Glorious all day Florida sunshine and the kind of cooling breeze we’d forgotten existed ,after a long hot humid summer, meant Saturday at Eagle Ridge was the ideal day for playing golf. Hopefully its a sign of a great few months ahead of us as we head rapidly towards the end of 2020.
Aside from the weather, quite a few things were just a little bit different from the norm with this one. As many of you know this time of year is when we are getting to the business end of High School and Middle School school golf season. In the case of High School golf the FHSAA District Championships were concluded last week and those teams and/or individuals who have been successful in these have now advanced to Regional Championships and are only 18 holes and one step away from an opportunity to compete in the FHSAA State Championships at Mission Inn next week.
For us this meant a slightly shorter field of players than usual as many took the opportunity to wisely get in some practice at the venues they will play over the next few weeks. We would like to take this opportunity to wish all school representing players throughout the State the very best of luck in their quest to be one of the lucky ones to advance to the next stage.
Our thoughts on young golfers playing school golf are pretty clear. First of all we want as many junior players coming into the game as possible. With a school coach watching on they will be given an opportunity to practice and then compete in our great sport and that’s a positive! Our biggest concern however is having given kids this opportunity over a relatively short school golf season there still seems to be a huge percentage of them who, just as quick as they arrived into it, are now winding down from the game, playing less when it should be more and even some who have actually put the golf clubs back in storage until next year when they will then go and do the same thing all over again and maybe even wonder why their scores aren’t any different from this year!
We spent a long time last week studying results from those various FHSAA District Championships and in the majority of cases they showed time and time again that most, not all but certainly most, school teams rely very heavily on one or two key players who shoot low scores consistently with the rest usually playing to a different level.
Many of the key players are players we know well and we know them because they play with us ,and the other junior golf tours out there, all year round! Sounds simple but that really is the developmental difference in junior players.
Its not rocket science, its the same in all sports, no one is born a good golfer, you can only become one through attitude, dedication and perseverance…and the only place you can find that is on the golf course when you’re competing against it!
Anyway let’s get back to Eagle Ridge. On Saturday we changed things up a little. No Claret Jug flight players were in attendance so an opportunity to indulge the author a wee bit came up and I “predictably” went for an Old Course Flight and a New Course Flight.
One thing that was very pleasing for us was the trend of welcoming new players which continues at each competition we host. At Eagle Ridge we welcomed Gainesville’s Connor Shaw, Brock Jones(Fruitland Park), Tyler Budill (The Villages Middle School) and Hayden Fink (The Villages High School) for the first time. Welcome to HJT guys, we hope you enjoyed the experience of competing with us and you return again soon.
The Old Course Flight:
Our 15-17 year old boys and early on in the day the most likely to take the honors were either Trenton Waters (Montverde)or newcomer Brock Jones.
Both played consistently through the front 9 holes and both recorded a strong scorecard of +3 (39) at the turn with Brock sending out a message with a birdie on the 9th of the Heritage Course. Trenton is a player who works really hard to post his best and that makes him very difficult to beat. Unfortunately for Trenton on this occasion his challenge was made more difficult to sustain by dropping a few shots early on in the back 9 opening holes. He did get back to a good level of consistency with a run of par holes but it proved just a little too late to top the board. Trenton finished the day with a strong 80.
Brock Jones is a strong young player with a good attitude. Accurate off the tee and good around the greens. His +3(39) on the front 9 had him tied with Trenton. The birdie at 9 was significant and par followed on 10 to edge him ahead of the field. A test of character and resilience would be required for him though as he began a frustrating run of 3 dropped shots on the next 3 holes.
It’s never an easy task for any player to pull it back when you drop shots together like that. Confidence takes a big knock, but good players especially, know that what’s done can’t be changed and the important shots are all still ahead of you, it’s NOT just an old golf cliché and it was proved true again on Saturday as Brock showed great character and belief in his game to focus back in on his earlier consistency and play the closing 5 holes par-par-par-par-par!
A back 9 total of 38 and a final scorecard showing 77 (+6) was enough to see Brock Jones take the Highlander medal.
Congratulations Brock from everyone at Highlander Junior Tour on an excellent debut win at Eagle Ridge. We hope you enjoyed the experience?
The New Course Flight:
This one consisted of our 14 and under players and once again it proved to be a bit of a head to head battle between two young talents who were drawn to play together and who we think probably got the best out of each other’s game by doing so. One of them we know pretty well already, Zach Phan (Ocala) who’s played with us on quite a few occasions and always shows great confidence in his ability and character and the other is a young man who plays in a similar determined fashion , Jason Kaiser Jr. (Circle Christian School).
Neither of these young golfers appears to have any particular glaring weakness in their game that makes any significant difference in how they are developing. We really enjoyed watching them play out there, great junior golf for the neutral supporter to watch, great respect for each other. Perhaps just as pleasing as the golf they played at times was the fact they both looked like they were enjoying the experience of playing together and THAT is pretty special as far as we’re concerned!
How many times do we talk about a match being about two separate 9 holes? Well here we go again, Jason started stronger of the pair with a 39(+3) front 9. It highlighted well the consistency he is working hard to achieve with par on 6 of those opening 9 holes. On the front 9 par count Zach was close with 5 however one bad hole can make all the difference and at the turn Jason looked comfortably ahead by 4 strokes.
Golf is a wonderful game for building character when things have gone badly. Into the back 9 and Zach was already back and showing his consistency with par followed by par. In junior golf we do seem to be seeing this happen a lot, a player on a disappointing run, or in Zach’s case a disappointing hole then finds the character and inner strength to immediately bounce back, it’s a great trait to have and Zach certainly used it to his advantage at Eagle Ridge.
Jason certainly didn’t play badly on the back 9, he just couldn’t find the earlier consistency he had with him. On a couple of occasions at least par putts didn’t fall for him. Alongside him young Zach was finding par consistently once again…no fewer than 7 of them on the back 9 to make 12 in total for the day…a birdie putt just missed at the last would have been a great way to finish the day for Zach but unfortunately that one wasn’t to be. Zach’s back 9 total of only 37 was the (all player) best of the day.
When the scores were counted Zach Phan took the medal by 2 shots with a fighting 80 from Jason(82). Not surprising though the first person to congratulate him on his win was, yes you’ve guessed it, Jason Kaiser Jr.
Well played to both of these young men for showing us so many great qualities out there, spirit, enthusiasm, great etiquette and friendship, if this is the future of our old ancient game game it’s in fine hands. It was an absolute pleasure to have you both playing with us.
So there we have it for another great day of Junior Golf competition. We welcomed a few new faces and enjoyed seeing one of them (Brock Jones) achieve an impressive debut medal win. We watched a great match up between two young talents that displayed so many of the good things about the game we love. And even the weather was kind to us…it was a very good day all round!
Next up for us is a return to the venue we believe is unrivalled in the State and the one we love to visit more than all others. The unique Mission Inn resort boasts two great golf courses and it’s been the venue for the FHSAA State Championship Finals since 2012. I believe our timing on this one is pretty good too as the State Championships will begin play at Mission Inn only 48 hours after us. We hope any High School golfer who may have qualified who’s looking to play a competitive practice round before States begin can do so by coming along to this Highlander Tour competition.
Mission Inn ,and this HJT competition, is of course NOT just for this year’s High School State qualifying players. It’s open to every junior golfer looking to challenge themselves and play at a superb venue in first class condition. It’s an experience not to be missed and we hope as many of you as possible can join us there on Saturday October 24th.
Registration is open now for this and future events by clicking HERE