What a great year it’s been so far for everyone here at Highlander Tour. We’ve seen great growth in overall number of young players playing in their first junior competition events and so many of our regular HJT players are now playing in more events with us, and other junior tours, than ever before. These are great signs for the continuing advancement and development of the junior game here in Central Florida and we are very proud to play a small part in that!
When we look closely at those things we are starting to feel that the percentage of young players who are gradually learning that the ONLY proven way to real improvement is by having a good practice regime and coupling this with regular, year round tournament play. There really is NO other way to be the very best you can be on the golf course, there are NO shortcuts to finding the improvement that you are seeking, the ONLY way to get better is as simple as that and it’s all in your own hands!
We are very lucky to be in the position we are where we can see these effects in action every time we host a tournament. We can see improvement taking place all around us, from the player at the top of his/her game who’s aim is maybe to improve ball striking or sharpen up on the greens, or the player who last year struggled to break 100 and this year has a target of regularly breaking 80!
Whatever their individual target may be, for each of them their improvement has only been possible through their own desire to succeed and their personal commitment to do what’s required to get there! Don’t get me wrong on this, it’s far from easy, golf is TOUGH as we often say! It’s you versus the golf course and there’s nowhere to hide when you’re having a bad day! As we all know quite often the golf course is going to kick your “you know what” BUT the player who can shrug that off and come back even more committed than before to improve is the player who’s learning and improving!
We were involved recently in a conversation with a parent whose youngster is showing great promise. He mentioned that although he has done well and scores have dropped significantly over the last year he’s been frustrated and really needs time away from playing to allow him to focus on how best to achieve his next BIG goal which, incidentally happens to be breaking 80,regularly.
Unfortunately though, what he’s now realized, is that by taking a couple of months away from competition the opposite has now occurred and his frustrations now center around the fact that he feels like he’s having to re-learn many of the good habits he had while he was improving as now his scores have become really inconsistent once again!
Golf IS tough BUT the only way to improve when in a slump or if things don’t feel right out there is unfortunately not LESS golf, it’s MORE golf! My original point in all of this still stands, we are very thankful for the players we have who understand this is the case and we have huge admiration for how each of them continually comes back stronger and ready to go again!
On Saturday once again we added yet another new venue to our ever increasing rota of great championship venues to play. As many of you know in order to keep getting better at what we do and in order to grow we need to be offering new experiences to our players. We remain based here close to The Villages and we try really hard to balance tournament venues evenly between our regular local places here and others we play a little further South. We do want as many of our local players to enjoy new experiences with us too so when seeking out new venues we do try to ensure most are an hour or less from us.
Eagle Creek GC in Orlando fits that profile really well. It’s an exceptional golf course with a great reputation for hosting tournament golf. It’s in very good shape right now and so many of our players and parents commented on that. Thank you to Mike Morancy the GM at Eagle Creek and your staff for giving us such a great first experience.
We had a great turnout of players for this one and as usual we also had the opportunity to welcome a couple of new players making their Highlander Tour debuts. Welcome to Sean McMullen (Lyman HS) and Herschel Butts (Winter Garden) We hope you enjoyed the experience and we look forward to seeing both of you back with us again soon!
We will begin our results round up as always with our elite player flight which is exclusively for players of all ages who have successfully achieved 3 or more player flight medal wins during the current season. When this has been achieved they then advance to play for the remainder of that season in:
The Claret Jug Flight
We always say it’s tough to win a player flight. There is no question that’s the case however it is arguably tougher still to win a Claret Jug Flight when that player flight contains players who have shown they are all multi medal winners and in this collectively won almost 20 flight winner medals to gain promotion into the Claret Jug Flight!
Usually it takes a very strong player and a low score to record the flight low score and this one was no different! In the end it was down to two of our Claret Jug competitors who made it a close run thing and perhaps, not surprisingly, the players in question were both of our 2021 Major Championship Winners!
12 year old Riley Sillaway (Longwood) recently picked up the honor of being named our first TCL Junior Open Champion of 2021 in our inaugural event at Glenview Champions in The Villages. Riley closed out that championship with an impressive 2 day total of 142.
13 year old Bella Dovhey (Orlando) was our first Major Winner of 2021 earlier this year when she triumphed in our inaugural Highlander Masters Tournament over a strong field at Eagle Ridge GC. Bella posted an exceptional two day total of only 140 to become our lowest scoring Major Tournament winner since we began Highlander Tour.
They are both winners who share so many great qualities for players so young! They are both hugely committed to their chosen sport and they each have a strong desire to compete at the very highest level. We are very proud to have them both competing on Highlander Tour!
It was always going to be about small margins when it came to scoring this one. Bella’s game is all about consistency. She makes par, keeps errors to a minimum and knows by doing so opportunities will present themselves. Her front 9 was all about the above. An early birdie at two, a bogey at five and par made for seven of the opening nine holes saw her record a level par 36.
Riley adopts exactly the same approach to tournament play. First five holes negotiated safely in par and his first birdie of the day came along at number six. unfortunately 3 shots dropped over the next two holes resulted in a +2(38) after nine to place Riley two back of Bella at the halfway point.
Two back at the turn is not usually much to separate two players. We all know things can change quickly in golf however when you are trying to pull shots back on a player as experienced as Bella the job becomes that bit tougher!
If there is a single thing that differentiates these two it’s possibly the fact that the additional tournament experience that Bella has gained works to her advantage. Although only a shade older than Riley she has vast experience of closing out tournaments and focusing really well only on what’s in front of her! Riley can occasionally appear to dwell on a previous error and possibly this hinders his ability to get right back to positive thoughts only BUT let’s not forget these are two young players still learning so much about themselves and about the game!
Riley did drop a shot at 10 however immediately following this one he played some exceptional golf over the remaining holes with no fewer than 3 additional birdies at 13,16 and he even got one the tough finishing island hole at 18! That resulted in some red figures for Riley with a closing back nine of -1(36) and a 38-36-74 for the day.
To try to put some perspective into this let me begin by saying Bella Dovhey is undoubtedly a force to be reckoned with in junior golf. Quiet, though not quite as quiet as she used to be when we first met her, and with an inner confidence about her own game that you seldom see from kids in her age group. Bella is never anything but gracious and humble and she is a huge credit to her family. She’s also a wonderful role model to other junior players who are hopeful that they may one day play the game in a similar manner! I may be wrong here but I suspect when she plays she becomes so focused on her game that she may not be a “scoreboard checker” like many others!
On Saturday once again she did what we’ve all come to expect. A flawless back nine of seven pars and two birdies! After that single shot error we mentioned earlier back on number five Bella played the remainder of the round, all 13 holes, at -2! That’s what her final scorecard reads -2 36-35-71.
It was strong enough to take the Claret Jug Flight medal by three strokes and by doing so it takes Bella to joint top of our player “medals won” leaderboard with 6 wins for the 2021 HJT season so far!
Well done to both Riley and Bella for providing us all with the opportunity to watch some fantastic junior golf and congratulations to Bella on another outstanding round and another medal win!
Apologies to all for the image quality of our medalist pics. No one is really sure what went wrong there! We WILL do better next time!
The Old Tom Morris Flight:
Our 16/18’s in this one and from early on it looked like lowest scorer in this very competitive group was going to be either one of our very familiar rising stars of the 2021 season Trenton Waters(Montverde), EJ Maupin(Lyman HS) or the young man from Melbourne who was returning to play on his first HJT event in some time, Cody Royston.
Over the last few weeks both Trenton and EJ have picked up medal wins in this flight or been very close to doing so. We strongly believe 2021 season is going to be important for both of these young men who are so similar in game, attitude and even personality!
It was really great to welcome Cody back to our tour too! He’s a hardworking player with a very strong game and it now very much looks like he’s gained a little more yardage off the tee and an even more well rounded overall game since we last met!
EJ was first to push ahead in this group with a front nine showing of +3(39) the irony here is apart from one hole on that stretch, number 4, it was EJ at his consistent shot making best! Not exactly sure what occurred ther but EJ made par on everything but that hole where he, uncharacteristically, dropped 3 shots! Despite that setback he was still our front runner after nine by a couple of strokes.
Trenton won this flight last time out and he was hoping to make it a double win. Like EJ he strives for that consistency that starts by making par everywhere you can! If you can’t do that the next best thing is to keep errors/shots dropped to single shot losses. Trenton struggled to find a rhythm to his game early on but didn’t lose sight of the lead either as he did manage to keep those error numbers to a minimum, he would however have been disappointed and hoping for a better closing nine. Trenton carded a +5(41) for the front nine.
Cody is the first to say he looks forward to hopefully playing more tournament golf. His game is strong already but he knows he can play even better than this. Like Trenton he struggled to achieve consistency early on in this one though he did make par on 3 of those opening holes and enjoy a welcome birdie too on number 8! Cody also carded a +5(41) for those opening nine holes.
Unfortunately for Trenton his day was going to continue in the same way. He never stops giving 100% and working hard but some days it’s easier to find your way to consistency than others, this one was frustrating for him with shots dropped on each of the opening holes of the back nine of Eagle Creek. When things did finally turn in his favor he was back to his solid best and all four of the final holes were made in par, good to finish strong but unfortunately just a little too late to challenge for the honors in this one. Trenton finished overall 41-42-(83). A tough day but we know him well enough to know he can quickly put this one behind him and get back quickly to his usual low scoring best!
EJ’s back nine afternoon was going to prove similarly frustrating! It started well enough with par at 10 but dropped shots at 11 and 12 were costly. Just like Trenton, EJ has shown us so much of his character this season and he’s becoming more resilient to the fact that not everything is going to go your way, he’s coping better with the setbacks and he’s experienced enough to understand the only way to improvement is to play your way through the painful stuff in order to get to the good stuff once again. EJ can take the positive out of finishing strongly by making par on both of the Eagle Creek tough closing holes. He closed out a frustrating day where most of his best was achieved early by carding a 39-43-(82)
Cody was determined to better that front nine total and get himself back into contention at Eagle Creek. He did exactly that and he did it by playing his most consistent golf of the day over those closing holes. Here’s that word “consistency” once again, Cody made no fewer than seven pars on that back nine and although it wasn’t perfect the only setbacks he had were both kept respectable being nothing worse than single shot errors. That improvement allowed him to card an overall 41-39-(80) overall. On this occasion that was enough to take The Old Tom Morris Flight medal by 2 strokes from EJ Maupin.
Well done to all who were competing in this one and congratulations to Cody from everyone at Highlander Tour. That was an impressive finish! Well done young man!
The Young Tommy Morris Flight:
Our 13/15 year old’s competing in this one and once again based on early play it was clear that lowest scorer today was going to come from one of three players.
Reagan Chaires (Lake Mary) made his Highlander Tour competition debut only recently with us. We could not be any more delighted to see that his personality is coming out stronger in every event he plays, his confidence is growing and as a result, and allied to a very capable game, his scores are improving considerably! Reagan is a great kid who we think is still finding ways to be the best he can be out there. It’s early days but he already looks more confident and relaxed and what a great start he’s made already in tournament golf!
As he plays and experiences more of the highs, and the lows, tournament golf brings that ongoing improvement in confidence he will gain is going to be a huge factor in his enjoyment of a sport he clearly loves to play!
Reagan played the front nine of Eagle Creek like an experienced tournament veteran! He secured par on no fewer than six occasions, added a birdie at nine and even the dropped shot holes were nothing worse than bogey! At the turn he would lead the flight having carded a +1(37). That was very impressive Reagan, well played!
Jason Kaiser Jr. (Circle Christian School) has already been a winner on our tour earlier this year at Red Tail GC. Since then it’s fair to say that his game has had more setbacks than most. We don’t see as much of Jason as we’d like to at our tournament events but what we do know is that he’s an experienced and talented tournament player and he’s as committed to finding his way back to his best form as anyone we know!
On Saturday, we were delighted to welcome back the Jason Kaiser Jr we all know as he showed huge signs, especially on that tough front nine of Eagle Creek, that his hard work is beginning to pay off! Jason played great and found strong consistency in his game over those opening holes shooting par on no fewer than eight of the nine opening holes to record a +2(38) and stay close to the top of the leaderboard! Great work Jason!
Our third early medalist contender is another young player we wish we could see play more often in our tournament events. She’s a hugely talented and improving young lady golfer with very few flaws in her overall game. Ann Burel (East River HS) is a joy to watch play! Tall, and gracefully athletic, Ann has always demonstrated an ability to do what is now required of all, male and female, players hoping for a future career in golf at some stage, she hits the ball long and accurate off the tee! Pleasingly too though she also matches that with a good short game and a fine touch around the greens.
Ann too is a very experienced tournament player who has a good temperament and understands the need to work your way through any setbacks that might come along. She started this one well making par on six of the first seven holes and giving back just one shot at number two. Eight and Nine proved tricky and each resulted in single dropped shots however they didn’t prove too costly and Ann remained in a good spot just one off the leader after nine carding a +3 (39)
Going into hole ten this one was going to be decided by which of our three challengers could keep their early consistency going.
Jason was first to find the back nine tougher to negotiate than the front. Despite a couple of real setback holes that were tough to come back from, one in particular on 18, Jason should still feel positive overall about his day at Eagle Creek. Despite finishing overall 38-45-(83) he showed so much of the attitude and ability we all know he has early on he has to take that as a huge positive sign that he’s close to getting back to where he wants to be!
Reagan’s closing nine holes told a broadly similar story to Jason’s. A bogey at ten was quickly cancelled out with a very nice birdie at 11. Twelve saw him give a couple of shots back but it did allow us a glimpse of his spirit to work hard and push through after a setback as he made par on the following two holes however a tough finishing stretch and a disappointing final hole would eventually see him end the day with a 37-44-(81). Reagan should be EXTREMELY proud of himself after this one. He played the best golf we have seen from him so far, showed great character to deal with setbacks and overall seemed both relaxed and confident! Great job Reagan, we are very proud of the effort you showed today!
In situations where you’re close to the tournament leaderboard the experience you have gained will always tell you that you just need to keep playing to the same standard of consistency you have shown to get there in the first place.
Ann Burel has the ability and the belief in her own game to do just that! It wasn’t all smooth sailing but in tournament golf it seldom is! How many times do we say this, make par, keep errors to a minimum and take advantage of opportunities to make birdies? Well, Ann did ALL of those! She made par on six of the closing nine, made nothing worse than bogey on a couple of holes early on and even cancelled one of those out with a great birdie putt on 17 too! Ann closed out a good day at Eagle Creek and captured medal win number two on our tour this year taking The Young Tommy Morris Flight Winner honor with a 39-38-(77)
Great job everyone and Congratulations to Ann from everyone at Highlander Tour on a very well deserved flight win!
The Bobby Jones Flight:
Our youngest players in this one ranging in age from 8 to 11 years old who all play from the tee box most relevant to their age.
Before we give you the lowdown on how this final group went we first wish to give you a little background info. Eagle Creek GC is a great championship venue. It’s a challenging layout and a good design however its fair to say it’s not blessed with a huge variety of tee boxes suitable for our smallest and youngest competitors!
This means of course that the golf course would play long and ultimately even more challenging for our ten and eleven year old young guns however when one of them is only eight years old it was an initial concern we had over how he might cope. Add to that the fact that the young man in question Herschel Butts (Winter Park) was unknown to us before today and making his Highlander Tour debut and you can possibly understand our concerns!
Over the course of this one, and as the day unfolded, it became crystal clear that we need not have worried! Herschel Butts is a fine young player, he’s clearly already an experienced young tournament competitor and he’s more than capable of taking on this kind of challenge!
Herschel was challenged most of the way on this one by our two time medal winning regular Highlander player Rhett Kirkland (Oxford) who was keen to try to secure his third win and promotion to play as a Claret Jug Flight player for the remainder of the 2021 Season.
It was Herschel who made the best early start in this one by making par on 3 of the opening nine holes and keeping all his dropped shots to a single shot minimum. After 9 he had carded an impressive +6(42). Under the circumstances and given the degree of difficulty of both the golf course and the yardage that’s an exceptional nine holes of golf. Well done Herschel!
Rhett was keeping close. His own start was a little patchy by his own high standards and making par was proving quite elusive! He did find par on a couple of occasions though and most of his errors, apart from one, were kept to a minimu. Rhett recorded a front nine of +9(45)
Unfortunately for Rhett finding his best form over the afternoon at Eagle Creek was not going to be easy! The back nine followed a similar pattern to the front and resulted in a 45-47-(92) overall. Not his best and while he was disappointed he knows even at this stage the best way to fix a disappointing day on the golf course is to practice hard and get right back out there again. Rhett has all the experience needed to know that and we fully expect him to shrug this one off quickly!
Herschel did a good job on the closing holes. It wasn’t as strong as the front nine but he did find par on two holes and with the exception of holes 12 and 14 he kept his dropped shots on the closing stretch respectable too! The intrepid young man from Winter Park made it a quite amazing, under the circumstances, debut Highlander Tour medal win carding a 42-46-(88).
Very well done Herschel! Congratulations on a very well deserved medal win from everyone at Highlander Junior Tour. We all really hope you enjoyed the experience of playing with us and we look forward to seeing you again really soon!
So that almost rounds things off for another great tournament event. Just before we sign off we can tell you about another couple of awards made on Saturday at Eagle Creek.
Nearest the pin shot of the day award:
The winner of this one played an exquisite and well measured iron to 3 feet from the cup, we were delighted to present this award to: Cody Royston (Melbourne)
Good job Cody. Great shot! Enjoy your HJT branded Tervis insulated water bottle prize!
The 100th Highlander Tour Medal of 2021 Award:
Just prior to today’s event we realized that we had presented 99 flight winner medals in 2021 season so far. To make things as fair as possible we gave each of today’s medal winning players a number between one and four. We then asked Mr Allen Kirkland to randomly call out one of these numbers, Allen chose number 3.
Our 100th Highlander Tour Medal therefore was the one presented to Herschel Butts who also received an additional prize of a voucher to spend at any Edwin Watts Golf Shop. Well done again Herschel!
Thank you to everyone who attended this one. We appreciate your support and we hope you enjoyed the day at Eagle Creek GC as much as we did! It’s a venue we will definitely be adding to our rota!
Next up for us it’s tournament number 31 of our 2021 season. On Saturday September 11th we will return to a favorite venue of so many of our players. Harbor Hills Country Club is always in great shape and it’s without doubt one of the best tournament venues in Florida! It’s also just been announced as a host venue for several of the FHSAA (Florida High School ) District Tournament venues!
We hope you can join us for this 18-hole junior tournament event ranked by GJGR (Global Junior Golf Rankings) Registration is open now and this one is selling well so don’t delay in signing up NOW by clicking the weblink HERE to register and for more info.
See you all at Harbor Hills!