Seldom before has there been a week when Harbor Hills Country Club has been the focus of such widespread golf attention. At the start of last week they were worthy hosts of the latest PGA LOCALiQ Series featuring 144 Professional players competing in an 8 event series which sees them now move on to Fort Lauderdale followed by a final season competition decider in The Bahamas.
The event was notable for a number of reasons. The eventual winner was Finland’s Toni Hakula with a very impressive -17 total over the three days. In second place was the man who now holds the new course record at Harbor Hills – Kyle Wilshire who shot a masterful 61.
Congratulations to the players and to everyone at Harbor Hills who worked so hard to make this event a reality. Let’s hope it becomes an annual event and next year let’s all pray that we can attend as spectators too!
We were delighted to work with Tom Leimberger and Krista Fabian to ensure we were the only junior tour who enjoyed the benefit of playing immediately after the pros. left and everyone was in agreement that conditions really were exceptionally good. The course itself is never an easy prospect for our juniors and scoring really low would once again prove difficult for most.
Our final field of junior golfers was a big one. We registered 26 players in total which meant we could once again offer strong competition in each of our now customary 4 flights.
As usual we also took the opportunity to welcome several new players to the HJT family. Welcome to Tanner Sheehan(Clermont) and Gabriel Zhang(Lake Mary). Also making their HJT debut were two of our Villages High School players Cole Bullen and Max Frantzen. We hope you all felt welcome and enjoyed playing with us.
Before we get started on the results round up we also need to thank the weather gods (golf division) for providing us with perfect conditions in which to play. No rain and only a little wind near the end of play but generally cool for everyone, which in comparison to recent weeks, is such a welcome change for everyone on the golf course! Let’s hope this is the weather we can now expect going forward in future HJT competitions!
We will start our round up with our Claret Jug Flight. As a reminder this is our only non-age restricted flight where each player in the flight competing for the winners medal has already achieved a minimum of 3 medal wins in a flight during 2020. Players in this flight can be any age and will still play from their age-based tee box.
The Claret Jug Flight:
Five previous HJT serial winning medalists were fighting it out for this one including Gabriel Hull(South Daytona) who was playing for the first time as a Claret Jug player, Elle Folland(The Villages High School) who is our most consistent and successful young lady golfer, Jack Panigoni (The Villages High School) who’s our top overall medal winner during 2020, Jonathan Ring (Rhineland Cutlery) and Bobby Jones Potash (Black Bear GC).
The battle for the medal in this one turned out to be one mainly about Jonathan Ring and Bobby Jones Potash in the end.
The front 9 proved to be the toughest of starts for most of these players on Saturday with only one player (Bobby Jones Potash) in the red numbers after the front 9. Bobby set the standard with a 3 birdie -1(35) to lead the field by 4 strokes at the turn. When you give any one of our experienced young players in The Claret Jug Flight a lead of that kind it’s always going to be a very tough ask for the rest to pull that back!
On the back 9 only two of our chasing pack (Elle Folland and Jonathan Ring) got a little closer to our leader during a period of play where Bobby was finding it tough to continue his early form. Jonathan made things a little bit more interesting for us all by shooting the best back 9 total of the day (37) and finishing on 77 to ensure our leader would have to keep working to get this one over the finish line….well done Jonathan on battling back in the manner you did….in the end though Bobby held his nerve and his lead to secure the win and his first Claret Jug medal with a 75 to win by two strokes.
Congratulations Bobby Jones Potash from everyone at Highlander Junior Tour. It was a tough one to win, just as they all should be in this flight, but you showed good strength of character to keep it all together. Well done!
The Old Tom Morris Flight:
Our 16-18 year old boys were competing in this flight and in similar fashion to the earlier player report very few of them were finding it anything other than tough out there on Saturday afternoon.
For most of them the greens were the big difference, it was TOUGH to make putts. Call it the “PGA difference” if you like but in the end the scores posted by most of our regular players in this flight were NOT an indicator of how they normally score.
Having said all of that one player did buck that trend really well. Gabriel Zhang(Lake Mary) playing in his first HJT competition, and playing Harbor Hills for the 1st time too, worked his way around consistently and in a manner that ensured he was always going to be hot favorite to take the medal home. An 8 par front 9 total of +1 (37) gave him a 5 shot cushion over closest early challengers Trenton Waters(Montverde) and Hunter Lewis(Belleview HS).
The back 9 proved a bit tougher for both Gabriel and the challengers. The early consistency he’d shown was the key in this one though and in the end he ran out as a comfortable winner posting a final tally of 76 to make it a fine debut win.
Congratulations Gabriel from everyone at HJT, we know it was tough out there but undoubtedly you coped better than the rest of the field to take your first HJT medal, we suspect it could be the first of many based on some of the fine play we witnessed on Saturday.
The Young Tommy Morris Flight:
Our players in this one on Saturday were all boys aged up to 16. When it comes to scoring low we are telling a similar tale to earlier flights where, try as hard as they could, its safe to say many just couldn’t get into their stride at Harbor Hills on Saturday afternoon!
It did start off fairly well for several of our competitors who showed strong consistency through the front 9 holes. Caden Fockler (The Villages HS) led the way with a +2(38) to lead by just one from EJ Maupin(Lyman HS) and by three from the chasing Jason Kaiser(Circle Christian).
Once again the tale of two 9’s was evident as unfortunately neither EJ or Jason could find the form needed to sustain the challenge on Caden who took his slender lead and added to it with a strong show of consistency through the back 9 holes to close out his 3rd HJT medal win.
Caden recorded a +5(77) to win by 6 strokes.
Caden is a young player we know very well at HJT. He always displays a first class attitude and we know only too well that he works extremely hard to improve and develop his game. We are all very happy to offer our congratulations to Caden for his efforts not only on Saturday but throughout the year. This win sees Caden now achieving promotion into our Claret Jug Flight for future competitions and we are excited to see him continue his development in the game.
The Bobby Jones Flight:
Our youngest players, aged from 9-13 (boys and girls) compete in this one. Always a great flight to watch and it’s very clear each of these players are at different places right now in their golf development.
We always have a broad mix at this age level including those who play competition golf regularly and some who are just embarking on this journey. Scores always tell a story, after all unless we are watching every swing and every putt its the only way we can put any kind of measure on how well a player is improving.
If we only take scores into account (especially within this age group) then we are doing these kids a major disservice. Harbor Hills was not kind on most of these kids at the weekend and we think/hope they understand the reasons why it felt a little bit tougher than usual?
We studied the scores that came in for many of you and looked at one or two disappointed young faces and we can sympathize. We KNOW every one of our youngest players who challenged themselves on Saturday can and WILL shoot lower scores and we ask that if you feel/felt bad you simply put that one behind you, keep on working hard and think about a bigger picture in your quest to develop.
However…its not all bad news. Harbor Hills might have taken its new PGA status reputation out on a few BUT there were more than a few great stories to report too. Back to the scores and two of our youngest were both playing some really consistent golf and fighting for a medal despite the added toughness of the Harbor Hills greens. In addition one young player was achieving a milestone moment in junior competition and we will start by recognizing him first.
I met Brantley Flannery only a couple of months back as he was attending a summer golf camp. An extremely intelligent and talkative little 8 year old who clearly loves the game and with an attitude most 16 year old’s would be proud of…he knows (and trust me he will tell you if you ask!) that if you work hard at your game you will get better AND if you then set yourself achievable targets you can make them.
Brantley (now aged 9) shot 95 on Saturday, at Harbor Hills of all places, in an HJT junior golf competition ..you can guess what his target probably was? Congratulations Brantley from us all, you did a great job and we are all very much enjoying being with you on your golf journey!
And so to our other good news, the story behind our Bobby Jones Flight winner, and how he too, has now also achieved a bit of a milestone in his own golf development.
The battle for the medal in this one, similar to before came down to two young players, both exciting young prospects and both previous HJT medal winners, 10 year old Aiden Skrocki (The Villages Golf Academy) and 11 year old Owen Sahajpal (Ocala GC) After the front 9 Owen held the slim lead by only one stroke. For most of the remaining holes they both remained really closely matched and at any one time there was never more than 1 or 2 strokes between them.
In the end it was Aiden, who showed slightly better consistency in shooting par in 4 of the final 9 holes, who took the medal by 2 strokes posting a final score of 85.
Aiden clearly enjoys the Harbor Hills experience as he won there with us last month following an exciting 3 extra hole play off. His medal win now elevates him into our Claret Jug Flight for future competitions, an achievement that can only be earned by winning on 3 or more occasions. Congratulations and well done Aiden from everyone at HJT , we are very proud of you ….and welcome to The Claret Jug Flight!
And so there we have it everyone. Another excellent day of junior golf competition. We welcomed some new faces, enjoyed seeing a debut winner in Gabriel Zhang, witnessed a 1st Claret Jug win for Bobby Jones Potash, enjoyed medal wins and Claret Jug promotions achieved by Caden Fockler and Aiden Skrocki and got to share in young Brantley’s best competition score too….quite a day!
Thank you everyone who came along and for supporting what we do. We appreciate it.
Last but not least thank you Tom Leimberger, Krista Fabian and everyone at Harbor Hills for everything you do to help us and junior golf development. We look forward to returning next month.
Next on the calendar for us its Red Tail GC in Sorrento this coming Saturday October 10th. Tee times from 1.30 pm.
To Register and for more info click HERE.
We hope to see you there. Bye for now.