At Royal Highlands
As we head rapidly towards the end of our busiest junior golf season yet, yes I know we’ve only had two, but this one has been by far the busiest! By the end of 2021 we will have succeeded in our aim to play 40 days of junior tournament golf and we will have welcomed more than 1000 player entries to our events which have been held at 17 different venues this year, 8 of them being completely new debut venues on our rota.
The Monarch at Royal Highlands in Leesburg is part of a huge 55+ community and it’s fair to say they LOVE their golf about as much as we do! A recent management change led Head Professional Luis Colon, a fine gentleman and a huge friend of our tour from his days at Mission Inn, to recently take up a new role at the Monarch. At that point for us it was a real no brainer to go and check the place out and discuss the possibility we could play there with our group.
Luis was immediately open to the idea of us coming but, like many community owned venues, he did have to seek approval from the resident committee. This was immediately granted and, in the process, we found out that up to this point NO junior tour has ever been granted access to play The Monarch so not only were we able to offer this experience we, and you, effectively became pioneers in bringing junior golf tournaments to what is an exceptionally good venue to play!
If you were with us for this one, I do hope that you will agree with our take on this one. We have just written to Luis and his residents and expressed our gratitude for the welcome we received as we firmly believe that no other venue, we have visited this year opened their doors in a more welcoming way than they did at The Monarch! The staff were great but the members we spoke to were awesome! Every single one of them we spoke with commented on how excited they were to see juniors playing their course, they could not have been more supportive from the minute we arrived and as a result I am sure we will return here again in the not-too-distant future!
Luis is an exceptional supporter of junior golf and we hope we can build on the relationship we have already established. On Saturday we took the opportunity to do what we always do when playing at a new venue and we presented Luis with our Certificate of Recognition for their support of junior tournament golf and Highlander Tour.
This was tournament 37 so far and as usual our players were grouped into age-based player flights, with the exception of our elite Claret Jug Flight for all-age players who have won 3 or more times already during this season. We also had the opportunity to welcome three new players to this one too, joining us for their Highlander Tour debut were Will Larson (Sorrento) Gavin Hritzik (The Villages) and Charlie Gilgenkrantz (Brighton, UK)
As we were also approaching the thanksgiving holiday season, we also had the opportunity to invite along a couple of our senior/alumni players to join us and notably, but NOT surprisingly, the first name to sign up was our very own Champion Golfer of 2020 Nick Zarillo who was home on break from college and looking for a game.
Alongside Nick we welcomed his SEU (South Eastern University) golf team mate Charlie Gilgenkrantz. Charlie is a proud Englishman all the way from Brighton in the UK and he now holds the distinction of being our farthest travelled Highlander Tour player, and just like Nick, Charlie is a very fine player indeed! We will kick off our results with our Alumni Seniors.
The Highlander Alumni Flight
I think this one may have been more about a couple of really good friends (Nick and Charlie) having a good afternoon of golf together than serious competitive golf but nonetheless there was some fine golf on display from both of these guys! It was also really great to see once more Nick and (caddie-dad) Darren back walking the fairways together.
So many of our best memories of tournaments throughout 2020 and the early part of 2021 involved Nick and Darren Zarillo and that only makes it even more special for us when they can revisit and recreate those great dad and son times together! Golf is FAMILY!
Please take note all of you tournament attending moms and dads, create and cherish those great family memories with your golfing kids NOW as time moves fast and, before you know it, those weekends will look a lot different when they move on to the next stage in their golf journey!
Charlie (our furthest travelled Highlander) took the medal on his debut with a very respectable 75 which included a couple of birdies. By doing so he also earned the distinction of being our first British medalist ! Good job Charlie, well done. It was great to welcome you to our tournament and we hope to see you again at some point in the future.
The Claret Jug Flight
When we first established the Claret Jug Flight our intention was always to ensure that our most consistent medal winning players would remain feeling challenged at every event they play by ensuring they would always be up against only the best players in the field.
Typically a medal win is seldom achieved in this top flight of players without someone shooting a very low score and this works very well for us. At this stage we are extremely lucky to have almost 20 Claret Jug Flight players and, depending on who’s in each field for each event, there is no doubt that the majority of them can win on any given week.
In competitive tournament golf there are always special players, always have been and hopefully, there always will be! These are the players that we ALL need, they are special because they can often make golf look easier than it is. They are players capable of consistently winning and they are great role models for others to learn from and improve, often by just playing with them!
On Saturday we were lucky enough to see two such players both playing at a level that few others we know of can match and what a treat it was!
Bella Dovhey (Orlando) is a hugely talented young lady who shows a dedication and commitment to the sport she loves which seems way beyond her 14 years. Behind her is an awe-inspiring list of golf achievements already and, in front of her, is surely a golf future that can be whatever she wants it to be! Bella’s a free spirit on the golf course, a natural player who’s clearly not being held back by worrying about swing thoughts and complex pre-shot routine, she plays aggressively when she has to and she always wants the win! We are always excited to catch up with Bella and her family when she’s with us and witness first hand her continuing development.
Gabriel Hull (Spruce Creek HS) made our Claret Jug Flight early in the year and since then he’s enjoyed some strong tournament and High School golf successes. Recently returning to us it’s very clear that this continues to be a great season for improvement for the 14-year-old youngster from South Daytona. Gabriel has returned to us as a much stronger and more experienced young player with few flaws, if any, in an overall game that is just great to watch and this was a day where he really showed everyone watching just how good he can be!
Both of the above shared in common several things on Saturday, they both played great and went low and they were the only players to put (under par) RED on our scoreboard. Anyone who’s ever been to a Highlander Tour event will know just how much we love to see red scores on our board!
It was Bella who finished first becoming clubhouse leader having carded a seriously impressive 35-34-69 There were many highlights in this one including no fewer than 4 birdies in what was an almost blemish free round of competition golf. Great job Bella!
Gabriel was performing at the same high level. His ball striking right now is awesome and short game scoring accuracy is as good as we’ve ever seen from him. His front nine was closed off in strong fashion with a two birdie (-1) 35. What was to come though was even better! Birdie number three arrived at 10 and on the tee at 14 he gave us all a reminder of how good this game can be when a young and very much in form player shows supreme belief in his ability and confidently strikes the golf ball, another birdie at 14 was followed by another at 15 and ANOTHER at 16 to make it a six-birdie round that would put Gabriel right up there on the leaderboard needing only a par-par finish for a season best tournament score of 68.
During these moments, and we’ve seen many this year, composure and confidence is everything. Gabriel knows at this stage what’s needed and for some players you often wish they didn’t however one thing we do know about Gabriel is he’s never going to be a player who chases a result, he wants the win and he’s learned that in this form, you don’t get it by changing how you play, if he was nervous he certainly didn’t show it and that’s a great sign of an emerging top talent. The rest of us watching however, definitely WERE!
Gabriel did his job. He finished PAR-PAR. His scorecard reads all red and, 35-33-68.
What an amazing day of golf. We certainly were fortunate to be able to witness this one as two of the best went to work and gave their best over The Monarch Course. As we wrote up the scores Luis Colon and his members were, not surprisingly, in some disbelief as they looked at what these two young talents had achieved on their golf course!
Well done Bella! Another fantastic round of golf and we are very much looking forward to seeing you and your family back with us again soon. Perhaps it’s time to add a unique Claret Jug Trophy to your trophy cabinet ?
Congratulations Gabriel, THAT was very special indeed! Last week Gabriel only lost out on a big win with us at Mission Inn after a putt-off in the darkness at Mission Inn! This one is ALL yours! great golf and we know you now have your eyes on lifting a Claret Jug Trophy at our season ending event in December, you will certainly be one of our strong favorites for that event !
The Old Tom Morris Flight
Our 15- to 17-year-old boys and girls in this one and it too proved to be really exciting with no fewer than 3 of our boys in the reckoning for the lowest score medal win.
The front nine opening holes for Jason Kaiser Jr. would see him play some of the best golf we have seen from him this year! Jason is a real talent who works extremely hard to keep improving and developing his game and, after a few tournament events where he’s been in contention and then fallen away, today was already looking to be a little different for the Circle Christian youngster.
Jason is a highly focused and driven young golfer. He’s a thinker around the golf course and very deliberate about what’s ahead of him, it might be club choice, shot type, landing spot …whatever it is Jason is going to really think it through before he executes the shot. That’s a very good trait to have as a junior player however the negative side of that is typically players who put so much thought in occasionally have to vent their frustration when things go wrong and that can stay with them for a few holes longer than it should. One thing is for sure though, Jason is a fine young player and today he was showing us the best of what he has!
At the halfway point Jason led the field. His +1(37) included two birdies, four pars and dropped shots were kept to a minimum with nothing worse than bogey. That’s impressive stuff.
Aidan Martinez (Lake Mary) is similar in style to Jason. He has not played with us for long but each time we watch him play we see another fine talent and a strong player capable of consistently shooting lower than he has been showing of late. Today things really turned for the better and we saw him consistently hitting greens and minimizing errors. Aidan shot +2(38) on those early nine holes, helped along the way with birdie at number 3 and par made on five of those opening holes, errors made were nothing worse than bogey. That’s the kind of golf that he’s capable of and Aiden would be keen to keep that going as he headed to number ten!
Will Larson (Circle Christian School) was making his Highlander Tour debut appearance. Clearly Will is another very strong player with a lot of tournament experience behind him. He’s a powerful player who’s consistent from tee to green and on the rare occasion where we saw him hit anything off line he has a great range of recovery shots that brought him right back into play again. Will shot a +3(39) which included birdie at 4 to stay within 2 shots of leader Gabriel at the halfway stage.
Aidan continued playing to a very high standard throughout the day. The closing nine holes gave him a +3(39) making no fewer than 7 pars, 5 of them in straight succession to finish strong. The only real blip was a costly double bogey on 13 that would have a bearing on how he was eventually placed in this one. Aidan finished the day with a 38-39-77. A really good performance and one he will hopefully gain a lot of confidence from. This would be enough to place Aidan third in his player flight. Good job Aiden, well done!
Jason Kaiser continued his early run of form through the back nine holes. Birdie opportunities were limited but making par consistently keeps you high on leaderboards in tournaments and Jason did this on five occasions on those last holes. Just as important was the fact he kept dropped shots to nothing worse than bogey. When his putt on 18 dropped he had secured a 37-39-76 to tie for top spot with Will Larson.
In rapidly diminishing light both players prepared for a sudden death play-off and headed down number one in an attempt to finally get us a medal winner.
Play-offs are a necessary evil of tournament golf. There are lots of ways to decide who the rightful winner is including complicated countbacks which determine a winner based on who played best over certain holes and some tournament committees, believe it or not, still favor the tossing of a coin to settle things. Our logic is simple, if a tied match can be fairly settled on the golf course with a club in your hand it’s as fair as it gets! It relies on a player being a player and using the skills he or she has to affect the final outcome!
On this occasion it was over when Jason Kaiser Jr. made par and Will could only bogey the hole. As expected, of two fine young sportsmen who practice great golf etiquette, there was a warm handshake exchanged between them on this, the 19th green!
Very well done from all of us to both players. Will played a lot of very fine golf and we do hope you will join us again at future tournaments. for Jason it was time to celebrate a medal win he had waited, and worked hard for, for almost 10 months of the year, his last win being back in January at Red Tail GC. It was very well-deserved Jason, well done! We hope that this provides the confidence boost needed to keep you back where you deserve to be, performing consistently and challenging for honors regularly!
I know this report is about our players however please bear in mind that junior golf is all about family’s sharing experiences together and it would be wrong of me not to mention Jason’s biggest and proudest supporter, Jessica, his mum. Jessica is there at every tournament, walking at a respectable distance, alongside her boy and she goes through EVERY human emotion possible in doing so! I’m sure Jason would want it no other way and we are sure he would agree, that one was for YOU mum!
Jason Kaiser Jr. is our old Tom Morris Flight Winner and medalist. Congratulations from us all!
The Young Tommy Morris Flight
This flight contained our 14’s and under age group of players. There are always strong players in this age group in contention, though on this occasion, The Monarch proved to be too tough for most, with the exception of one 14-year-old talent, Tyler Budill (The Villages), who’s carving out a real name for himself this year as a rapidly developing and very focussed young golfer.
Tyler has played with us for more than a year. From our very first meeting it was clear he is a great young man. He’s respectful and humble and he has worked his socks off to improve his all-round game and develop his skills this season. Those of us from within Highlander Tour who know him and his family well could not possibly be any happier to now see Tyler’s hard work beginning to pay off with strong golf and more consistency becoming very obvious in his overall play.
We are very lucky indeed to have so many talented young players around our tour and as things stand Tyler Budill could possibly already be our most improved player of 2021!
Birdies on 5 and 6 were highlights of Tyler’s front nine alongside par on 4 of those holes. He made very few errors and kept his composure well to record a +2(38) on those opening holes. On the back nine it was a similar story with a birdie at 16 making it 3 for the day and par safely reached on five of those closing holes too. That was some of the best golf we’ve seen from the young man from The Villages!
After 18 Tyler’s scorecard showed a very impressive 38-39-77 and it was time to celebrate his second Highlander Tour medal win of season 2021. Very well done Tyler! This has been a great year of solid development and all we can ask for is more of the same. Keep working hard with your coach Dave Sherman in The Villages, and good things will keep happening for you. We are all delighted for you and your family to see you picking up these very well deserved awards. Congratulations from us all!
The Player Scores
Shot of The Day- Nearest the pin Award
It was Bella Dovhey who took the prize ($25 Edwin Watts Golf Store Giftcard) in this one. Great shot Bella, well done and YES of course she made the birdie!
And so that wraps up another one. What a great day, a new venue, a great welcome and lots of support for our junior players and some exceptional golf played by so many. Special recognition goes to Bella Dovhey and Gabriel Hull who shot 69 and 68 respectively. Fantastic golf !
Next up for us we are heading back to our “home” venue of Eagle Ridge GC in Summerfield next week and then it’s back to preparation for our biggest event of the year so far. The Highlander Tour Triple Claret Jug Trophy Championship and our Golfer of the Year Awards will be played out over 36 holes at the Villages Premier Championship venue – Glenview Champions. If you’ve played in 8 events with us this year and you are a paid up HJT Annual Member player you could be joining us and taking home one of our unique Claret Jug Trophies on December 12th!
Registration for this event and full info is available now by clicking HERE
Thank you to our sponsors Todd and Melissa Coon of TCL (Tri-County Landscapes) for your support of our events. More info on TCL by clicking HERE