It’s always nice to return to Eagle Ridge GC. It’s a good venue for us where we get our choice of which two 9-hole layouts to play, course conditions are always good and the GM at Eagle Ridge (Dale Smauder) and his team have been our strongest supporters since we began HJT.
It’s usual that we take this opportunity to welcome new players to HJT and at Eagle Ridge GC we had two new faces. Braden Hawkins (Clermont) and Logan Foxx (Legacy Club @Alacqua Lakes) joined us. Welcome to HJT to you both. We hope you felt welcome and we enjoyed having you along and watching you play. We hope to see you back with us again soon.
On Saturday our golfers took on Champions and Heritage and before we begin with individual results by flight it’s worth noting just how strong the players scores were overall in this one.
The first thing to point out here is that we do NOT want to ever get overly hung up just on player scores! In a golfer’s development it is of course only natural that they use scores as an improvement marker and in many cases the targets they set themselves often revolve around reducing their competition scores. Occasionally though, and this is a good example, we do like to look at the whole field of players and give credit where it’s due.
At HJT we consider ourselves to be a Junior Development Tour. In essence what that means is we always want to ensure we retain our identity and reputation as a Junior Golf Tour that is welcoming to young golfers of varying abilities and age groups. We are very proud of the fact that we are not an Elite Tour seeking to find ONLY the very best players to play with us. We prefer to offer opportunities for all to come and experience junior competition golf.
It’s worth noting that what that has led to is a unique mix of strong and highly rated golfers who are already confident and very experienced competitors with a rapidly improving group of players who not so long ago took their first steps into junior competition golf and who now are showing very real and impressive improvements in their game, and in their levels of confidence!
We ALWAYS congratulate our winners and those at the top end of our board and rightly so, they are our group leaders and they set the benchmark standard for others, they ALL work hard and show a level of commitment to develop and improve and they richly deserve our congratulations. Today though we want to also congratulate those who are each working just as hard and who are every bit as committed as our medal winners to achieve their own targets.
Those targets might be to take a single stroke off their score each week or to reduce their number of putts, they might be seeking more short game accuracy or driving distance OR they might just be solely focused on feeling more confident in each competition they play in! Whatever your targets are we want to take this opportunity to say to everyone, WELL DONE on working as hard as you do and for not giving up on your own personal development plan.
To ALL of our golfers, a final word on that scoreboard below. Golf is a game of great friendship, integrity, fairplay and honesty. It is generally played by ladies and gentlemen of fine individual character and it’s YOUR job as a young player to ensure that legacy of our game continues. Take a moment to look through the scoreboard and if you’re lucky enough to be at the top end of it and regularly recording the lowest scores think back to the times when you were not. Keep doing the great job you do of being our leaders and our best examples of what can be achieved and wherever possible always make an extra effort to support and encourage all others when you play together, that’s a real example of what golf calls “fine individual character” and you’re never too young to possess it.
The Old Tom Morris Flight:(16-18)
In the early stages of this one it always looked likely that it was going to be either Elle Folland (The Villages HS) or Trenton Waters (Montverde) who would lead from the front. Most of the other challengers in this flight left themselves with too much to do after the front nine scores were posted.
We were delighted to welcome Trenton back to his first HJT this year and he’s clearly been practicing and playing hard in his time away from us. His front nine (40) would have looked even better if not for some misfortune on the Eagle Ridge greens. He did though give himself a chance to apply a bit of pressure to our leading player on the back nine if he could find some consistency as the margin was only one stroke.
Every week we highlight players for showing resilience and great character to hold things together after setbacks occur. Elle Folland is right up there as another great example of that. Elle is a very experienced competitor who is not foolish enough to believe EVERY shot and EVERY hole played is going to produce a perfect result…when it does that’s just perfect but more often golf is a game that requires mental strength and an inbuilt ability to deal with and then move on from the stuff that’s not just perfect!
A bogey at 1 was a wake up call which was handled well by steadying things and the next 3 holes she played to par. Two additional bogeys on that front 9 would test her character once more and again she would respond with 3 par holes. After 9 Elle had posted a respectable +3 (39), partly due to those errors being no worse than bogey but mainly due to her strength of character and ability to play consistent par golf to stay in the chase.
Trenton started the back 9 holes by finding some par consistency of his own however a run of 4 holes and 5 dropped shots in the middle put paid to his challenge for the top spot on this one, it is very much worth noting though that even after that lapse his own show of strength of character kicked in and the final 3 holes were all played to par. Well done Trenton on that resurgent and very tidy finish! Trenton finished 40-41-(81)
Elle had one more hurdle of her own to endure, a frustrating bogey at 10 to begin the back 9 holes would be the last time she had to deal with any negatives as the rest of her day and the remaining 8 holes would be textbook consistency as one by one a par score was achieved, her back 9 total of +1(37) was very impressive indeed and a reminder to all of us just how tough a competitor she can be.
Tough and hard working on the golf course and one of the most likeable and popular young players on our tour Elle finished 39-37-(76) to take the winners medal and she was warmly congratulated by both players and parents who are always happy to see her get the rewards for the effort and commitment she always displays.
Congratulations Elle from everyone at HJT. Very well done!
The Young Tommy Morris Flight:(13-15)
This flight was such a close run thing it could so easily have led us to yet another play off between two young players who both stood out for their extremely strong showings on Saturday at Eagle Ridge.
Braden Hawkins (Clermont) was playing with us for the first time and Luke Wood (Inverness) was with us for the first time this year following injury. We don’t yet know too much about Braden other than the fact he is very clearly an experienced and very talented young tournament player who displayed a great temperament and character during his first HJT tournament.
We do know Luke Wood. Luke, now aged 15, is one of the most experienced and successful junior competition golfers out there and its great to see him playing junior tournament golf regularly, looking strong and playing pretty well too!
The front 9 holes for both players were pretty even. Luke had to demonstrate his resilience and show his experience very early on after a bogeyed opening hole. He did so and the following stretch of holes were made in par-par-birdie to get him back on track. 3 further shots would be dropped and another two pars made on the way to a +4(40) at the turn.
Braden endured a similar early setback at the second, steadied things then also had a run of 3 holes where shots were dropped before recovering. After 9 Braden sat one behind Luke on +5(41). This encounter between these two talented players really was shaping up nicely and through the afternoon it could have gone either way as the lead changed on several occasions.
Luke’s only issue on the back 9 came early, at 10. An error allowed Braden in and now leading by a single stroke he was going to be difficult to remove from that spot as his first 5 holes on that back 9 were an impressive 3 par holes and two impressive birdies! Luke was making him work hard for his lead and was now playing his best golf of the day with his own run of 3 par holes. A birdie at 16 and par/par finish to complete a +2(38) back 9 total and an overall 40-38-(78) to hold the clubhouse lead as Braden approached the 18th.
It was a really exciting way to end a very good day’s golf watching these two talented young players. A par for Braden on 18 was going to be enough to take the medal by a stroke, bogey would have taken it to an extra hole play-off (we’ve had 5 play-offs in 6 weeks !!) On this occasion it wouldn’t come to that though as Braden continued to finish the closing holes as impressively as he’d begun them and with par at 18 he closed off a great debut medal win with a level par 36 and overall 40-36-(76) to top the flight leaderboard by a stroke from Luke.
Well done to both Luke and Braden. Great to see you both working hard and at times both of you showed great experience and quality. We look forward to more opportunities to watch you both develop even further.
Braden, Congratulations from everyone at HJT. A fine competition debut and we really hope you enjoyed the experience !
The Bobby Jones Flight:(9-12)
Our youngest flight of players in this one and the top places on the leaderboard were contested by two of our recently joined boys from Longwood, last week’s Harbor Hills medalist Riley Sillaway and two time HJT medalist so far in 2021, Phoenix Wilson.
We say this most weeks but this is a great flight to watch as our youngest competitors work so hard to develop their swing and habits and learn how to compete against their peers. Not surprisingly some are at different levels of development both in age and ability but they all already possess many of the attributes that are going to allow them to play and enjoy golf for life, and who knows there MAY even be a few we are tuning in to watch from home in years to come!
Before we give you the scoring on this one we do want to mention a couple of our players who on this occasion may not be medalists, although based on what we are seeing here certainly have the potential to be, but deserve a shout out from us. Logan Foxx (Legacy Club @ Alacqua Lakes) came in to play his first tournament with us and returned an impressive debut score 41-40-(81) which included 2 birdies along the way. Well played Logan, we hope you enjoyed your first outing with HJT and we look forward to seeing you again soon.
We like to not only recognize new players like Logan performing but also one of our existing HJT players achieving goals and making big strides forward already in their development in 2021, Aiden Skrocki (The Villages Golf Academy) On Saturday Aiden too played impressively, kept a cool head and shot his best tournament golf score carding a 42-40-(82) Along the way that included 7 par holes, a birdie and even an Eagle 3 on the par 5 9th hole at Eagle Ridge!
It’s worth noting too that Aiden played this round under the watchful eye of his coach Wade Martin, when your coach is watching often that’s enough to make some players nervous right? Not this 10 year old, Aiden showed a lot of courage and good character all day long and we are all delighted to see him playing so well. Good job Aiden!
The medal place in The Bobby Jones would be a VERY close run thing, especially in the early stages as Riley Sillaway and close friend and long time golfing partner Phoenix Wilson both worked hard to find their best performance and consistency. What made this one even more interesting, and further shows just how well matched these two, is that both players were currently sitting on two HJT medal wins so far in 2021. For one the prize in this one would be not only a 3rd medal win but with it automatic promotion into our Claret Jug Flight for the remainder of the 2021 season!
The Claret Jug Flight was created in 2020 to allow us to continue to help all of our players to achieve their best success and to give everyone a target to aim for regardless of age. Players winning the flight they play in currently on 3 occasions are automatically promoted into the Claret Jug Flight and from that point on have the opportunity to compete in each competition against only those other medal winners within that flight. All players in The Claret Jug Flight will still play from their own age-based yardage and tee box and in most cases will stay be paired and play alongside other similar-age players as you do now. Every player in the flight will have a chance of winning The Claret Jug Flight but it will never be an easy task as all of our multi-flight winners will be there.
As players continue to be promoted into The Claret Jug Flight throughout the year it will help ensure it will always be a competitive flight and as we see more 3 time winners emerge to join them it will help others achieve wins and gain the confidence needed to achieve their own promotion to this unique flight. In 2020 we finished the year with 12 players competing in our Claret Jug Flight. They were aged 9-17 and satisfyingly, for us and them, the majority of them continued to win against each other once they got there!
Back to Saturday and the early signs were that both Riley and Phoenix were going to be extremely hard to separate today! Both players were keeping errors to nothing worse than bogey and between them 3 birdies were carded(Riley got 1 and Phoenix 2) to help minimize those early mistakes. At the turn both had returned an impressive +2(38) to tie the leaderboard at the turn and clearly it was going to take something pretty special indeed to separate them.
Riley was just as impressive on the back 9 as he was on the front. A consistent +2(38) mirrored his earlier total and it was helped along by another birdie at 17. He achieved Par on 6 of those holes and the only real disappointment was a couple of shots dropped at 16. Riley’s scorecard of 38-38-(76) was one that had some really fine golf in it and he should be very proud of that. He kept on battling all day long and on many other days that 76 would have been enough to take the medal however knowing Riley we know on this occasion he would be first in line to congratulate his friend Phoenix for pulling off something pretty special on that back nine stretch of holes!
When Phoenix plays with this kind of confidence in himself he’s going to be REALLY hard to catch! He’s also really good fun to watch play! Undoubtedly he’s a talented and experienced young player who also seems to be enjoying playing the game and that’s every bit as important to us as his ability on the golf course, he’s got a strong and fun personality and these are all factors that we believe will help him a great deal on his golfing journey over the next few years!
Phoenix Wilson back nine scores are a lesson in consistency allied to an ability to take advantage of opportunities as they present themselves, he did not put a foot wrong as he hit par on 7 occasions and just for good measure birdied the remaining two holes! A back 9 total of -2(34) meant we could put some under par red ink on our scoreboard and his final round total of level par 38-34-(72) was the best in the field of ALL players in ALL flights at Eagle Ridge GC.
Phoenix blazed his way into The Claret Jug Flight in seriously impressive fashion! Congratulations Phoenix from everyone at HJT on a very fine day’s competition golf. Very well done!
Just before we wrap things up we have one final winner on the day at Eagle Ridge GC. Our regular fun competition for Nearest the Pin and this week the winner was the young man mentioned earlier who’s no doubt hoping to be following his friend and grabbing himself a spot in the Claret Jug Flight too! It’s our two time medalist Riley Sillaway who hit it to around the 5ft mark on Saturday who took the prize of a $25 golf store gift voucher. Well done Riley!
That’s it from Eagle Ridge and competition 6 of HJT season 2021 is squared away. Next up for us it’s something VERY, VERY special indeed! On Saturday February 13th we take our first visit of 2021 to Florida’s top championship venue; Mission Inn Resort, Howey-in -Hills is the venue. We will play Las Colinas with tee times from 12pm.
Mission Inn has hosted countless PGA and Amateur events and since 2012 has been the sole venue chosen by the FHSAA (Florida High School Athletics Association) to host the annual boys and girls State Golf Championships. If you play, or hope to play High School golf the sooner you become acquainted with this exceptional venue the better, it’s challenging, the layout is great and it’s a lot of fun to play. For spectators it’s one of the most special places to visit we’ve found in Florida too!
Registration for this one has been open for a few weeks and as we write this it is heading for a sell out of the tee times we have been allocated. We are down to only a few remaining spaces left. We hope to see you there but don’t delay and sign up quickly to avoid disappointment. You can register HERE
Thanks to all of our players and parents for your support and thank you to our Tour Sponsor at TCL (Tri-County Landscapes) for your support of what we do. See you at Mission Inn!