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On Saturday it was a return visit to Ocala and Summerglen GC for our junior golfers. Summerglen’s GM Brian Shelton and his team have been welcoming us to play there for more than a year now and they really do their bit to promote junior golf. They always look after us really well and we never hear anything but positive feedback from their members when they see our players out on their golf course! We visit lots of venues throughout the year and Summerglen may just be the most welcoming of them all!

The other positive point to note about Saturday too is that the sun shone for most of the day, the complete opposite to our January visit when it closely resembled a chilly afternoon in the North of Scotland!

Once again we welcomed a strong field of players to this one,  our 8th weekly competition since the beginning of season 2021. It’s remarkable to think we have already had 8 events so far in 2021 across 5 different venues and we are closing in fast on almost 200 player entries! Thank you all for your amazing support of junior golf and thank you to every junior player who has been a participant in any of these tournaments!

New player; Most weeks we are welcoming new players to our tournament events and on Saturday for the first time we were joined by Jarrett Darus (Chiefland Middle HS). Welcome Jarrett to HJT, we hope you enjoyed the experience  and everyone made you feel welcome. We hope to welcome you back to play again soon.

As always we will start our results round-up with our oldest group of young players! As we progress over the next few weeks we will see The Claret Jug Flight scoreboard start to appear more often. This is our flight exclusively for players with 3 or more medal wins. On Saturday it was not possible to operate a Claret Jug Flight as only one of our qualified players was in attendance(Nick Zarillo) In such cases we revert back to our traditional 3 age-based player flights.

The Old Tom Morris Flight: (16-18)

This was a strong flight of junior players. As is usually the case when it comes to final scores we will spend most of our time talking about the winner and the contenders for the top spot however it is worth pointing out that on Saturday EVERY player in this flight played some strong golf at some stage. The birdie count overall was 13 spread among these senior players and the overall scoring was good too. Well done to all of our Old Tom Morris Flight players!

One player stood out strongly yet again for his confidence, mental strength and exceptional performance and another took another big step towards his target of a return to the form that had previously had him shooting similar numbers as our winner today.

The front nine card of Nick Zarillo (Mike Bender GA, Orlando) told the now familiar tale of a talented young player who’s in very good form and who continues to demonstrate an unwavering faith in his ability to handle every good, and not so good, scenario he might face during a competition round. We have spoken so many times about how tough this game can be when you go chasing scores and the effects it can have on a player’s mental state and behaviors when things DON’T always go to plan. Good experienced players understand, even before a ball is struck, that most likely during the vast majority of rounds shots will be dropped and having the ability to remain positive and focused only on what’s ahead of you is a real skill that is an absolute necessity if you want to become a top player.

Nick’s front nine was an impressive level par 36, to demonstrate my point above it was achieved by way of 5 pars, 2 birdies and 2 bogeys!

Jack Panigoni (Panigoni Golf Academy) returned to us recently after several months away from competition golf. I have known this young man for many years and have watched with great interest as he has developed both as a fine young golfer and as a young adult…on Saturday Jack was celebrating his 18th birthday and I’m very pleased he chose to spend it on the golf course with us at HJT.

Jack is making good inroads on his competition comeback and he took a big step forward here at Summerglen GC. He may still be working hard to find his best game once again but hugely experienced competition players like Jack don’t ever lose sight of the fundamental things needed to put a score together, one of those is to keep any errors to single stroke errors if possible, he demonstrated this well with a front 9 of +2(38) which included a birdie at 7 to stay within 2 strokes of the lead at the halfway stage.

Jack’s back nine started with some early difficulties which stopped him progressing further before he steadied things once again. His closing highlights included birdies at 14 and 18 and they contributed to a very creditable +4 (40) to give a final scorecard 38-40-(78) That represents another nice step in the right direction for Jack and certainly gives him a great foundation to build on. Happy Birthday Jack from everyone at HJT!

With an even par front 9 behind him Nick was always going to be difficult to catch and so it proved, we have noted many times in these reports that he also has a habit of finishing strong and once again he did just that! Nick logged another two birdies on his card at 14 and 18, played measured par golf for pretty much everything else he encountered and made the back 9 into an impressive sub-par  red number once again with a -1(35) to round off the day 36-35-(71)

The level and standard of Nick Zarillo’s overall play at this time is remarkably consistent and very controlled. He really does look to be playing at a different level to everyone else right now and we all really do hope this is something he can keep building on in a year that will soon see him leave the ranks of junior golf and commence life as a college golfer. Nick won this one comfortably in the end to take the medal, by doing so he left us with yet another record achievement by an HJT player, Nick has now played 5 tournament events so far in 2021 and won 5 times in succession! Congratulations once again Nick, you just keep showing us great consistency and attitude and you deserve every success now and in the future for the hard work you put in to achieve these results.

 

Nick Zarillo – 5 in a row and very well deserved!

The Young Tommy Morris Flight:(13-15)

This one proved to be an intriguing flight and another great example of just how quickly things can change for players from both a positive and unless you are careful from a negative perspective too! For our eventual medal winner in this one it was definitely a case of two very contrasting 9’s !

Early on it was proving difficult to separate the scoring of Tripp Watkins (Harbor Hills CC) and last week’s medalist Delaney Sillaway (Longwood,Fl). At the turn after 9 holes Delaney, helped by a birdie at 6 was sitting at +3(39). Tripp was one stroke off with a +4(40) which included a birdie at 2 and he was doing a fine job of keeping any errors down to nothing worse than single strokes dropped.

AJ. Burns(Lecanto HS) and Zach Phan (Ocala GC) were both tucked in too only a shot back on Tripp and it was looking very much like one of those afore-mentioned four would most likely be taking home the medal. You’ve probably guessed by now though that was NOT what happened as one young, as yet un-mentioned player, was about to do something VERY special indeed!

Gabriel Hull (South Daytona) has not played a lot of competition golf recently. Illness struck and kept him away from the golf course late in 2020 and so far this year his HJT starts have been limited to 2. They have both been eventful outings though as, on his return last week, he reminded us what he is capable of and picked up a winners medal at Mission Inn to kick start his season. That one was pretty straightforward though when compared to this one!

Gabriel’s front 9 was a bit of a roller coaster. No fewer than 3 double bogeys over the first 4 holes and another couple of strokes lost on 6 and 7 too. It was a testing time for the young man from Daytona and one that, with many less experienced young players,  could possibly see the shoulders drop and the negativity thoughts rise! Gabriel chose the positive route…keep working hard, believe in your ability and get back to making par. At 8 and 9 he did just that to at least give himself an outside chance of catching the leaders in this one…a +8(44) front 9 for Gabriel was still going to leave him 5 back of Delaney at the turn, a tough ask!

Gradually those in early contention found the closing holes tough. First into the clubhouse and with a slim lead was Tripp Watkins. A +5(41) included a birdie at 12 gave Tripp a 40-41-(81). Tripp is another of those experienced young players who had returned today after some time away from competition golf and he should be fairly positive that his game is showing good signs of heading back in the right direction after this one.

Delaney led this one for much of the day. She played some excellent and consistent golf and she is a real joy to watch when she’s playing so well. From 10 through 15  she was -1 which was helped by the birdie at 13. At 16 things became a wee bit nervy with a dropped shot and at 17 she added another. 18 proved to be even tougher on the youngster who had shown some of the best competition golf we have seen her play BUT, regardless of those setbacks, Delaney should be very proud of her display and her final scorecard which reads 39-40-(79)

Golf can really provide some dramatic storylines and this one was a bit special! Gabriel Hull, a fine young player we know very well experienced setbacks and disappointment early on. He was now closing in on a back 9 where he was intent and focused on making a better job of it! What we do know about Gabriel is his attitude never seems to be anything but positive! He has great faith and strong belief in himself and his capabilities and he works harder than most to always give his best.

Gabriel’s back 9 holes included no fewer than 4 birdies with back to back birdies at 14 and 15. Most of what he did, he did very well! His scorecard for those closing 9 holes was an exceptional -2(34) ….and no fewer than 10 shots less than his front 9 total! Gabriel took the flight win for the second week in succession carding a 44-34-(78) He took it by a single stroke from Delaney who, on this occasion, had to settle for runner-up spot.

Congratulations Gabriel on a rather special medal win, a 10 shot swing in fortune over two 9’s isn’t something we see very often! It says a great deal about your strength of character and we very much admire that in how you play the game. Well done!

 

A very happy Gabriel Hull…a very hard fought medal win!

The Bobby Jones Flight:(9-11)

Every week of competition our “young guns” provide us with great golf, great stories, sportsmanship and a lot of fun. This one was no different.

As some of you may know last year we launched our “Wee Highlander” competitions. These are our 9-hole fun competitions aimed at younger kids who already play golf and who are ready to take their first step into playing fun competition golf. The kids are usually aged from 5-10 and our Wee Highlander competitions generally take place immediately following the last of our 18-hole competition players leaving the tee. Most of you may not get to see these kids as they only play 9 holes and often are gone by the time the rest of the field are returning to the clubhouse.

It can occasionally prove to be difficult to find enough of these “wees” to sign up for numerous reasons and on occasion we have had to get a little more creative to ensure we can get them out on the course and playing. We strongly believe the earlier we get them playing and building confidence the greater the chance of them learning to love the game and of them playing for life!

On Saturday we were joined by our most regular playing “Wee Highlander”, 10 year old Cooper Longest. Cooper is a wonderful young man and a VERY promising young golfer from The Villages. Golf is a skill that we all know is not an easy one to learn and Cooper works even harder than most to keep improving. You see our Young Coop is a one-armed golfer!

When you watch Cooper play you see determination, enthusiasm and character in abundance! Above all you see a young golfer having fun on the golf course with friends and working his socks off to be the very best that he can be!

On Saturday, and without another Wee Highlander entry to pair him up with, we decided to throw Cooper in with the big(?) guys and so he played 9 holes with our youngest 18-hole Tour competition kids, Brantley Flannery (Weirsdale) aged 9 and 10 -year old Aiden Skrocki (The Villages Golf Academy)

Thank you Brantley and Aiden for your assistance in ensuring Cooper had a great day on the golf course! He shot a very impressive 52 over those 9 holes. The group was accompanied by our very own “Fiona-The Boss” who keeps everyone moving along at a good pace. On Saturday evening she said she has NEVER had so much fun during a competition as she did alongside these three kids as they all provided each other with constant encouragement and showed wonderful sportsmanship towards each other too. Well done Cooper for playing so well and good job Brantley and Aiden for helping ensure he had a great time, we are VERY proud of these young men!

Our Bobby Jones flight winner on Saturday is another of those exceptional young guns that make us feel really good about the future of our great sport. Riley Sillaway had two medal wins so far on Highlander Tour. One more would secure Claret Jug Flight status where he would join a small (only 4 players so far) group who have all been successful in 2021 so far by winning 3 or more flight medals. Riley’s road to The Claret Jug flight wasn’t in any real danger on Saturday and in the end he got there fairly comfortably.

Riley is another great example of a young player with enormous ability and talent who’s already got bags of experience under his belt. This will stand him in really good stead as he gets older and as the competition continues to get even tougher. He does understand already that his typical golf round is seldom going to be made up of good stuff only and he showed again on Saturday that he is more than capable of coming back strong after a setback…his setback(s) were two early holes (4 and 5) which frustratingly came along right after a really good start!

He would have been very disappointed BUT the positive reaction he showed following this tells you all you need to know about Riley. He still recorded the odd error but he kept them all to single shot errors and kept battling on to record the best score he could. His 43-40-(83) was enough to take the medal.

I know how hard Riley practices to improve when he’s not competing and how focused he actually is on his development and continued improvement, he does appear very driven to succeed and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that as it’s a requirement that will become a necessity as he gets older…having some of that drive now is a bonus just as long as he’s enjoying the process! Unlike some of us Riley has the gift of time on his hands, he’s a superb young player and a really fine young man and we are delighted to see him achieve not only this medal win but the promotion that comes with it into our Claret Jug Flight of winning players.

One last thing I want to mention about Riley and, although its something we would expect from any of our players regardless of age,  it just so happens that we were presented with a clear reminder of it on Saturday by Riley.

Integrity is a word long associated with our great game, it’s defined as “The quality of being honest and having strong moral principles”

On Saturday Riley brought us a rules question after his round had been completed about his ball inadvertently moving at the point of address…it’s always a difficult one to call as only the player usually gets to see the ball move and its sometimes impossible to judge if it was the player who caused the ball to move or some other factor! Riley had not put his score in for that hole and didn’t want to do so until he got a ruling from us. On this occasion we determined that as we were granting all players the option to lift, clean and place NO competitive advantage was gained and so no penalty should apply.

The moral of the story is of course the fact that it was (correctly) brought to our attention by an 11 year old player who demonstrated perfectly that he fully understands the importance of integrity and honesty in our game! The fact that Riley was a player representing our Bobby Jones flight on Saturday was not lost on me either.

Unquestionably Bobby Jones was THE greatest amateur player of all time, to many (me included) he will always be the greatest golfer of all time. Just as important was the fact that Bobby was the absolute definition of integrity as a golfer and as a man!

In 1925 at The US Open Bobby Jones called a one stroke penalty on himself. He reported that his ball moved slightly as he was preparing to play it. No one else saw the ball move. Bobby LOST that tournament by that one stroke! When praised for such a classy move his response was this, “You might as well praise me for not robbing a bank as praise me for playing by the rules!”

Fast forward almost a century to Summerglen GC and the similarity in Riley’s situation and if Bobby Jones were with us today I’m sure he would be impressed to know we still play the game the way it was intended to be played!

Good job Riley for showing such fine character and congratulations from us all on your flight medal win….and welcome to The Claret Jug Flight!

 

Congratulations Riley ….our latest Claret Jug Player in 2021.

Our final award at Summerglen went to Delaney Sillaway. Our nearest the pin winner shot to within 8 ft of making an ace!  Good job Delaney, well done!

Great shot Delaney…well done!

Our full field of players total scores are shown below. Well done everyone. Next up for us it’s a step back in time and a return to where it all began for Highlander Junior Tour. Continental Country Club in Wildwood was the venue for our first competition event back in late 2019. Lots has happened since then including a further 49 junior tournaments and of course a Global Pandemic !!!

Join us if you can for our return to Continental. We have tee times from 1pm and registration has already been very busy for this one. More info and to sign up click HERE

Thank you all for your support and a huge thank you as always to our sponsor (TCL) – Tri-County Landscapes (Todd and Melissa Coon) for your support of Junior Golf in our community.

Thank you to our Sponsor.

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