The Highlander Tour 36-hole Mission Inn Challenge Championship 2021

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This was our inaugural Highlander Tour 36-hole Mission Inn Challenge and our initial thinking was pretty simple on this one. Our aim was to provide junior players with as many choices as we could over one great weekend of golf at Florida’s Premier Junior Championship Venue – The incomparable Mission Inn Resort at Howey-in the Hills.

On Saturday we had Las Colinas course available to us and on Sunday the tougher, at times exceptionally difficult, El Campeon course!

Players had the choice of playing either course and competing in a single day 18-hole GJGR ranked tournament event or signing up for both and playing what we’ve called The Highlander Tour Mission Inn Challenge over 36 holes and over both days.

For some players who joined us their reason for playing was a simple one. Mission Inn Resort has hosted the FHSAA (Florida High School Athletics Association) State Golf Championships for both boys and girls at this venue for the past 9 years and the 2021 Championships would begin here in only a few days’ time. Our tournament events would prove, hopefully, very useful to many of our entrants who would return here to play in “States” as it would give them an opportunity to play the venue in advance AND keep them competitively sharp and ready for what lies ahead.

Over the last few reports in this series which you can find on our website under Latest News you will see who picked up the awards on both days of our 18-hole events. The final question that remained unanswered of course is WHO took the biggest prize of all and became the 2021 Highlander Tour Mission Inn Challenge Champion?

 

Standings after Day 1:

With the exception of Braden Hawkins and Ann Burel all of the top 10 players in the above group were playing both days. As you can see the top 5 are bunched together well and within only 3 shots of each other. Knowing those 5 as we do it was certainly our expectation that our Champion would come from that top 5 but who would handle the pressure of El Campeon best and come out on top.

Despite others challenging throughout the day it was Gabriel Hull (Spruce Creek HS) and Elle Folland (The Villages) who were neck and neck all day long. Gabriel had led from day one by one stroke only and he’s playing some of the very best golf we have seen from any player this year right now.

Elle however knows only too well how to think her way around a golf course and when she’s playing well and focused on the prize she is a real force. She also has vast tournament experience on her side and the knowledge of both of these Mission Inn courses. Elle’s front nine hit a bump in the road early on number 4 with that one bad hole denting an otherwise excellent start but immediately after that she really made her mark by closing off the rest of the front nine in only +1.

-Elle’s turnaround in fortune was SO good that she played all 13 of the remaining holes in level par hitting no fewer than 3 birdies along the way. a scorecard that finished 41-37-78 was impressive indeed. Elle’s combined two-day total was 78-78-156. Well played Elle!

Gabriel, playing later in the day played his most impressive golf early on. Birdies at number 1,6 and again at 9 were important. Gabriel shot a +2(37) over those early 9 holes and this ensured he  remained right up there alongside Elle.

The back nine followed a similar pattern and on reaching the 17th tee Gabriel had edged ahead by a couple of strokes. A par – bogey finish would have been enough but unfortunately we all know only too well how quickly golf can delight and disappoint, a bogey followed by a double bogey gave Gabriel a final round 37-42-79 and a two-day total of…..77-79-156.

Ladies and Gentlemen after two days and 36 holes of great junior tournament golf we have a tied tournament with both players on 156 strokes overall!

The player scores are shown below:

 

Earlier I believe I had mentioned the issues we face at this time of year as daylight disappears fast and the prospect of an on-course sudden death play-off was already a non-starter as darkness had rapidly descended upon us.

I am a believer however that we should always seek out a way of settling these tied matches in a way that relies on your skill as a player. Alternatives like a toss of a coin rely purely on luck and while luck is needed in our game so too is skill, nerve and character and so it was off to the illuminated putting green at Mission Inn to settle this one between two exceptional young players!

It did seem like ages and it always does seem a little bit bittersweet when it ends but end it did as with the inevitable sound of a ball dropping into the hole and a sporting handshake between players. It was Elle who made the final putt drop and therefore Ms. Elle Folland became The Highlander Tour Mission Inn Challenge Champion of 2021.

Well done to Gabriel! As I said earlier I believe you are playing some of the finest golf I have seen all year long from any player and with another big Championship coming up in December I expect you to be one of the strong favorites to grab yourself a Claret Jug Trophy.

This one belongs to Elle who has secured 6 medal wins this year on our tour and now a 36-hole win too over two of the toughest venues in junior golf. It’s great to see you playing so well and enjoying your golf in what is a hugely important senior year, all of us who have been a part of your golf journey over the last few years are immensely proud of the player, and young adult you have become! Congratulations Elle!

We played through darkness but in the end it was worth it… well done to our Mission Inn Challenge Champion of 2021 – Elle Folland!

What a great weekend it was. 26 junior golfers over two fine days of golf at a venue we love. Thank you, players, parents, spectators and supporters. Thank you too to TCL as always for your support and to Mission Inn for maintaining such a great facility and the wonderful welcome we always receive.

See you all soon everyone

Keith

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