you are good enough to be in The Claret Jug Flight you don’t often get the opportunity to have an off day, or even just a few bad holes, and win and this proved to be the case on Saturday for Maggie. As always though she showed great determination to keep on working hard and trying to recover to her normal level of consistency. She may have been out of the race for a medal on this one but we know Maggie well enough to know she will simply put this down as an off day and put it behind her, players with Maggie’s talent show time and time again that’s one of the qualities that makes her a real standout player.
Nick Zarillo has had an exceptional season. He’s been impressively strong and pretty much unstoppable in his own quest to keep playing his very best golf as he prepares for life as a college player in the summer. On Saturday he started steady with 5 straight pars and his first birdie of the day at 6. He gave a few back over the next 3 holes but still sat in a good place with a +2(38) front 9 total on a day when conditions were far from perfect.
Riley Sillaway is an emerging talent. He’s got so many strong qualities within his game and at times he displays the personality and maturity of a junior player older than his tender years. I know already just how much time he puts aside to practice and he is very focused on developing into the best he can be.
Riley may be young but he already has a lot of experience playing competitive junior golf. He understands much of what is required to be a top player and a consistent winner. He plays a really steady and measured game and doesn’t go chasing the glory shots that can often lead to mistakes and loss of concentration. Instead he concentrates his efforts on making par consistently and knows that by doing so those birdie opportunities will present themselves at some stage. As important he also understands that errors and shots lost are recoverable if you believe in the strength of your game and you don’t lose concentration by beating yourself up over them!
Riley made par on 7 of the front 9 holes. His errors were kept to nothing worse than a single shot and the result was a +2(38) front 9 total.
Nick’s back 9 and Riley’s back 9 showed those same similarities as I’ve already mentioned above. Make par, take advantage of birdie opportunities and keep errors down to a single stroke.
Nick made par on 6 of the last 9 holes and added a birdie at 17 on his way to an impressive +1(37) back 9 to put him top of the clubhouse leaderboard with a 38-37-(75). Incidentally his birdie at 17 is worthy of mention, partly because it sums up how good Nick’s game is and partly because I was there to personally witness it….in this case I was VERY close to it!
His drive was LONG and accurate, his second was right on the yardage but 15 yards off target, I know this as I was about a yard from where he landed his shot! His lie wasn’t great and the flag position meant only the most accurate of shots was going to stick close. His chip was sublime and carried out to absolute perfection and the putt that followed never moved from the center of the hole. What started as an error was not only corrected but turned into a birdie. For me it was another reminder that every part of his game, and his belief in his ability, is in a good place right now. Well played Nick!
Riley followed the same pattern as Nick on those back 9 holes. In his case it was 7 pars made, a birdie at the par 5 13th and only one negative mark on his card at 14. After 18 Riley’s total also read 38-37-(75) and once again it would require a sudden death extra hole play-off to separate the two.
The uphill number 10 hole was the chosen start point and Riley and Nick (followed as usual by spectators and some supporters) made their way to the tee. Not surprisingly they both made short work of adding to their par totals for the day before moving on to the par 3 11th.
Earlier in the day both players had made par here. Unfortunately the nature of sudden death extra play off holes means there is very little margin for error. More often than not the play off is usually decided by a missed putt and this one was no different. It was Nick who unfortunately ran his putt a little long and Riley who took advantage to sink his to take his 4th medal of 2021 and his first Claret Jug Medal.
Well played to Nick. As you would expect he displayed the ultimate in sportsmanship, respect and professionalism to his fellow player.
Riley had never experienced a sudden death extra hole play-off before. I feel sure he will have learned a bit more about himself through the anticipation and nervousness he would have felt! He held his nerve and he will benefit from the experience. His day was a good one, an impressive 75 in tough conditions ended with an opportunity to take the medal, and not just any medal, it’s an achievement to win often enough to gain entry to the Claret Jug Flight, to then win your first Claret Jug Medal is even more special as you know the task is never going to be achieved by playing anything but close to your best!
Congratulations Riley from everyone at HJT…between meeting your golfing idol (Bryson DC) last week and now this, that’s what you call a good week!
The Old Tom Morris Flight:
Our 16-18’s in this one and there were two past winners eventually battling it out for the medal. Jonathan Ring (Rhineland Cutlery) took the medal in last week’s competition and at various points throughout the day he was looking good to make it a double. Alongside him was Jack Panigoni (Panigoni Golf Academy). Last week we had also spoken about Jack who is gradually finding his way back to form after a lengthy lay off from competing.
Although it would eventually become a two way race between Jonathan and Jack before we give you the full info we do want to take time to recognize a few of our other senior players for running them close and for making it an exciting flight to watch all day long!
Elle Folland, by her own standards, didn’t enjoy the best of starts to this one only making par on one of the first 7 holes played. However what we do know about this vastly experienced competitor is her ability to keep battling through adversity to post the very best score she can! For all players days like this come along every so often, days when nothing seems to go right and then, something suddenly changes in your favor and the rest of the day looks a whole lot better!
Elle had her issues early on but after those shaky moments in the first 7 holes the rest was a real picture of consistency as she made par on no fewer than 10 of the last 11 holes played. Elle back 9 total of only +1(37) was the joint best in the field on Saturday. In the end she missed out on the top spot in the flight by only a single stroke. Well done Elle for showing great character to keep on giving it your very best!
EJ Maupin is another player we want to mention. Every week he plays we watch him giving everything to improve on his scoring and get closer to his goals and targets. When things are working for him he is a joy to watch and there is no doubt if he continues doing what he’s doing this has the potential to be a game changing year for EJ. Like many on Saturday his front 9 caused him issues however we do want to recognize his ability to bounce back from that as his impressive back 9 total of +3(39) showed everyone that this is a player who is more than capable of going low and challenging for medals. Good fightback EJ….well played!
Only 4 players in the entire field on Saturday shot anything close to par on the front 9 at Ocala GC. One of them was Jonathan Ring with a +3(39) There were a few dropped shots but birdies at both par 5’s helped him along and Jonathan would lead the flight after 9.
The back 9 proved tougher for him unfortunately and errors crept in. Jonathan is another experienced competitor who, like many, knows only too well that there are going to be challenging times when very little seems to be going right for you. He also knows there’s no quick fix and you just need to block out the negatives and keep working to get back to the good habits you know you are capable of. On a positive note none of his dropped shots were any worse than bogey. Perseverance isn’t something Jonathan lacks and he did steady things close to home with a par-birdie combination. That helped him card a final 39-42-(81)….would that be enough though to take the medal?
His playing partner Jack Panigoni is working hard these days to get back to his best and coming into this one there were good signs that he’s getting there!
Jack knows from experience that competition golf is all about making par. Making par keeps you close to the top of every scoreboard. It all looked good for him early, the first 3 holes were made in par before things took a nasty turn and resulted in dropped shots on 4 of the next 5 holes. He steadied things with a welcome birdie at 9 to remain within a couple off Jonathan’s front 9 lead with a +5(41).
Jack’s back 9 form, just like the front began impressively. The first 6 of the closing holes were played in level par and included another birdie on 13. The last 3 however were not going to be just as consistent as a few shots were given back. In the end Jack’s card after 18 showed 41-40-(81). Jack and Jonathan would be required to tee it up once more in a sudden death extra hole play off for this week’s flight winners medal.
Hole 10, an uphill par 4, was the chosen hole and both players set off at a brisk pace. Play-offs like this are a fair way, when possible, to settle tied player scores. I’ve yet to meet any player who says they enjoy them! Spectators do of course for the added excitement they create but for players they are tough…most play-offs finish with a putt being made or missed and this one was no different.
Earlier in the day Jack had made par (4) on this green and Jonathan made bogey (5). It may been second time around but the scores were replicated and that meant that Jack Panigoni took the Old Tom Morris Flight winners medal by a single stroke from Jonathan Ring.
Well done to Jonathan and Jack. Neither were necessarily all that happy or content to begin with as they both genuinely felt disappointed to be recording an 81 when they both feel they are capable of better however that’s nothing more than a normal reaction from two very good players who always strive to do the best they can!
Jack has now secured his first HJT medal win of 2021. After the comments I made last week about the ability he has and how hard he is working to try to get back to his best form I’m not in any way surprised! I feel just as sure that based on attitude and ability both Jack, and Jonathan, will very quickly secure promotion to join our Claret Jug Flight for the remainder of 2021.
Congratulations Jack from everyone at HJT. Welcome back to winning ways!
The Young Tommy Morris Flight:
Our 13-15 year old players in this one and it wasn’t short on drama! In the early stages as many as four players were in contention. After 9 holes only two strokes were separating previous medal winners, Gabriel Hull (South Daytona) Braden Hawkins (Clermont,Fl) AJ Burns (LeCanto High School) and Kale Fashik (Belleview,Fl)
The two sharing the lead after 9 holes on +6(42) were Gabriel Hull and Brayden Hawkins.
Brayden joined us fairly recently and we’re really enjoying getting to know him and his family. He is a strong young player with a very solid all round game who seems very focused and comfortable in the competition environment. He’s quiet and respectful and over the last few weeks he’s been getting closer and closer to securing his second HJT medal win of 2021.
Brayden started really strong and consistent despite the challenging weather. The first 3 holes were all made in par before a bit of adversity showed up! Holes 4 through 6 all resulted in dropped shots. I know we always talk about this but I make no apologies for doing so again, golfers of all reputations and abilities are going to drop shots, juniors, seniors, amateurs and professionals…it’s going to happen, its inevitable!
Weak players lacking in confidence and self belief may fold at this stage, good players who have belief in their ability will play through the pain of a bad spell of shots dropped. They understand the pain is, hopefully, temporary and they know if they can just get back to their good habits of earlier things can still work out well. Braden did just that..it took 3 holes but par at 7, 8 and 9 was the start of a run that produced his best and most consistent golf of the day.
Gabriel Hull is a very similar player to Braden in so many ways. He was one of our Claret Jug Flight players in 2020 and coming into this one he was sitting very close to joining that elite group of players once again having won twice already in 2021.
Gabriel is quiet, polite and full of respect! He works hard on improving his game and he seldom, if ever, shows he is overly concerned if his round doesn’t go exactly to plan. Golf, especially in a competitive environment, can be an emotional roller coaster of a sport! Being a little laid back about things can certainly be an advantage to any player, couple that with Gabriel’s ability and you will know why we love to watch him playing!
Gabriel also shot a +6(42) over those front 9 holes. He struggled to find par consistently on this series of holes but did keep any errors to a minimum and nothing worse than bogey.
The back 9 for Gabriel began the same way. He did a pretty good job of keeping the errors he did make to a minimum and that very much kept him in the medal hunt. As a reward for perseverance he enjoyed his best golf of the day on the closing holes. Birdies at 16 and 17 might have been late to show up but nonetheless were very welcome! Gabriel shot one under for the last 4 holes carding a 42-40-(82) in the end. Overall it was a difficult day for him and there is no doubt he can go way lower than this however as we’ve seen already in other flights sometimes it’s necessary to just keep yourself in the hunt and hope the rest of the field are possibly finding things tough too.
Brayden back 9 was also similar to his front 9. A really strong start with par secured at 10,11, 12 and 13! The following two holes were challenging and set him back but only temporarily as he steadied things again by making par at 16 and 17. A chance to take the medal outright presented itself at 18 but unfortunately proved just out of his reach. In the end Brayden’s card showed an identical final total to Gabriel’s 42-40-(82). Brayden played some really fine golf in stages all day, each time he looked to be hitting top form seemed to result in a little more bad luck being thrown at him however he handled it so well and did what good players do…he kept working hard and never gave up!
Under normal circumstances a tied player flight would immediately result in a sudden death extra hole(s) play off between the players. On this occasion however we had received an earlier request from Gabriel’s parents that they play earlier than usual to allow them to get home for an important family function. We therefore made the decision that in these circumstances sporting integrity should be considered and we would award both players with a flight winners medal and a shared win.
Congratulations to Braden and Gabriel from everyone at HJT. Gabriel’s medal win now means he has achieved the required 3 wins and he is now officially a Claret Jug Flight player for the remainder of 2021. Braden has now secured his second flight win and is only one win away from joining Gabriel and our other serial medal winners in The Claret Jug Flight. Everyone at HJT is very much looking forward to watching both of these young players as they continue to develop through the rest of this season.
The Bobby Jones Flight:
Our youngest players (10-12) in this one and it turned into an exciting finish between two young players who’ve shared a golf course together on many occasions over the last few years. Ryker Huther (Sorrento, FL) and Bobby Jones Potash (Eustis,FL).
A special mention too to another of our youngest players who we feel is on course for a great season of positive development in his game. Aiden Skrocki may not have been in the medal hunt this time around but his overall play and his work rate to ensure he keeps improving are definitely worth mentioning. Aiden, please stay positive, keep doing what you’re doing and we believe it’s going to be a good golfing year for you!
It was great to see Ryker back with us once again. For those of you who don’t know the quiet 11 year old from Sorrento let me introduce him to you. We have known Ryker and his family since we began HJT. We have watched with great interest as he has made his mark and picked up winners medals in many of our competitions during 2020 and we fully expect him to do likewise in 2021! He is an exceptionally talented young player who, even in the short time since we’ve seen him last, also looks as if he’s grown several inches and added a bit more power and length to his drives!
Ryker was one of our Claret Jug Championship Trophy play off competitors last December and narrowly missed out on becoming our Champion Golfer of the Year (to Nick Zarillo after a sudden death 3 player play off!). That’s how good he is!
Ryker picked right up where he left off last time out with an impressive +1(37) front 9 that was highlighted by 5 pars and birdies at 3 and number 9.
Ryker’s playing partner for this one (Bobby Jones Potash) is always going to be challenging for the top spot in this young player flight. At 9, and even although he is our youngest regular HJT player, Bobby sets himself some impressive goals to achieve every time he competes, occasionally we see the emotional side of him too when things don’t go his way BUT we don’t see anything at all wrong with that! He cares a great deal about his game and he hates to not play at his best…and incidentally, just like Ryker, Bobby has been blessed with all of the necessary ability to go and achieve whatever he wants out of this game as he grows!
Bobby found it tough to find his consistency on Saturday. Finding par on 5 of the opening holes was his highlight and it kept him in the hunt for the top spot. He carded a +4(40) to stay 3 shots back of Ryker at the turn.
This one was going to be decided on who made the most of the closing 9 holes. A lead of 3 strokes can’t really be classed as comfortable especially as the wind continued to blow at Ocala GC.
Bobby continued to work hard but just couldn’t find par regularly enough. He bounced back well from a dropped shot at 10 to birdie 11 but further setbacks at 12 and 13 meant he would have to do something very special to close the gap. In the end it was another +4(40) to give him a 40-40-(80) overall. On a tough day it wasn’t a bad score but it did disappoint Bobby, trust me when I say, there’s no disguising it when Bobby is disappointed with his score!
Ryker didn’t have those closing holes easy either, there were a few setbacks and struggles BUT he will be happy with the birdie at 17 as it contributed to a good end result. With a back 9 total of +5(41) Ryker carded a 37-41-(78) to take the Flight medal and take his place among only 3 players in the field who managed to break 80 at “Muni”!
Well done to Bobby for keeping it close all day and Congratulations to Ryker on your first HJT medal win of 2021!
The Player Scores:
Nearest the pin Winner at Ocala GC:
Once again our “target man” who picked up the prize was AJ Burns (LeCanto HS). Good job AJ. Congratulations!
That wraps up another great junior golf event. Thank you Richard Hildebrandt and your team at Ocala GC for your fine welcome as always.
Next up for us it’s Continental Country Club in Wildwood on Saturday March 27th followed by our home venue at Eagle Ridge GC in Summerfield on Saturday April 2nd. At the tournament on the 2nd April we are once again going to give our “Seniors” a chance to play in an adults only flight alongside their favorite junior player. Last time we did this it was a lot of fun as parents got to relive their youth once again and got to experience the pressures and challenges our talented juniors have to put up with every week! We hope you might be up for that challenge and can make it along!
Registration for all future events is now open by clicking HERE
A final thank you as always goes to our Tour Sponsor. Todd and Melissa Coon of TCL – Tri County Landscapes. Thank you for your support of junior golf development in our community. More info on TCL can be found by clicking HERE
See you all soon everyone!