This was to be our third visit to Red Tail GC this year. It’s certainly true to say that on each occasion the golf course has improved a great deal, so much so that we think Red Tail is a strong contender to be one of the very best venues in Florida to play. It’s well designed, challenging and tough!
Since our first visit though there is another unfortunate factor that seems to have followed us around Red Tail however, and that is RAIN and plenty of it! Now don’t get me wrong here, I’m from Scotland, so playing golf in the rain is something you just do…if you didn’t you probably wouldn’t play golf BUT this is a bit different when accompanied by the roar of thunder and nearby lightning.
3 Red Tail visits and 3 weather delays (and 2 of those previous competitions we had to call as 9 hole events!) On our previous visit we even suffered one destroyed HJT canopy/gazebo which gave way under the weight of the water on top!
I guess the positive in all this came yesterday after an hour or so of sheltering. The overhead dark skies suddenly got brighter, and although the rain continued it was bearable to play in and so (3rd time lucky!) we finally got everyone through 18 holes of competitive junior golf.
Another new face joined us yesterday for the first time. Welcome to Jesse Johnson from Lake Minneola who made his HJT debut yesterday. We watched some of Jesse’s play yesterday and we hope to see much more of him in future. We hope you felt welcome Jesse.
As far as results go we will start as usual with our Claret Jug Flight. A reminder to everyone that this one contains junior golfers of all age groups who still play from the tee box that is most suitable for their age group. They have all had to earn Claret Jug entry by winning 3 times or more this year on HJT.
The Claret Jug Flight:
The one thing that our players in this flight are learning quickly is there is no place to have an off day if you want to win a Claret Jug medal. On some previous days a player can get a little bit lucky and maybe a high 70’s or low 80’s score can be enough to grab a win however when you have a strong field and all of that field are previous and consistent winners that’s no longer going to be good enough to get you the win. Yesterday it was a strong field of players in The Claret Jug (aged 15-17) battling against Red Tail.
Two of our regular and most consistent previous winners battled it out yesterday once again. Jonathan Ring and Jack Panigoni are good friends on and off the course and when both are going for the top spot its great to watch! At times the quality of their play is exceptional. Jack led after 9 by two strokes posting a front nine total of only +1 (37) and it remained that way for much of the day. Despite a fine birdie on 16 from Jonathan that’s where the challenge ended as Jack showed once again just how tough a competitor and experienced player he has become.
Jack’s final scorecard showed a round of 75. His consistency was the key, birdies were hard to find under the damp conditions but not surprisingly he made his on the par 5’s which he can reach with relative ease and despite the odd bogey he will look to the fact that his win was made possible by carding a run of 8 straight pars and 12 in total. That’s called consistency! Congratulations Jack from everyone at HJT on a hard fought win.
Jonathan remained in it all the way. A fine 77 which he reflected on and then admitted he was pretty disappointed with …we LOVE his spirit! He doesn’t care if it was tough out there he’s only interested in shooting lower next time and he knows that he can…we are indeed lucky to have young players like this playing on our tour.
The Old Tom Morris Flight:
Our 16/17’s yesterday also found Red Tail and the conditions tough. Before the weather delay hit it was clear some players did their best work early and in the front 9. Brian Eckert (Mount Dora) knows Red Tail pretty well and he was one of our previous winners when we were last here in July.
Brian is a talented and focused young player who is developing a strong all round game and his +2 (38) front nine was the best in this flight by 2 strokes from Trenton Waters and 5 from HJT debut player Jesse Johnson.
Despite the chasing pair Brian showed his experience, a cool head and the consistency required to post a decent score without too many errors. The consistency was all about making par as often as he could in tough conditions, in the end his card showed 79, 11 pars and a birdie got him there with 7 strokes to spare as both Trenton and Jesse couldn’t do better than 86. It was enough for Brian to take his second HJT winners medal (both at Red Tail incidentally) AND now that you have 2 Brian you are within touching distance of the 3 required to gain promotion and become a Claret Jug Flight player.
Congratulations on another Red Tail victory Brian from everyone at Highlander Junior Tour.
The Young Tommy Morris Flight:
Our 14/15 age group. This one was all about one player right from the start. Caden Fockler (Ocala) is straight off the back of a good medal win (his 1st with HJT) last week at Black Bear GC.
Wins on tough golf courses are becoming a bit of a specialty for Caden who is a determined and extremely focused young player. He is another example of a fast developing and improving talent who knows his strengths and what he still needs to work on, one thing is for sure though, everyone here at HJT fully expects this season to be his most consistent and special yet both in HJT competition and at High School level.
Caden’s two early birdies (best front 9 birdie count of the field) set him up nicely for a front 9 (+1) of only 37 strokes. Like many he did falter a bit on the back with a few more bogeys than he would like but despite that he has enough character and competition experience to know you keep on batting and the good stuff will take care of itself, the good stuff, in Caden’s case, was a very impressive little chip-in birdie on 18 to keep his completed scorecard in the 70’s!
With a final score of 79 Caden Fockler took home another (back to back) HJT winners medal. Congratulations Caden from us all…that makes 2, both well deserved and we expect its only a matter of time before you join our Claret Jug flight!
The Bobby Jones Flight:
Our youngest developing players play in the flight which is aptly named after (in my humble opinion!) the greatest player of all time. Robert Tyre Jones (Bobby) was an exceptional young talent who went on to become a legend of the game. He started very young and the only thing that ever stopped him from winning even more in his very early years was his own attitude. He eventually discovered that it was his burning desire to succeed and always win that was stopping him from enjoying the game he loved and having fun doing it!
Bobby Jones in his early years was widely known as one of the golfing world’s first petulant and temperamental youngsters…and it certainly didn’t help his game!
We want our youngest players to improve and we want them to win but most of all we want them to enjoy playing the game and not take things too seriously at this stage. We expect to see good shots and bad shots at this level of development and if you realize that’s what to expect and go with it without getting too upset about the bad ones you will start to find more of the good ones in each competitive game you play.
Our competitors yesterday are both very talented young players who have built up a lot of competition experience despite their relatively young years (12). Both are extremely capable of putting together a fine round of golf and both are at a similar stage where all they seek is some consistency to develop in their game, both at times can be hard on themselves when things don’t go their way too…just like Bobby Jones!
Katie Allen (Fruitland Park) and Brady Lawler (Lady Lake) are both going to develop into exciting young players.
They both already work hard and have the strong fundamentals needed and that’s very clear to see! We are excited to watch their development and we will do everything we can to help them achieve their goals in our great game.
Yesterday on Red Tail (remember what we said earlier about how tough Red Tail is?) Brady shot, what we believe, was possibly his personal best front 9 total of 43 (+7). He shot par on 5 of those holes…that right there is the consistency he is looking for and it reminds both him, and us, that he is developing into a fine young player. The back 9 didn’t look quite as good but regardless of that we hope he smiled his way through that early 9 as much as we did when we recorded it!
Brady Lawler took the HJT medal yesterday and we are delighted for him (and his always supportive mom!) It was very well deserved! Congratulations Brady from everyone at Highlander Junior Tour.
So that wraps up another great day. Weather played a part but we got through a full round at Red Tail this time so thanks for hanging in there everyone!
On a slightly different note our HJT “Director of Registration and Scottish Shortbread” (she demanded a title!) Fiona McColl wants everyone to know she is thankful and blessed for all the kind comments she received from those who once again got to experience her home made shortbread (Scottish Granny’s Secret Recipe)
She will bake more for future events for those who wish to take some home and, just like HJT competitions cost of entry, it will be very reasonably priced!
Next up for us we head back to another favorite, Harbor Hills Country Club in Lady Lake. Harbor Hills is hosting a PGA International qualifying event end of September and right now they are working hard to ensure the course is in great shape. We hope to benefit from that and hear more about this exciting development (including finding out if we can attend as spectators?) when we visit this Saturday August 29th.
Registration for that one is $25 for HJT members and $35 for non members and you can sign up HERE.
Have a great week everyone and see you all soon.