It was another great day of competitive junior golf yesterday at Eagle Ridge GC as we returned to take on the “Opposite 18” from our earlier visit. Yesterday it was the Memorial 9 followed by the Masters 9 and its fair to say most in attendance enjoyed the challenge as spectators got to watch some impressive golf as our junior players turned in some great scores.
Yesterday seemed like a good day to freshen things up a little. As many of you know we recently launched our new flight – The Claret Jug which would contain only those junior golfers who have achieved 3 or more medal wins during 2020. The aim is of course to keep things challenging for ALL players as winning a Claret Jug medal will not prove an easy task and with some already strong competition in all of the other flights picking up the 3 medals required to get you into that group won’t be an easy task either!
We were excited to see how this would all work out once we had enough Claret Jug players in the field and yesterday gave us an indication that it could be really great to watch from a spectator perspective and, just as we’d hoped, a TOUGH challenge for our talented players!
With a new flight, a new medal and the fact its PGA weekend at Harding Park it was also another opportunity to change things a little with a couple of renamed flights. We do love our Old Tom Morris, Young Tommy and Bobby Jones flights so don’t think they have gone…they are merely having a rest day! Yesterday we decided to celebrate the prolific and diminutive Scotsman Donald Ross – architect/creator of more than 450 golf courses throughout the US including the Nation’s first ever golf “resort” at Pinehurst where he lived for many years, (did I mention he was a Scotsman already?)
Joining Donald Ross in flight name is another less known former professional who lifted the PGA Championship Trophy in 1920 – Jock Hutchison. He SOUNDS like a scot right? Well he is, or should I say was, …Jock was born in St Andrews, Scotland and he left home for a new life in the US just as the game was really beginning to take off here.
He took US citizenship the year he won the PGA Championship (1920) and he is still credited as the first Scot (or non-US) player to lift the famous trophy. Incidentally the following year (1921) Jock went “home” to play in The British Open at St Andrews and won that too! Jock was then credited as being the first ever US player to win the famous Claret Jug trophy! Not bad for a lad born about half a mile away right ?
Anyway time for some golf reporting of our own and there was certainly plenty to report!
The Claret Jug
We mentioned earlier what these players had to do to just to get into this flight and its really impressive to think of how many medals collectively and individually each has won, on competition day though they all put past achievements to one side as they know that, from now, getting their hands on this will not be an easy feat! One thing we know about each and every one of them though is each is more than capable of rising to the challenge!
The Claret Jug Flight yesterday had 5 exceptional young players competing to win it..1 young lady and 4 young men with ages ranging from our youngest aged only 8 to our oldest at 17. They all play from their own tee boxes relative to their age groups and on the day each should be in with a chance of taking the Claret Jug medal.
Not surprisingly scoring was impressive for most of these players. Our top 3 all had opportunities throughout the day as we watched the lead change hands frequently throughout the first part of the day …over the first 6 holes especially the lead changed several times between recent Eagle Ridge play-off winners Jonathan Ring (Summerfield)and Nick Zarillo (Lyman HS/Lake Mary, Fl) and one of our Mission Inn winners – Elle Folland (The Villages Golf Academy) All three of these young players are in great form right now and watching them is a real treat, we consider ourselves very lucky that they play regularly with us and we love to watch how each has developed their skills and ability to take on a challenge! At this point it was difficult to call who might take this one.
In those early holes we watched some great consistent golf from each of our leading three…if the occasional bogey occurred it would often be negated by a following birdie to keep things fairly level…this was golf’s version of who was going to be first to blink and make a potentially costly error…and first to blink on this occasion was Nick Zarillo with an uncharacteristic error on number 6 that would result in a double bogey. It was unfortunate but for anyone who knows competition golf it’s not at all unusual. As the old golf cliché goes “its what happens next that really matters!” right?
What happened next is why WE love doing what we do and hosting competitive junior golf events…we got to see a frustrated, and no doubt pretty annoyed, young player dig deep and use every bit of his considerable experience to go from the gloom of a double bogey error, in a strong field of players, straight into a following run of 7 pars, 3 birdies and an eagle! Nick shot a 69 yesterday to take the medal from runner-up Elle Folland (who kept up her own fine run of form with a 73) by 4 strokes.
Nick Zarillo is our leading medal winner and yesterday he showed why! He has won 6 previous HJT medals and yesterday he took home our inaugural Claret Jug medal. We hope that he is feeling pretty satisfied with that today!
Nick did it against our most talented and successful players to date and he did it in some style! He deserves everyone’s congratulations for showing great character and determination when others may have struggled. He is a fine young player who deserves all the recognition that we, and others, give him. He is very confident in his abilities but grounded and never brash, he plays the game the right way and we are happy to be a small part of wherever your golf journey takes you Nick, Congratulations on this one, it was in our opinion, your best yet!
We will finish our Claret Jug summary with a mention to Nick’s Dad (Darren Zarillo) who provides Nick with the level of support that only a good caddie can…lets just say Darren clearly KNOWS how his kid ticks on AND off the golf course and together they work exceptionally well…sorry Darren, we don’t do caddie awards, however we do think you might just remember your “player’s” win at Eagle Ridge for some time to come!
The Donald Ross
Our Donald Ross gave us a battle between another couple of talented and developing young players who are both capable of challenging at a really high level. Owen Ingram from Celebration, FL and Hunter Lewis, Belleview HS both turned in impressive scorecards.
Owen joined us recently at HJT. He is playing competitively and as regularly as he can before heading off to begin college life and club golf with UF. We will miss him when he does head off as he is a fine young player with a first class attitude and we enjoy watching him compete. Yesterday for Owen he played a really consistent and almost blemish free front 9 with only one bogey which he then swiftly negated by shooting birdie at the next opportunity for a level par 35. Back nine on Masters was a little tougher going and resulted in a final score of 77.
Hunter Lewis is in fine form right now. He loves to compete and he works hard on his game at every opportunity. Last week, after a scintillating -4 back nine, he narrowly lost a 3 extra hole play off to his good friend Jonathan Ring. So how do you follow that? Well it started with a new set of Mizuno irons, some quick practice and pick right up from where you left off….a 4 birdie round of 76 was enough to take it by a stroke from Owen!
Hunter is a REALLY popular winner on our tour…he has been close on a number of occasions to achieving the medal win and while that’s often tough to take we strongly believe it also brings out the player’s true character…Hunter’s attitude is simple, get right back out there and work your socks off to fix what’s not working, try harder next time! We love this about his personality! At Highlander we are blessed to have so many fine young players who have this quality of character and it made the presentation of this particular medal all the sweeter for everyone who knows Hunter. Congratulations Hunter from all of us on a fine medal win!
We were delighted too that your biggest supporter(mom) was around too to share in your success!
The Jock Hutchison
Yesterday the winner of our Jock Hutchison flight won it by battling early and keeping a consistency through the front 9 holes that made him really tough to catch. Dax Becker (Trenton) was impressively level par through 9 and leading at that stage by 4 from Zach. Phan(Ocala). Both of these young men are strong and talented players but in that kind of early form Dax is really tough to catch! He proved this again by powering through the back 9, only dropping 2 strokes on the way, and finishing on an excellent 73.
Zach worked really hard to keep Dax in sight but an unfortunate run of luck late on meant he had to settle with a runner-up spot and a final score of 80.
Dax has now taken two HJT flight winner medals. Each time he has impressed us all with the ability to bounce back from the tough breaks that are likely to occur in most young players competitive outings. He is another of the very talented players we are fortunate to see who is showing us regularly just what he can do. At only 14 he has plenty of time on his hands to develop the game and build on the competition experience he already has though even at this early stage he clearly has everything needed to be a success in junior golf.
Congratulations Dax from everyone at HJT on a fine score and a great medal win. We look forward to seeing you progress upwards and into our Claret Jug flight in future. You deserve to be there based on performances like this!
And there you have it folks…another fine day (without rain delays) great scores and some top golf from our players. Thanks again to Eagle Ridge GC for your fine welcome. Next up for us over the next 3 weeks we head to Black Bear Golf Club, Eustis (Saturday 15th August) followed by a return to Red Tail GC in Sorrento (Saturday 22nd August) and we round off the month at Harbor Hills Country Club in Lady Lake on Saturday 29th August. All of these are open now for Registration by clicking HERE.
Thank you everyone for your support of HJT, we appreciate everyone who comes out to play with us and supports what we are trying to do. We look forward to seeing you all soon.