What a great Saturday turned out to be for our junior players who grasped the opportunity to challenge themselves and take on the two mighty courses that make up the Mission Inn Resort in Howey-in-the-Hills, Fl.
We had a busier than usual field of 35 players in total ranging in age from 9 all the way through to some, final high school year, 18 year old’s!
We were delighted to welcome a whole host of new faces too…many of them representing some of the very best High Schools in Florida, joining us in the hope of combining an opportunity to play in a competitive competition, AND get some strong practice in on the course they will this week and next be back on while playing in the FHSAA State Golf Championships.
Welcome to HJT for the first time to: Eoin Buckelew(Ocala) Cole Chastain (Brad Brewer Golf Academy) Matt and Mark Exum, Garret Ebbert, Jack Snedaker from Lake Mary High School ,Trey Galbraith(WPG), Nicklaus Meyer(Port Orange), Luke Gossett(Sorrento), Brittany Odic(Viera High School) and Elyza Toves(Orlando)
We achieved another Highlander Junior Tour first on Saturday too, also in part to the above FHSAA Championships. For the first time ever we ran simultaneous competitions over two golf courses with our girls competing on Las Colinas and our boys on El Campeon. We are happy to say that while the whole experience wasn’t exactly “problem free” overall it went well and we hope everyone in attendance enjoyed the experience?
We will start with our young ladies who took to Las Colinas. Before we get to the results we wanted to mention once again a point made by us at the later medal presentation regarding girls golf in particular. I know we are not alone in our thoughts here as we do (occasionally) take note of what’s happening, and who’s attending, junior competitions around our State. One of the things that usually stands out is just how few girls are attending these (let’s call them year round junior golf competitions!) in comparison to boys.
Golf is not a male sport. It’s an inclusive sport for all that offers opportunities and a welcome for all. Our junior game needs to have a strong foundation of experienced and dedicated female players coming through. The future of both the amateur and professional game depends on it and we dearly hope we can find ways of getting more girls playing regularly in competitions like this. As parents reading this please don’t hesitate to talk to us(and them!) if you know players who might be interested in coming along to play regular and competitive junior golf.
We want to say a very special thank you to all of the girls who have played with us since we began HJT. We salute you for choosing golf as your sport and we admire your perseverance and dedication to improving your skills.
On Saturday we had a really strong group of girls playing. We welcomed back Ann Burel (Orlando) to play. Ann is an FHSAA State Championship qualifier, an exceptional achievement for a young freshman player, congratulations Ann from everyone at HJT and good luck at States! Joining Ann, and the youngest in the group, was regular HJT competitor Katie Allen (Fruitland Park) and debut girls Brittany Odic (Viera High School) and Elyza Toves (Orlando)
We named this “girls-only” flight players our “Alexa Stirling Flight” after the trailblazing amateur of the early 1900,s who was young Bobby Jones Atlanta neighbor and golfing partner as a kid. We all know what Bobby Jones went on to achieve in the game. Alexa was rather special too and became US Amateur Champion on no fewer than 3 occasions as well as being seen in those days as a bit of a trailblazer for promoting ladies golf in this country.
The Alexa Stirling Flight:
Fiona(HJT) and I were lucky enough to follow these girls for a stretch of holes and each of them showed some exceptional ball striking and course management. Las Colinas in championship set up mode is tough but each of these players made it look easy at times. Scoring was generally good too although as expected each of these girls, especially Ann and Brittany will still feel they left a few strokes out there.
In the end it came down to only one stroke being the difference. Ann and Brittany had shifted position all day at the top of the leaderboard and it was to be Brittany Odic, on her HJT debut, who would take the medal with a 40-42-(82). Ann in runner-up shot 41-42-(83) Congratulations Brittany on a fine debut win from everyone at HJT. We hope you enjoyed the experience and we look forward to welcoming you back competing with us again soon.
A special mention too to Katie Allen, an HJT regular that we know very well, who played some of the very best golf we have seen, perhaps playing alongside these slightly older girls helped her too? Katie finished only a few shots off the winner and her smile at the end said it all for us…we are all very proud of you Katie and we hope this is just the beginning for you! You stood up exceptionally well to a tough and daunting challenge and showed us all you have great ability and wonderful character. Great job Katie!
The Claret Jug Flight:
A small flight this week with only 4 players. Regardless though let’s NOT forget that collectively these 4 players have won around 25 medals between them this year playing HJT golf competitions! They are undoubtedly all serial medal winners and as members of The Claret Jug flight they all understand that an “off day” wherever we play is not going to result in a medal win.
Saturday was unfortunately one of those days. All of our Claret Jug players (including our winner!) left El Campeon with a story to tell of how putts hadn’t dropped or how one or two particularly bad holes damaged their prospects. When you are as competitive and talented as this small group you can begin to understand the frustrations they faced. The positives however speak for themselves with the players in this flight, they all posses the same traits needed to be back competing and doing better soon, resilience, strength of character and a steely determination to do better next time.
Gabriel Hull won this one carding a 39-44- (83) to take the win by a single stroke from Jack Panigoni. Gabriel was by far the most consistent of our Claret Jug players on Saturday and while he displayed a little disappointment with his final tally it is worth remembering how tough El Campeon can play. Gabriel, enjoy your first Claret Jug Flight win, you deserve it for keeping it generally consistent and keeping any errors made down to a minimum! Congratulations from us all!
The Old Tommy Morris Flight:
Our oldest junior players 16-18 compete in this one and on this occasion we had many new names and faces in this one to welcome.
The battle for the medal ultimately came down to two players. Our congratulations must go first to Lake Mary High School. The Rams qualified as a team for the FHSAA Championships and took the opportunity to get a competitive round in in preparation for returning next week to Mission Inn.
Their two Senior players brothers Matt and Mark Exum played some exceptional golf and scored well all day. As far as the flight medal goes it was Mark with a 36-38-(74) who took it by two strokes from Matt. We hope this competition over Le Campeon stands them in good stead for the upcoming State Championships and we wish them good luck.
The Young Tommy Morris Flight:
Our 13-15’s were playing out this one for the medal and once again El Campeon showed her toughness. Only two players shooting in the 70’s is unusual for our tour but that’s how it shaped up at the end. It was another of the Lake Mary High School boys who would finish as runner-up in this flight with Garret Ebbert carding a very respectable 38-39-(77). That would leave him 5 shots back of the winner in this one!
The best round of the day, and the field, went to the youngster of the Lake Mary team, Jack Snedaker who shot an impressive even par round on a day when most found it difficult. Hopefully Jack’s 36-36-(72) will stand him in good stead for performing even better when he tees it up again next week at Mission Inn. Congratulations Jack on a great debut win playing on your first Highlander Junior Tour event.
The Bobby Jones Flight:
Our youngest players (up to age 12) were teeing it up in this flight. Historically we know from previous visits this is usually the flight that tends to struggle most to put together a good score over El Campeon. Whatever tee you play from it’s super challenging for our juniors and there are times when a lot of power is needed to get to where you want to be on the golf course, not easy when you’re at an early stage of development when you’re still finding your swing and trying hard to add as much power as you can while still keeping control of the golf ball!
What’s particularly pleasing for us is the majority of the young players we spoke to told us they had great fun playing El Campeon regardless of score and at this stage that’s really how it should be! Remember most youngsters who play golf from a young age who then become disenchanted with the game will stop playing golf between the age of 12-14 so it’s vital we all do everything in our power at this early stage to ensure they are actually enjoying it!
We were delighted to note however that one young player, Luke Gossett (Sorrento,FL) who was joining us for the first time, bucked the trend above on his HJT debut and produced some exceptional golf to take the medal home. Luke started consistently par-par , dropped a few strokes early on the front nine, made a birdie to settle things down and showed the kind of character you love to see in junior golfers. He battled back anytime he dropped a shot and showed everyone what you have to do to compete strongly in golf competitions, Luke’s final 7 holes were made up of no fewer that 6 pars and a birdie! Well played young man…Luke deservedly took the HJT medal home carding a 40-38-(78)
Congratulations Luke Gossett from everyone at HJT. Good job! We hope you enjoyed the challenge and we hope to see you on our leaderboard for many more future competitions!
So there we have it everyone….it was a VERY busy day for us but SO much fun! We hope everyone who came along enjoyed it. It’s fair to say that our normal post competition dinner was a little quieter than usual as exhaustion set in a little earlier than usual!
Next up for us we head back to Eagle Ridge GC on Saturday November 7th. Entries are already coming in for that one so register to play as soon as you can. Before that we will be telling you about other competitions in November and December and our exciting Champion Golfer of the Year event just before Christmas where one lucky player will take home The Claret Jug trophy we display at each event we have hosted this year.
To register for Eagle Ridge GC on Saturday 7th Nov. or Harbor Hills on Saturday 14th just click on the link HERE