What a wonderful day of Junior Golf Competition we had on Saturday! It was memorable to everyone involved with HJT and our talented group of junior players for so many reasons.
First off it was our debut tournament being played right here in The Villages, Florida. It’s a place that Fiona and I personally now call home and we LOVE living here!
It’s very difficult to describe to strangers that we meet and friends back in Scotland just how unique this place is. To us though, coming here from from St. Andrews and the birthplace of our great game, we can think of no better place to be. Our own wonderful Scotland is ALL about golf and The Villages is the only place we have found in this country that shares that unique obsession with the game of golf!
The staff and management I have met so far in The Villages Golf also share our passion for bringing more kids into the game. They work closely with kids of all ages and each new year of our schools golf season they allocate fantastic championship venues and resources to the kids to help them be the best they can be.
When you put all of those things together and Highlander Junior Tour are welcomed to play in The Villages you can maybe understand how excited we were to play our first tournament in The Villages!
Thank you to everyone involved who has been supportive of what we do and who helped to make this happen. These include Ken Roshaven, Ricky Craig, Steve Hanson, Tyler Krager and Wade Martin to name just a few….there are many others so thank you all on behalf of everyone at Highlander Junior Tour!
As usual our players arrived in good time to register with Fiona and enjoy the excellent practice facilities arranged for us. At 12.30 we were ready to play.
The Championship venue chosen was The Lopez Legacy Country Club and The Ashley Meadows Course where we would play two loops of 9 holes. The course didn’t disappoint in any way…its in wonderful condition despite how much play it gets (thank you to the ground keeping/maintenance staff who got it in such great shape, what a great job you have done!)
It was immediately noticeable to our players that the greens were running fast and true. Scoring would be tough and if you happened to find yourself above a hole and putting back down you better hope the golfing gods are with you!
We did take the opportunity to point out to all players the advantage of playing the same 9 holes twice was of course that you have an opportunity to learn from those front 9 errors and improve on them on the back 9…if only golf was as simple as that makes it sound right ? Here are the results from each of our flights.
The Claret Jug Flight:
Just to remind everyone our player flights are generally classed into separate age groups. Our unique Claret Jug Flight however is the exception. Our Claret Jug Flight represent ALL age group players who have won a flight they previously played in on 3 or more occasions during 2020. Each player will still play from a yardage/tee box based on his/her age but they will be playing with other serial competition winners each time they compete in an HJT event.
This one was not memorable for low scoring by any of our 3 Claret Jug representatives. There was some fine golf played but typically short game and putting opportunities to score were few and far between. Golf however is still a sport where sometimes you’re not at your very best and you can win “ugly” and this one was a good case in point of that.
One thing that you may find interesting though before we tell you who took the medal as it tells you a little about the character of each of these young golfers. All of them were unhappy with their score, even our medal winner and you will see that when you view the image below! It tells us all that it’s not about just winning a medal for these players, they are all good enough and have already won plenty of them, its about playing well and scoring low.
Its about working hard and giving their very best every time they compete….and those are great qualities to have in golf and in life!
Each of our 3 Claret Jug players Tripp Watkins (Harbor Hills CC), Curtis Douglas (The Villages) and Jonathan Ring (Rhineland Cutlery) were each separated by only one stroke so it was close. Tripp Watkins took the Claret Jug Medal!
The Old Tom Morris Flight:
Our biggest flight of players with 9 players battling the course for the medal on this one. A whole host of experienced competition players were present and it was a very close run thing.
At various points of the day it could have gone to any one of four players. The lead swung between Michael Woodley(Leesburg High School) who posted a 38-42-80, Jonathan McLeroy (Orlando) 43-37-80, Hunter Lewis (Belleview HS) 39-40-79 and Lake Mary’s EJ Maupin who took this one by a stroke from Hunter with a consistent, and lowest score in the field today, 40-38-78. A win at such a tough venue made it a very good day for him!
EJ Maupin is a very popular winner on our tour. He has been so close recently to taking the medal and recently came up just short in a play off at Summerglen. He has a very strong all round game, excellent attitude and a great work ethic when he plays, unlike some EJ always appears calm and focused and he thoroughly deserves this win in return for the hard work he puts in. We know his biggest supporters (mom and dad) were in attendance too and that made this win even more special!
Congratulations EJ from everyone at HJT.
The Young Tommy Morris Flight:
7 of our young golfers fought this one out for the medal. After 9 it could have swung the way of either Christopher Tatro(The Villages), Braxton Williams (The Villages) or Kale Fashik (Belleview).
A couple of early mistakes made it tough for Chris to keep tabs on the leaders who were both clearly intent on doing better on the back 9 than they had on the front. Braxton Williams knows this course pretty well and he was strong throughout the day, unfortunately the dropped shots on the last couple of holes would be significant in this one as Kale was powering his way through the final holes with some really strong golf including birdie on 11 and even an eagle on 12!
What a great confidence booster for any player that is and Kale was certainly making the most of it! In the end his winning scorecard of 45-36-81,which includes the best in field back 9 total too, was enough to take the medal by one stroke from Braxton.
Well done Kale! His eagle was a significant talking point and made the day even more memorable for a strong young player we know well, one who is very capable of producing exceptional golf each time he competes and a player who has improved greatly in the last year we’ve watched him!
The Nancy Lopez Flight;
Given that we were enjoying something of a special occasion here at Lopez Legacy AND we had four young lady golfers competing today we took a break from the norm and decided to add a new player flight. Under the circumstances we couldn’t really name it anything other than after the great lady of golf herself – Nancy Lopez.
At HJT we do like when we can impart a little bit of history their way when attending our competitions. For those who were unaware of her achievements Nancy Lopez is a 3-time Major Winner with no fewer than 48 LPGA wins to her credit. Inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 1997 she is a wonderful role model for our young players today who may have their own hopes of forging a future career in the game.
Of our 4 girls competing ALL of them are representing The Villages and 2 of them were joining us to play for the first time on HJT. Sisters Llia and Abi Byron both play during the school golf season for their respective Villages teams. We would like to take this opportunity to welcome you both and hope you enjoyed the competition today and that you will be back with us again soon.
This one proved pretty tough for most of our girls. Greens were fast and scoring low was proving difficult. After the first 9 the medal could have gone to any one of Katie Allen, Deya Shaktawat or Abi Byron however the back 9 proved to be the turning point as only one of the 3 players kept the same level of consistency going.
In the end it was Katie Allen, another really popular figure in the HJT player ranks, who took the medal with the lowest score. In similar fashion to some of our earlier players there will no doubt be days when Katie will shoot lower scores as she is becoming a very strong and focused young lady who works hard and is developing very quickly into a fine young player. Just as important is the fact she is a wonderful young lady with a great temperament and attitude towards improving.
Congratulations Katie from everyone at HJT on another win!
The Bobby Jones Flight:
Our final flight of the day and often the most fun to watch! They are the youngest 9-11 and all of them are having fun while developing their game…they have plenty of time to do so! Right now final golf scores are secondary to learning their way around the golf course and having fun doing it!
Rhett Kirkland (The Villages), Jackson Platt-Scarbrough (The Villages) and Brantley Flannery (Weirsdale) are no strangers to our competitions this year and it’s always great to watch them play…typically you can expect boundless energy, strong tee shots and usually one or two issues around greens as they slowly learn that sometimes slow and deliberate when chipping and putting can be a good thing! Understandably given the energy levels these young golfers posses “slow and deliberate” are not uppermost anywhere in their minds yet!
Each of these young players already have the necessary fundamentals and as we have already seen just this year alone improvement in scoring will only come through having a regular practice regime and following this up with playing competitively like this.
On Saturday it was Rhett Kirkland who, despite starting slowly on the front nine, more than made amends for that producing a back 9 that was improved by no fewer than 9 strokes! Brantley had started in a similar fashion and also improved his back 9 total strokes by 3 however it would be Rhett who picked up the medal on this occasion.
The other thing worth pointing out here is how well these boys got along together. All still smiling at the end and let’s face it THAT is just about as important as how they score at their age!
Well done to Rhett, congratulations from everyone at HJT.
Well that wraps up a special day for Highlander Junior Tour and our players at the wonderful Lopez Legacy CC in The Villages.
Next week it’s our final event of the year with an open to all junior players 36-hole stroke-play spectacular at Eagle Ridge GC on Saturday and our final round at Harbor Hills CC on Sunday. At the same time many of the entrants in this one who have qualified will also be playing to take home our unique Claret Jug Trophy and be named our Champion Golfer of the Year 2020. As I write this we only have 7 spots remaining so please be quick and get signed up if you plan to play. Click HERE to register.
Thank you again to The Villages for allowing us to use this wonderful venue and of course to our players for challenging yourselves and entertaining us all. Last but not least thank you again to our loyal parents, supporters and spectators.