On Saturday it was a return to Eagle Ridge GC in Summerfield. This is the venue we have always considered to be our “home” course as it was our first regular monthly venue when we started Highlander in 2019 and it’s remained as a firm favorite ever since as the welcome from members and staff is always great and, with four 9-hole layouts always in good shape, it’s always going to be challenging and fresh for our players.
On this occasion the layout was Heritage to Masters and a strong field of 22 young players joined us today ranging in age from 6 to 17. Included in the field and joining us for the first time in our 18-hole competition were debut brothers Gavin and Garrett Bennett (Oxford,FL). Also making his debut, this time in our 9-hole Wee Highlanders event was Harley Butts aged 6 (Winter Garden).
Welcome to you all, we really hope you enjoyed the experience today and we look forward to seeing you back with us again soon.
Other notable changes were also going on in this one particularly when it comes to our youngest golfers. Firstly we were delighted to welcome The Villages Junior Academy’s Kenzi Kacanich who at only 8, was playing in her first 18-hole tournament. Kenzi is very well known to us as she is one of our original Wee Highlander players who, until now, often played in our short course Wee Highlander competitions. We are delighted to see how much progress this young lady is making and, while it may have been a longer day than normal for Kenzi, she, and her family, should be extremely proud for making that huge step up in yardage (Red Tees-4530 Yards) and playing alongside older players.
Kenzi’s debut in our Bobby Jones Flight proved to many that she will flourish by experiencing days like this. There is no doubt that she can hold her own in the company of older and stronger junior golfers over 18 holes, her debut score of 55-54-109 included making par on the 15th and, on no fewer than six occasions, she consistently made bogey during the day.
Kenzi, THAT was exceptional, we really do hope it helps with building confidence and we look forward to welcoming you back to compete in the BIG league again soon!
Staying with the young ones, it’s also worth mentioning that one of our newest Highlander Members, Herschel Butts (Winter Garden) aged 9 was making his debut in The Claret Jug Flight for the first time having recently secured 3 medal wins in quick succession over the last few months. Well done Herschel for achieving that promotion!
As always we begin our results with our elite player Claret Jug Flight.
The Claret Jug Flight
We say this every time we play. It’s never easy to win a medal in tournament golf at any time however when you are in a player flight with players who between them have amassed no fewer than 38 medals this season alone you will understand exactly why it’s EVEN tougher to win a Claret Jug Medal!
The Claret Jug Flight represents our very best. A field of great quality and each of those young players are serial winners. This one had some of our very best competing for the medal and one player literally started great and maintained a really strong level of consistency all day long.
Xavier Sahajpal (Ocala) is having a really strong season! On Highlander Tour this year already he’s picked up 6 winners medals which I believe represents 6 wins out of 6 appearances made, a quite remarkable record that I think no one else can match!
Xavier was looking to add number 7 and he was relentless right from the start, an opening 35 on the front ensured he was the only player in the field to be under par at the halfway stage. He got there by making birdie at BOTH of the opening holes and making par on six of the remaining seven holes.
Closest to Xavier, three shots back at the halfway stage, were Delaney and Riley Sillaway (Longwood) who were both on 38. Three back at the turn is not insurmountable and, one thing we do know about both of those chasing players, they are both hugely experienced and know the importance of continually giving 100% right up until the final putt drops as things can change quickly in tournament golf and especially when you consider the two chasing were our TCL Junior Open Champion Riley Sillaway and his older sister, Delaney, who’s our first ever FHSAA State Championship Winning Team Member!
Xavier too has amassed a whole lot of tournament experience and his strategy was a very simple one. It is easy to say it but when you are playing well, confidence is high and you are striking the ball well your approach gets a whole lot easier, just keep doing more of the same! That’s exactly what he did, Birdie at 10 set the tone, two more birdies followed at 13 and 17. A couple of minor errors popped up along the way but overall, it was a really fine round of strong shot making and consistent golf. He was confident around greens and his putting was strong all day long…5 birdies on his card confirms that! Xavier finished the day 35-36-71 to make it 7 medal wins in real style!
Three back proved to be just too tough to claw back on this occasion for both Riley and Delaney. Of the two it was Riley who got closest with a +1 on the back nine holes that included birdies at 10,14 and again at 16! Unfortunately for Riley a couple of errors on that closing stretch of holes took their toll on his challenge. Riley finished on 38-37-75 with Delaney a couple back in third spot with a 38-39-77.
Well done to ALL of our Claret Jug players for your efforts today and Congratulations to Xavier Sahajpal on a very impressive 7th medal win. Xavier joins Riley Sillaway and Bobby Jones Potash at the top of our medal winner table for the season with only one more event left of the season.
The Old Tom Morris Flight:
It was our 14/16’s competing in this one and for one young player it was a very good lesson learned!
Jason Kaiser jr. (Circle Christian) is another young talent who we have watched give his all during this season to find consistency. An early season medal win at Red Tail GC for Jason was a promising start that proved tough to recreate until recently. Jason is a hugely talented young player who’s not lacking in confidence or ability. He sets himself high standards, which is a great trait to have however when things don’t always go to plan it can be those same standards and expectations that can cause good players to lose concentration and dwell a little too long on the bad shot that’s been when we should be concentrating only on what’s ahead of us.
Golf is the toughest sport of them all. It’s NOT just a game like many others. When approached in the proper manner golf teaches us life lessons about ourselves and our character and situations, we can find ourselves in can prove to be valuable. Having high expectations is a must but that must be coupled with the ability to quickly forget that bad shot and that’s NOT easy…in my opinion Jason has definitely improved when it comes to this mental aspect of the game and the result is he’s now back winning flights and medals once more.
Jason does have a great attitude and works hard on his game, and it shows. He started so well in this one that he was one of only two players in the field who shot level par or better through those front nine holes. Since rejoining the medal winning trail once more, he was amongst our medals at The Monarch in Leesburg recently, he has been playing some very impressive golf and I was lucky enough to watch him play a few holes of this one. Included in that level par 36 front nine was a birdie at 3 and a wonderfully struck greenside chip in for an Eagle 3 at the par 5 ninth…what a great shot that was!
The back nine was not so consistent. It started positively enough with par at 10 but what followed was a stretch of six holes where it looked it looked like his day could go badly wrong. Perhaps a loss of concentration? Perhaps just bad luck? What we do know however is regardless of how disappointed and frustrated Jason may be feeling he’s still going to give everything he has to try to revive his form…a par-par finish included an impressive uphill putt on 18 showed he was back on track and while the back nine total doesn’t match the earlier form, he still finished the day with a scorecard of 36-44-80.
First and foremost, Jason wanted and expected to go lower! When you contrast both nine-hole scores you can understand why. In this case however the reminder lesson he got from the game today was that no matter how bad it might feel when shots don’t go your way you MUST keep working hard to try to bring the good stuff back! Jason did that.
The result in this case was more important than the score for Jason. His early fine form put him ahead of the rest of the players in his flight and when the scores were in the closest to him was Angelica Smith who’s now playing consistently well and nudging ever closer to our leaders. Angelica posted a very respectable 41-44-85 to finish in second spot in this one. Well done, Angelica.
And so, it was Jason Kaiser Jr. who made it back-to-back medal wins. Congratulations Jason, you very much deserved it and there are so many good signs in your play that you are finding that consistency once again. That alone makes the 2021 season a really productive year of strong development for you, and we can’t wait to see this continue with one tournament left in 2021 and into 2022!
The additional bonus for Jason is of course that this medal win, his third of 2021, means we can now recognize his achievements and promote Jason into our elite multi medal winning Claret Jug Flight of players. Good job Jason, you left it a little late, but you are now a very worthy Claret Jug Player!
The Bobby Jones Flight:
Our 12 and under juniors were competing in this one and it was to be a very good day for one pair of golfing brothers who had much to celebrate.
Early form over the front nine saw Owen Sahajpal (Ocala) lead the flight after nine holes with a +5(41) with both Kale Fashik (Belleview) and Zachary Schlicher (Ocala) tucked in close only one stroke back. Owen’s highlight was birdie at number three, and he did finish those early holes consistently making par on 7,8 and on 9.
Kale had made his birdie early on at number two and Zachary also picked up a birdie at the par 4 8th. At this stage it was really pretty open in the flight and honors would come down to who could make the most out of the closing nine holes! Kale is a strong and confident young player who’s improved every year we’ve known him. His back nine gave him another birdie at 16 on his way to a back nine 41 and a total for the day 42-41-83.
Zachary Schlicher joined us recently and we’ve watched with interest as he has worked hard to find consistency and lower his scores. Zachary is another of our many youngsters who have strong ability but at times can show signs of being a little too tough on himself when things don’t go his way, it’s a hard habit to break as he’s a great kid who is desperate to improve and we love that about him, this was a very good day for Zachary, who played his best tournament golf yet with us, and he finished 42-43-85. Well done, Zachary! We suspect 2022 is going to be a good year for this young man!
As he headed into the closing stretch of nine Owen’s early lead got gradually bigger to the point where he was not going to be caught by the rest! Another birdie at 13 and par on five of the closing nine was his best form of the day. He deservedly picked up the medal win with an impressive +2(38) on the back to card a 41-38-79 overall. Good job Owen, congratulations from everyone at Highlander on your win and for securing a double win for the Sahajpal boys at Eagle Ridge!
Just like Jason Kaiser a little earlier we were delighted to present Owen with this, his third medal win of season 2021 and announce his promotion into our elite Claret Jug Flight for 2021. Another young player with great promise and bags of talent promoted to where all of our very best and most consistent winners should be, good job Owen!
The Player Scores:
The Wee Highlanders 9-Hole Fun Challenge:
Earlier in the day we once again took the opportunity to welcome two of our youngest players to step up and have some fun at Eagle Ridge GC.
It’s always great to see Eden Wilkins (The Villages) playing in these events. She’s a super little smiley and and bubbly character and a joy to have playing at our events! Eden may only be 8 but this young lady is going to be a very fine player in future if she continues enjoying the game and working hard.
6-year-old Harley Butts (Winter Park) joined Eden for this one and it wasn’t long before we realized that, just like older brother Herschel, who recently became our youngest Claret Jug player this season, Harley is an exceptional young player who we cannot wait to see more of as he develops!
Today began with an opportunity to test their chipping and putting skills before heading out onto the course to play our, slightly modified, front nine holes of Eagle Ridge GC from our wee red tee boxes.
Wee Highlanders is ALL about our youngest players playing for fun, developing confidence and scoring is NEVER uppermost in our thinking however, on this occasion, it is very much worth mentioning that both players after 9 holes tied on 47 strokes each! That should tell you just how good these youngsters are!
Like any tournament we needed a decision to separate these two and so it was back to the adjacent putting green for a “sudden death “chip-off” tiebreaker. Despite the fact that it was Eden who did best on the putting and chipping earlier in the day it was Harley who got closest on this occasion to pick up The Wee Highlander Medal on his debut! Well done to both players for their efforts and congratulations Harley on your medal win!
With that we wrap up another one. Our last 18-hole event of 2021. Next week we head to Glenview Champions in The Villages for our season finale event, The Triple Claret Jug Trophy Championship where, after 36 holes of golf, we will award three young players with a unique Claret Jug Trophy and one player will receive the accolade of Champion Golfer of the Year 2021.
Thank you to everyone who has supported this event and thank you Eagle Ridge GC staff and management for always being so welcoming to us.
Thank you, TCL (Todd and Melissa Coon), for your support of what we do with kids and golf in our community. We appreciate you!
Thanks for reading and we look forward to seeing you all soon.