On Saturday we returned once again to Red Tail GC. Red Tail has been on our venue rota for a year now and we have seen it change a lot in that time. As many of you know who have been with us in that time our pet name for this one was “Rain Tail” as it seemed for a while we couldn’t go there at any time of the year without the heavens above opening up and making what’s already a tough venue, even tougher!
Red Tail is in fact THE only venue we visited last year where we had to abandon an HJT competition after only 9 holes of play. The weather has improved since then and on Saturday although we did still see some light showers this one was never in doubt, well at least it wasn’t in doubt from the weather, more about that later!
It was another very good day of exciting junior golf competition.Let’s get started with the results and how things turned out in each of our age based flights.
The Old Tom Morris Flight:
This was a great flight to watch on Saturday mainly due to the close scoring of two players. Drew Miller (Seminole,Fl) and our highest ranked tour player, Nick Zarillo (Mike Bender Golf Academy. On his last HJT outing here Nick had added to his medal tally with a fairly comfortable win. On this occasion though he was pushed all the way by a resilient and battling Drew Miller who never gave up on catching Nick.
The front 9 saw Drew performing well. He did have to get over a couple of errors that saw him post a +4(40). At the turn that would leave him 3 shots back on Nick who was once again displaying the kind of consistency we’ve all come to expect from our number 1 player.
As the players made their way through the usually tougher back 9 holes Drew was intent on bettering that front nine total and he was doing so with some style. His second birdie of the day presented itself on 11 and this was followed by a wonderfully consistent run of par holes. A few minutes ahead of him Nick had dropped a couple of strokes and by the time they each made their way to the tee at 15 both players were tied for the overall lead.
15, 16 and 17 were made to look like easy par holes by both players and as Nick made his way to the tough uphill 18th green Drew waited in the fairway in the group behind. Nick’s approach shot ended on the edge of the fringe area on 18 and required a deft chip to leave it close, he really could not have played it much better and was extremely unlucky to watch it lip out and thankfully come to rest close enough to tap in for par and a fine back 9 total of +2(38) for an overall 75.
I have watched many a shot played in to that exceptionally tough uphill 18 at Red Tail and it can so often prove to be the undoing of many a good player. Unfortunately on this occasion Drew could not match Nick’s earlier par and their own contest for the win was ended there on 18. Drew recorded a 40-37- 77 to finish up 2 back overall. Drew deserves all our very best wishes for playing some exceptional golf, showing great character and resilience to keep that great run going and for pushing the way he did right up to the final hole.
There’s little we can say about Nick that hasn’t been said before. He has a great deal of talent and the additional qualities of fine temperament, resilience and strength of character and these are always evident when he plays. He already knows he may make the occasional mistake, but just as important, he believes in his ability and is never going to give up on any round. I believe we see his best when he is challenged and pushed hard and Drew did just that on Saturday, Nick stood up to the challenge and reminded us yet again why he’s been so successful playing on our Tour.
Congratulations Nick from everyone at HJT on another Red Tail success.
The Young Tommy Morris Flight:
Our 13-15’s compete in this one and if you are looking for gutsy, talented and fearless young players who are all developing their skills at a rapid pace you’re in exactly the right place!
This one was REALLY exciting and, even after 18 holes, impossible to predict as 3 players were to head back down number 1 for a second time in a 2 hole play off, and even then we still hadn’t found an overall winner!
The 3 players who each deserve equal credit for making this flight one we will remember for a long time were, Delaney Sillaway (Longwood,Fl), Zachary Phan (Ocala GC) and Jason Kaiser Jr.(Circle Christian School).
Delaney (and brother Riley) joined us only recently and we are absolutely thrilled that she did, she is a hugely talented young lady and she displays a perfectly calm temperament every time we watch her play. On Saturday Delaney showed great character by demonstrating an ability to fight back strongly and move forward from a run of 3 holes where shots were dropped. An exceptional par save at 9 was the turnaround and was achieved after a poor second shot into heavy rough was then followed by a delightfully judged wedge which was flown perfectly into the green and then finished by an equally impressive putt. Delaney shot 39-40-(79)
Zach Phan is no stranger to winning our HJT medals. We first met this young “lefty” about a year ago and he is one of the most focused and driven young players we know! He works really hard on his game and he pushes himself really hard too. Zach is always going to be around the top end of our leaderboard as he already has a wealth of experience in junior competitions and he has learned that the one thing you NEVER do is give up on a round even after dropping shots. He regroups and goes again. That makes him a strong competitor who can never be ruled out of contention and we love that about the way he plays. Zach also shot 41-38-(79) to make it a two player extra hole play-off.
Jason Kaiser Jr. was an HJT medalist last time we played Red Tail GC. His golf coach lives close by and on each occasion we have been out here he (coach) can usually be found hiding somewhere in the background watching Jason play. His concern of course is he does not want to add pressure to Jason’s game by getting too close to the action. That’s understandable right? Well, here’s the thing, I personally don’t think it could or would make any difference to this young man’s game whatsoever! Jason is arguably the most level headed and easy going young golfers we have ever had the good fortune to meet. Good shots made are humbly accepted and bad shots quickly forgotten, no over emotional reactions are ever detected when watching this talented young man and that temperament is going to serve him exceptionally well, both on his golfing journey, and throughout his adult life!
Jason joined Delaney and his good friend Zach to make it a 3 player extra hole play off by also returning a 39-40-(79)
Well done to all 3 of our players for your efforts over 18 holes. A 79 at Red Tail is indeed something to be proud of regardless of the final outcome.
Play-offs are strange creatures that for us were seldom seen and now they are becoming regular fixtures. 4 of the last 5 weeks in fact have seen us require sudden death extra holes to separate tied players. I look on this positively and put this down to us having stronger competition among good players than ever before however they often do come with issues. This one was, not surprisingly, going to be a case of running out of daylight pretty quickly!
All 3 players deserve our respect and thanks for demonstrating great skills and calm nerves to handle these extra holes. It’s a tough ask after 18 holes to get back out there and do it all over again.
As expected there was no shortage of drama, Zach suffered the agony of a good putt which ended in a horrible lip-out, holes were tied on par and after two were played out and light was rapidly fading it was decided that under the circumstances a chip-off would be the only fair way to try to seperate Delaney and Jason. It was to be Jason who would take the medal, his second at Red Tail with a delightfully played 54 degree wedge shot to 4ft.
Well done Jason and congratulations from everyone at HJT.
The Bobby Jones Flight:
Our youngest group aged 10-12 and its always great fun to watch. This time around it was to be another battle between two players. Luke Gossett (Sorrento) and Phoenix Wilson(Longwood) are very equally matched young players. Both aged 12 and both are already displaying exceptional ability and good character on and off the golf course.This one could not have been any closer!
Luke is a local player who knows Red Tail GC very well indeed. He was our medalist last time he joined us here and he was looking to make it 2/2 with HJT at Red Tail.
Phoenix took his first HJT flight winner’s medal just last week at Ocala GC and he was looking forward to making it a double win in successive weeks.
It was Phoenix who started things off with a bang, a flawless front 9 and the picture of what consistency looks like …9 straight par scoring holes for a best in field level par 36 front nine. That was very impressive Phoenix!
Luke also made par on the first 4 holes before one or two errors crept in towards the middle/end of the first 9, with 9 played he would be 4 shots back of Phoenix with a +4(40). Good players with confidence in their game and themselves keep working hard and that’s exactly what Luke brought to the back 9. His own impressive level par back 9 was almost a mirror image of Phoenix front 9 with the only difference being he found a birdie at 16 and a bogey at 18 to make his. Whatever way it was achieved isn’t all that important, what is important is that he shot the best in field back 9, great job Luke, well done!
Phoenix played the back nine possibly knowing what was required along the way to get the win, I know young players who like to know every step of the way where they are on the leaderboard and others who don’t even look at it until they sink their last putt of the day. Luke had narrowed the gap considerably on those last holes and it now all rested on the outcome of the final hole. If Phoenix made 5 or less he would take the win, it was a nail-biting way to finish but as required the young man from Longwood duly obliged with that 5 to take the medal by a single stroke from Luke.
What a great contest! We would love to see more of these fine young talents in future competitions as both players have such similar qualities, they are very well matched many ways. Well done Luke for playing so well and pushing all the way, you should be proud of your 76 too…well played!
On this occasion though it was Phoenix who came out on top. Congratulations Phoenix from everyone at HJT on a great job and an excellent 75!
For Phoenix it’s a target achieved…2 HJT winners medals in 2 weeks! Now the BIG question is can you make it 3 and be our first, or one of our first, players to make it into our exclusive Claret Jug flight reserved only for players who have won on 3 or more occasions during 2021 ?
At this stage only 3 players, Nick Zarillo, Maggie Potash and Phoenix Wilson can achieve this as each are currently sitting on 2 medal wins each. Watch this space next week for news on that hopefully being reached by one or more of these players when we visit Harbor Hills CC!
So that wraps up another great day of junior golf. Thank you Gage Hodges and all at Red Tail GC for hosting us. Next up for us it’s competition 5 of season 2021 and we head to the magnificent Harbor Hills CC. Registration for that one is open and you can find more info by clicking HERE
We hope to see as many of you as possible there. Thank you all for your support.
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