Mission Inn Resort is special. From the moment you arrive on their property you can see and feel that it’s a very special place with great history and pedigree and we really enjoy our visits there.
This one started with a weather warning as the early morning thunderstorms and torrential rain we experienced threatened to impact our 12pm tee times. Our arrival at Mission Inn though was like arriving in another land and although there was some standing water the clouds quickly cleared and meant we needn’t have worried. Michael Bowery – (Director of Golf ) was always confident and remarked “We don’t worry about much here, the courses drain well even after heavy rain and your “Highlanders” will be good to go at 12pm!”
We were pleased to be welcoming another new player into our ranks at Mission Inn on Saturday. Nick Strickler (Plant City) was joining us for the first time. Welcome Nick, it was an interesting debut for you in more ways than one and we hope you enjoyed the experience, more about that later though!
We will start with our round up of results with our Claret Jug Flight.
The Claret Jug Flight:
It was the first opportunity we have had to put this flight of players together in 2021. As it stands we now have 3 players in total who have qualified to play in it (remember, you need 3 medal wins to qualify!) and two of them were in attendance on Saturday. Phoenix Wilson (Longwood, FL) and Nick Zarillo (Mike Bender Golf Academy).
As the golf year and season 2021 progresses we will of course add more 3-time winners into this flight however ONE thing will remain a constant! To continue your winning run and win a Claret Jug Flight Medal you WILL have to play well and outscore the best and most consistent players we have playing on HJT. At Mission Inn one player laid down, yet again, a marker of what you need to be capable of to knock him off the top spot.
Nick Zarillo is now looking forward to what is coming next, not back to what has been! Later this year he will start life as a college golfer and begin a new chapter in his education and on his golfing journey. I have written many of these reports and no player has featured in them more than Nick and usually they’ve ended with him being a medal or trophy winner! We’ve watched him develop and mature as a player and a young man in that time and we very much know what he’s capable of. He takes EVERY tournament round seriously and demonstrates the kind of strength and quiet determination we are now beginning to see signs of in some of our younger players too, we believe that’s in part to the influence he has had on them and the fine example he sets.
I’m not going to give you the whole round analysis on Nick’s Mission Inn round, the highlights will tell you enough about this one! His front 9 of -3(32) was a low score record for HJT and yet another achievement we will remember Nick for when he does move on later this year! It was a flawless and error free 9 holes with birdies at 2,5 and 6. The tougher back 9 proved to be that however it still gave up birdies at 13 and another to end the day at 18 to record a level par round total of 32-40- (72)
Nick Zarillo is a winner once again, its fitting in a way and no surprise to us that our Claret Jug Trophy Winner of 2020 and Champion Golfer of the last year is first to wear a Claret Jug 2021 medal around his neck but HE won’t give that a thought as he’s only looking forward! Well played Nick and congratulations from everyone at HJT.
The Old Tom Morris Flight:
Our 16-18’s in this one and in the early stages it looked like it was about 4 players who were all within a stroke of each other for a good part of the day. Elle Folland (The Villages HS) was our flight winner last week and this week she was keeping her good early season form going. Alongside Elle debut player Nick Strickler (Plant City), Cody Royston (Melbourne) and Jack Panigoni (The Villages HS) were all pushing hard especially over those front 9 holes.
Cody Royston is showing strong signs of just what he’s capable of, over the last few weeks there have been real signs of strong development and Mission Inn was a great example of that. His front 9 of +3(38) had a lot of fine golf in it with great early consistency (6 par holes) and a nice birdie at 4 too. A slip at 9 where he gave 3 shots back just shows how good that stretch could have been for Cody. It still good enough to share the lead at the halfway stage by a stroke from Elle and Nick Strickler by two.
Jack Panigoni is a player we have welcomed back to HJT after several months away from golf. He is keen to get back to a level of play and consistency that he is happy with and we already know that with his experience and ability if he puts the work in that he previously did he is MORE than capable of achieving that goal. The experience he has tells him that the best way to get back to winning golf tournaments and shooting low scores at this point in his return is NOT going to be gained by playing anything other than consistent par golf, and for the most part, in these front 9 holes at Mission Inn that’s exactly what he did. 7 of those holes were played to par and a +3(38) would give Jack a share of the halfway lead with Cody.
Elle Folland has played Las Colinas many times, she knows its always a tough venue to score low on, whatever the conditions, and it’s no secret that to keep in contention you need to ensure you keep things steady and make your mark if possible on those early holes as typically the back 9 and especially the closing holes can really cause problems. She is working really hard on finding that par consistency and keeping any errors on her card to a minimum. Elle’s Mission Inn front 9 of +4(39) included a birdie on 5 and nothing worse than bogey when shots were dropped.
Nick Strickler in his first HJT event was going to have an interesting day! Clearly Nick is an experienced young competition player who is very capable and it was great to see him start this one in fine form with a birdie on number 1. There were to be more of those later on a day where his scorecard had a bit of everything in it, good and not so good! The early birdie was followed by a couple of dropped shots, though nothing worse than bogey, followed by a period of 4 consecutive holes where he found par on each. Both closing holes on the front proved troublesome and both resulted in disappointing double bogeys. Nick would be a couple off the lead at the turn with a +5(40)
Cody Royston’s homeward stretch were similar to many others where par or anything better was proving hard to find, on the positive side for Cody errors were kept to a minimum of nothing worse than a single shot dropped. A round total of 38-43-(81) would see him drop out of medal contention by a couple of strokes. I spoke to Cody afterwards and, while he was understandably a little disappointed, he was also very much aware that there was lots to be pleased about in that round!
Jack Panigoni was next to suffer a similar fate on the closing 9. Positives were the birdie on 13 and making par on the closing two holes but unfortunately the good stuff came too late. Jack finished 4 strokes off the lead 38-45-(83) but he should take comfort in how he played at times during this one, the front 9 especially, on his comeback quest!
Elle Folland meanwhile was showing everyone just how making par consistently can transform a scorecard and keep you in contention to win tournaments. Holes 10 through 14 were all made impressively in par. 15 was a single shot error before recovering with par again at 16. Bogey at each of the last two were a frustrating way to finish but that early form had kept her in the hunt with a scorecard that showed 39-40-(79)
Nick Strickler’s back 9 is the one I have kept for last and you will understand why when I tell you it had a bit of everything in it…it really was the proverbial roller coaster ride! We all know golf is a game of very slim margins and we know how quickly things can change, often one or two good or bad holes, can really affect your day. Nick’s back 9 looked great through the first 6 holes with no fewer than 3 birdies carded, 2 par holes and only a single shot error on 14 to report. It looked at this stage like a comfortable debut medal win was on the cards for Nick.
Las Colinas number 16 and 17 proved eventful and could have ended his charge right there. No fewer than 6 shots given back and a real test of strength and character was now facing the young man from Plant City. Nick responded in a really impressive manner to finish on a birdie at 18 to round off one of the most eventful tournament rounds we have seen in some time. Nick’s card reads 40-39-(79) ….and it doesn’t end there either for him as Nick’s 79 now ties him with Elle Folland!
Play-offs are becoming quite the norm for us this season. This is the 5th time this year so far that at least two players have been tied after 18 holes and we have required extra holes to separate them. Las Colinas number 1 was chosen as the start point and Elle and Nick began what would prove to be an exciting and once again, eventful series of additional holes.
Number 1 and 2 were both tied as each player made par and number 3 was the finish point of the day for both of these talented players. It was Nick who’s day had undoubtedly had the most drama in it who would continue on the same theme as before by winning it in dramatic fashion.
It’s tough on any player to not succeed in a play-off and our commiserations go to Elle however it is a fair way to settle a tied match where possible and if you are eventually going to bow out of one it is surely less painful and frustrating to lose out to such a fine shot expertly played than perhaps a mistake or a badly judged putt of your own doing. Elle deserves great credit for so much of her play and for displaying her usual great character and fine sportsmanship.
Congratulations Nick from everyone at HJT on your debut medal win. It was certainly one of the most exciting and adventurous we have had! In the end though you are a deserved winner of the flight and we hope you enjoyed the experience.
The Young Tommy Morris Flight:
Our 14-15 year Boys and Girls and this one was all about two players. Delaney Sillaway (Longwood,FL) and Luke Wood (Inverness,FL) both played very well, particularly in the early stages of this one.
Delaney was hoping for her first HJT medal win especially following the events earlier this year at Red Tail GC where she came so close and narrowly missed out on a win in a 3 player play-off. Delaney is an extremely talented young lady with a great attitude and strong confidence in her ability to play well and score low regularly in competition.
Luke Wood is coming back strong after a lengthy layoff period when he was unable to compete. Last week he showed he was growing in confidence and getting back to playing at a really strong level when he picked up the runner-up spot only missing out by a single stroke at Eagle Ridge.
The biggest part of Luke’s front 9 total of +3(38) was positive and contained 5 par holes and a birdie, at the par 4 4th. He’s a very experienced junior competitor and he’s working hard to keep the inevitable errors that can crop up at anytime down to single strokes too. At the turn he was sharing the halfway point lead with Delaney.
Delaney is no novice when it comes to putting a strong scorecard together either. She has strong belief in her game and a long graceful swing that often puts her in a fine position off the tee. She is always searching for consistency and even at such a young stage in her golfing journey she fully understands that if you play a focused and measured par game you will always be close to the top of the leaderboard and opportunities for birdie or better will always show up. Delaney’s front nine was a mirror image of Luke’s, +3(38). She also found par 5 times and her birdie was made at number 2.
The tougher back 9 started well for Luke. A steady pair of holes made in par to start was unfortunately not able to be sustained. The following four holes were costly for him and while that would be disappointing for Luke they did present us with another great example of how a successful and experienced young player handles the setbacks they can face during a round. In true fashion and showing great character Luke picked himself up and finished par-par-par on the tough closing holes at Mission Inn. Luke carded a 38-43-(81)
Delaney’s most consistent golf of the day had begun with par on number 9 and she continued the run of par makes all the way to 15. A single shot dropped there was met with good strength of character to get the par run going again and 16 and 17 went to par too, 18 was a difficult finish but despite dropped shots Delaney had done enough to seal the win by two strokes and her first HJT flight medal win. A final scorecard count of 38-41-(79)
Well done both players for providing us all with great golf and an exciting finish to this flight. Luke was so close for the second week running and we know its only a matter of time before he’s winning consistently once more, he is a fine young player.
We are also delighted to see Delaney finally getting off the mark and securing this first medal win. There is so much to enjoy about this young player’s attitude and how she plays the game and as she continues to develop we think this will be the first of many times we see Delaney proudly sit at the top of a tournament leaderboard!
Congratulations Delaney from everyone at HJT. Well done!
The Bobby Jones Flight:
This was our 11-13 year old boys and girls and once again based on early form over the front 9 holes it could have gone to either Braxton Williams(Oxford), Riley Sillaway(Longwood) or Gabriel Hull(South Daytona) as all four were within a shot or two of each other after 9 were completed.
Gabriel Hull was returning to us for the first time this year and we are all delighted to see him back with us. Gabriel played a big part in many of our tournament events last year and we hope to see more of him this year as he works hard to get back to his best. Gabriel led the way at Mission Inn with a +5(40) with the highlight being a birdie at 9.
Riley Sillaway is closing in on promotion to our Claret Jug Flight. With two medal wins so far in 2021 it’s very likely he will get there soon. Riley was only 2 shots back on Gabriel after 9 and looking to improve on that as the day progressed.
Braxton Williams too was only two strokes back with a front nine containing 5 par makes. We think 2021 is going to be a strong year for Braxton in junior competition golf and he is already showing that he is more than capable of putting up a very strong challenge to all others in this age bracket flight.
With players so close it was always going to be about who best dealt with the tough back 9 holes. Best back nine total of the three was Riley Sillaway with a strong challenge that included a birdie at 17 to card a 42-41-(83)
Braxton worked hard to find par all the way to the end of his round and few opportunities to get closer came up for him. Braxton would finish 42-44-(86)
Gabriel started the back 9 by giving up his two stroke cushion lead at 10 and dropped another at 11 however from there we saw shades of the talented and hard working young man we came to know well from last year as he settled and dug deep to shoot 5 of the remaining 7 holes to par. There were a couple of errors but they were kept to single shot slip ups. Gabriel presented a scorecard of 40-42-(82) to take the HJT medal, his first of 2021 by 1 stroke from Riley Sillaway.
Congratulations Gabriel from everyone at HJT. It’s great to see you back competing again and we hope you enjoyed the winning start you have made.
Well done to all of our players who played a part in this one. Mission Inn is a really tough ask for any player and you should all be very proud of your attitude and your strength of character for giving it your all. There is a very good reason why this venue is chosen EVERY year for major professional and top championship events, it’s TOUGH.
Many of you made the mistake of only considering your score and not taking into account your actual performance as we watched a lot of fine golf being played out there. Even some of our best scoring players were disappointed with the number they shot. Do not be fooled into thinking like that. Only 4 players in the entire field shot under 80 and only 1 player got close to 70! Learn from the Mission Inn experience, respect it even more next time and move on.
Our other winner on Saturday was our Nearest the pin Winner – Katie Allen. Well done Katie who won a great prize this week donated by Fran Paquette of Mallory Country Club in The Villages. Thank you Fran for your kindness and your support of Junior Golf.
Next up for us it’s back to Ocala and this week we are heading to Summerglen GC. Always deceptively challenging and always a great welcome from management and staff there too. Please register early if you can and join us at Summerglen GC on Saturday February 20th. Tee times from 12pm. Registration can be found HERE.
Thank you as always to our Mission Inn Event sponsor (Rhineland Cutlery- More info click HERE) and our 2021 Tour Sponsor (TCL – Tri County Landscapes. More info click HERE)
We will leave you with the full field of player scores listed below and a final thank you shout out on behalf of everyone who enjoyed the sweet treats and Valentines candies kindly provided for us all on Saturday by The Sillaway Family…thank you so much for your kindness, we really appreciate it!