Wow….What a day! So much happened yesterday it’s hard to know where to begin! Another impressive field of players, a venue in good summer shape and one that REALLY did live up to it’s name as numerous Eagles were being carded all over the golf course!
For one player though things were to take an incredible twist of golfing fate as even the “tough to achieve’ Eagle was about to be surpassed….have you ever seen a player shoot a 2 on a 518 yard par 5? Sometimes referred to as a double-eagle but where I come from it’s an Albatross…that rarest of bird(ies) …yesterday we were lucky enough to witness it during competition play…the player who hit the two memorable shots was Leesburg High School player Michael Woodley, lots more about that and how it unfolded a bit later in our report.
As if that wasn’t enough on its own we were to add to the excitement with a play-off, a record breaking 67 being carded, a young debut medalist flight winner and two medal winning players now within touching distance of promotion to The Claret Jug Flight. It was indeed quite a day at Eagle Ridge yesterday for HJT and many of our young golfers!
As always though we start with a welcome. No fewer than 4 new players were making their competition debuts with Highlander Junior Tour. We welcomed for the first time Owen and Xavier Sahajpal, Nathan Tutunjian and Nicholas Rose. We hope you all enjoyed the experience and we very much enjoyed having you along to play with us.
As usual we will begin our results round-up with our Claret Jug Flight. For those reading these reports for the first time this flight of players, unlike the other flights we have, is not based on player age. It contains players of all ages who share in common the fact they have each been medalist winners at least 3 times in HJT events during this year.
The Claret Jug Flight
Six previous winners were in attendance yesterday seeking to take home the exclusive Claret Jug medal. Aged 8-17 and each playing from the tees most suited to their age group this recently created Flight gives everyone an opportunity to win. One thing is becoming very clear though, its ALWAYS going to be tough to win unless you can post something LOW!
Yesterday was no exception to that as Jack Panigoni (The Villages High School) went low and created a little bit of history, both for himself, and our Junior Tour by posting an exceptional and impressive -4 (67) to take the medal by 4 strokes from fellow Villages High School player Elle Folland (71) and young Ryker Huther (71) from Eustis,Fl.
Elle and Ryker deserve great credit and a mention for battling through and posting fine rounds of their own. Elle’s two birdie (-2 through the first 11 holes) was strong and consistent and she only faltered slightly with a couple of shots lost on 12 and 13 before recovering strong and finishing the remaining 5 holes to par. Well played Elle!
Ryker got his 71 in the reverse fashion to Elle, despite dropping a couple of strokes on the opening holes he overcame that disappointment to post a strong recovery run of 8 pars. His final 9 showed the character he has as it just kept getting stronger resulting in no fewer than 3 birdies and a back 9 total of only 33 strokes (-2). Great job Ryker!
Jack Panigoni, our Claret Jug medal winner yesterday is an exceptional talent and a very experienced junior player. I have personally known him for many years and in that time I have had the pleasure of watching him develop his game. On his golf journey during those years I’ve seen him win and I’ve seen him lose!
Jack is what I would now call a junior competition “veteran” and that experience serves him well as he fully understands exactly what is required to win from within a strong field. Yesterday we saw him use combine all of that talent and experience to put together a great round of golf. He picked the right shot when he had to, he knew when to be aggressive and when to play safe and he showed character right from the start, his card showed only one dropped shot, at number 1! For the remaining 17 however he was a model of consistency.
A front 9 of 34 (-2) and a back 9 of 33 (-2) and no fewer than 5 birdies along the way resulted in only 67 strokes and our record breaking HJT winners total, Congratulations Jack from everyone at HJT, that one was a bit special and you should be very proud of that achievement!
The Old Tom Morris Flight
This was our 15-17 year olds Flight yesterday and, as we touched on a little earlier, it was to be another really exciting day full of great golf and a great deal to keep up with all over the golf course.
A great place to start here is with the player who became yet another HJT history maker at Eagle Ridge GC, Michael Woodley.
We don’t think we know of any player who works harder than Michael to continue to develop his game. Over the past few months we have seen him grow and improve considerably and he has become a very calm, formidable and capable young player during our junior competitions. Believe it or not and despite posting a strong 73 yesterday he would probably tell you it could have been a good bit better than the card suggests however it was helped considerably by an early change in fortune that will be remembered by everyone at HJT for a very long time. And as for Michael, well HE will most likely remember this day for the rest of his golfing days!
A disappointing bogey start at number one was quickly nullified by a birdie at 2. Standing on the tee at the par 5 (518 yard) number 3 with Driver in hand no one, including Michael would have expected what happened next!
A long and powerful drive was followed by a sweetly struck hybrid into the far distance in an effort to get it close. It looked good all the way but as he approached his first thought was his ball had possibly gone through the green, it hadn’t!
Michael Woodley had just made an Albatross (3 strokes under par!) 2 on a 518 yard par 5! The odds of that happening according to Google are 6 million to 1!!! What an incredible moment for a player to experience something like that happening, AND happening during a competition event must surely make it all the sweeter for Michael!
Even recalling it in words today it all still feels a little unreal but one thing is for sure, it could not have happened to a nicer guy who incidentally, still seemed to be the calmest person among us, as word quickly spread throughout the remainder of the field of players!
Congratulations on your Albatross and well done again to Michael Woodley. Michael went on to show his consistency by logging 10 par holes on his way to an eventual 73.
Meanwhile, only two groups ahead of Michael, Sorrento’s Caleb Dearing (off the back of his first HJT win last week at Harbor Hills) was battling to get to the top of the leaderboard with a strong round of his own. Caleb is a powerful and experienced young player with a strong all round game who’s growing in confidence and despite dropping a few strokes on the front 9 he still managed a level par 36. Those early dropped strokes were replaced quickly, and in dramatic fashion, with a birdie and would you believe, not one but 2 Eagles, both coming on the par 5 holes!
What a day it was becoming for watching great golf from these players…well done Caleb on not only those eagles but also the 3 back nine birdies that showed great character and helped keep you in the hunt for the medal yesterday. Caleb’s final card also showed a 73.
In true HJT fashion an extra hole playoff was necessary to separate both players. Number 1 and 9 would be used.
At this point we also want to recognize another of our fast developing talented junior players in this flight who yesterday finished in runner up spot with a 78. We have watched Montverde’s Trenton Waters play for some time now in HJT competition and he is showing some really strong form. We believe it’s only a matter of time, if he continues working as hard as he has been to get to this point, before he’s picking up medals and HJT wins.
Trenton yesterday showed not only his golfing ability but also great battling qualities and strength of character to stay in the mix. His round contained 3 birdies and 2 eagles and is worthy of a strong mention. Great job Trenton and well played from all of us at HJT!
As play-offs go, and especially after the earlier drama, this one was not quite on the same level. After one additional hole Michael took the medal with a 5 to win it by 1 stroke. From all of us at HJT well played to both players for your exceptional efforts yesterday. Between you both we saw 5 birdies, 2 eagles and an albatross, that’s amazing talent at a really high level! Caleb will be a little disappointed not to have finished it off but we know despite that he will be back fighting just as hard next time.
Congratulations to Michael Woodley from everyone at HJT on your second medal win overall on our tour and for giving us a memorable and historic HJT day at Eagle Ridge!
The Young Tommy Morris Flight
This is our mid-range age flight populated with mainly 12’s – 15’s. It’s a flight that’s always full of players developing quickly and despite the lack of years even at this stage many of them are very experienced competition golfers.
There were a number of players competing who were worthy of a mention from us yesterday. The first of them is Harbor Hills player Tripp Watkins. Tripp is a very experienced and highly talented young golfer who was returning to play competition golf with us for the first time in several months. Welcome back Tripp, we are always delighted to see you working hard and playing on the HJT and we hope to see you again soon.
Xavier Sahajpal of Ocala was making his debut yesterday and did a fine job carding an 81. Clearly Xavier is a consistent young player who despite dropping a few shots early in his round recovered well and posted no fewer than 9 par holes. Xavier finished joint runner up yesterday in our Young Tommy Morris flight. Well played Xavier on a strong debut performance.
Also finishing on 81 and in joint runner up spot was Ocala’s Zach Phan. Zach is another strong, talented and very experienced competition golfer. Unfortunately yesterday was one of those frustrating days on the golf course for Zach when, despite playing good golf to create birdie opportunities, it seemed like nothing would drop into the hole for him! We share your frustration Zach but we know how hard you work to improve your game and know next time out you will be fighting just as hard to post the score you are happy with.
Our Young Tommy Morris flight winner yesterday was South Daytona player, Gabriel Hull who shot another impressive competition round to comfortably lead the table and take the medal. Gabriel is on a real hot streak of consistent form right now. This makes it back to back wins and medal number two as he also took the medal last week at Harbor Hills when he made his debut on the HJT tour.
Gabriel posted a 73 (+2) and his card , just like last week, demonstrates both a playing consistency and a strength of character. He is developing his overall game at a fine pace and displays a great attitude when we watch him play. His temperament on the golf course we believe is a big factor in how he gets the job done as, unlike many of his age, he appears to be capable of putting mistakes or bad shots behind him quickly, recovering well and moving on positively.
Yesterday that consistency we spoke about was there for all to see in Gabriel’s round of 11 pars and 3 birdies. Front 9 was completed in an impressive level par 36 strokes and the back 9 in 37. Congratulations once again Gabriel from everyone at HJT on another solid winning performance. We look forward to seeing you make it 3 wins at some point soon as your game is certainly deserving of the challenge that being promoted to our Claret Jug flight will bring you in the future.
The Bobby Jones Flight
Our youngest players compete in The Bobby Jones. Usually the most fun to be had is watching these players as they each develop their game and all that is associated with playing competition golf at an early age.
Our youngest participant Brantley Flannery(8) from Weirsdale is learning and improving fast. He was playing yesterday alongside 10 year old Aiden Skrocki (The Villages Golf Academy) who took the medal home in this flight last week at Harbor Hills. Both players put on a good display of golf in this one and as Aiden has a couple of years on his playing partner it was also a good opportunity for Brantley to pick up on how things might change for him as he continues to develop in age and strength too.
You can always guarantee that some fine golf will be on display as well as a few disappointments being experienced by each player and yesterday was no exception. Our 2 players mentioned above in this flight yesterday were joined by debut player Owen Sahajpal aged 11 from Ocala.
Owen turned in an exceptional debut performance to take the flight winners medal and make it a memorable HJT debut. He is clearly a fast developing young player who’s at a great stage to develop and improve even further. His scorecard showed an impressive 73 and his noticeable highlights were an exceptional back 9 total of -2 (33) 3 birdies and a wonderful eagle 3 on the par 5 14th.
Great debut Owen! Congratulations from everyone at HJT on your win. We hope you enjoyed the experience and we look forward to welcoming you back again soon.
So there we have it for another week and what a week it turned out to be….An Albatross, a record low score winner, a play off and a debut player medalist too! On top of that we now have two exceptional young golfers each on two medal wins and both now within touching distance of being promoted to The Claret Jug.
We are now heading back to a real favorite of our players. Black Bear Golf Club in Eustis is up next on Saturday September 12th. Black Bear is a renowned links style championship venue that’s in great shape right now…who will “Dare the Bear” ?
Registration is open now on this by clicking on the following link HERE