What a great weekend we had at Eagle Ridge Golf Club as we hosted our first ever Highlander Junior Tour 36 hole stroke play Summer Open Championship.
Junior golfers aged 9-17 checked in at registration on day one hopeful and ready to compete though this time for some their competition strategy and approach was a little different as they faced two days of stiff competition instead of our usual single day event. For some of our younger players though it simply meant two days of great golfing fun instead of one!
At registration we took the opportunity to remind our young players about our great game’s heritage and birthplace in Scotland and as a special treat HJT’s very own Fiona McColl presented everyone with a Scottish home-baked favorite that has its own special association with golf – Scottish Shortbread! Thank you to Fiona…the comments we received were all really great with quite a few requests for your closely guarded recipe!
So onto the golf itself. As always we were delighted to see so many players and spectators in attendance especially at our first ever 2 day event. As usual we welcomed some new players to their first experience of competing on the Highlander Junior Tour, we were delighted to welcome 14 year Anyalis Otero from Montverde who was actually playing in her first ever competition. It was great to have you with us Anyalis. Hopefully you had a good experience and we look forward to seeing you back with us again soon. The same applies to Dax Becker, also 14 and joining us for his first HJT event. Dax it was great to welcome you and watch you play, you did a fine job of providing a strong challenge to our eventual winner. We hope you enjoyed the experience and we hope to see you compete again with us really soon.
As is now customary our players were split into our three Historic Golf named flights : The Old Tom Morris, The Young Tommy Morris and our youngest players in the Bobby Jones.
As players gathered our Summer Open began in the usual way as we took the opportunity to announce our players up onto the tee. We do this for a number of reasons and it does seem appropriate to explain why at this stage…firstly it is true that it can make some players a little nervous to begin with. This is perfectly understandable and partly why we do it! Sounds odd I know but as players get older and become even more accustomed to playing competition golf there will be occasions when playing important events they are announced before play. Our reasoning is if we can help them become used to hearing their name announced and receiving the applause and good wishes from fellow players and spectators this will become the norm for them on the first tee wherever they play!
The other key reason is the fact that golf IS a sport like no other. In golf we expect all our players, parents and spectators to show the greatest of respect, fair play and support for every player in the field and not just their own favorite. This gives us a perfect opportunity to show them that respect as we begin each competition. We hope that you all agree these little things do matter.
Day one provided its usual mix of great excitement, great golf and individual stories. All of our flights remained pretty tight and close with no one player running away with an early lead…scoring was impressive particularly in our two older groups with 3 players in each group swapping the lead between each other. In addition and to ramp up the excitement and fun a little more we added a nearest the pin competition on both days too and the level of individual skill that brought in was quite something to see….the marker pin used was moved 8 times on day one as our talented juniors dropped “bombs” (as Phil Mickelson says !) onto the green each time getting closer to the hole.
Eventually with all players through the marker sat only 30 inches from the hole! I know everyone reading this is now looking at their hands and trying to recreate 30 inches….I was lucky enough to watch the perfectly placed shot come in at pace and it was very, very special indeed! The player, dressed in his now familiar favorite orange, who was running up after it to see just how close he had come to making an ace was none other than 9 year old Aiden Skrocki! Congratulations Aiden, what a great shot it was to win our first ever HJT Nearest the Pin award!
Day one was temporarily halted for everyone’s safety as the dark clouds descended and brought us just over an hour of rain delay. Happily though we were soon back out and everyone managed to finish day one having completed 18 fine holes of Championship golf. Incidentally its worth noting here that all of our groups were playing in 4 hours or less with our front two completing in less than 3 hours! Slow play in the game is a big reason why some become really frustrated and its good to see that our players, for the most part, are making more of an effort to play at a good pace.
Day one complete and everything still to play for with several players in each flight still capable of coming out on top.
Day two, a 12.30 start and a brighter forecast ahead as players arrived each with their own thoughts on the day ahead. In many cases the strategy was to get a good start and either stay in contention or catch the leaders. For some it was just enjoy and post a better score than the day before. Either way it was exciting for us as spectators and we are sure more than a little nervy for our players…exactly the way golf competitons should be!
The front nine of the Memorial Course was memorable for some and not so much for others, notable performances were from Trace Kirkland who continues to impress with a great 36 (+1).The other notable was Maggie Potash who was showing every bit of her experience and ability and sending a huge message out to the rest of the field with a brilliant -1 front 9 of only 34 strokes! In that mood Maggie would prove difficult to beat.
Meanwhile in the other flights Jack Panigoni and Elle Folland had started the day as front runners in our older juniors flight (The Old Tom Morris) and despite an early setback Jack was now gradually easing ahead of Elle and the rest of the chasing pack.
Our youngest golfers flight had started the way it ended the day before as Aiden Skrocki once again led the way and proved how consistent golf makes him hard to beat.
Nearest the pin today wasn’t quite as dramatic as the day before. A tough pin placement and a longer par 3 made it tough going for most but Hunter Lewis playing in the very first pairing of the day set the bar high with a well struck iron that came to rest just over 10ft from the pin. Despite a few others coming close no one could match that and so it was a very happy Hunter who took the award on day 2! Congratulations Hunter, it was an excellent shot and made you a most worthy winner!
The rest of our final day continued to provide some great moments and as the scores started to filter through it started to become clear who our first HJT Summer Open Champions would be:
The Old Tom Morris Flight:
Champion: Jack Panigoni 76 – 76 – 152
Runner Up : Elle Folland 77 – 79 – 156
Third Place ; Jonathan Ring 79 – 79 – 158
Congratulations Jack from us all. It was great to see you show your battling qualities to get the job done and become our first Summer Open Champion!
The Young Tommy Morris Flight:
Champion : Maggie Potash : 79 – 71 – 150
Runner Up : Dax Becker : 78 – 77 – 155
Third Place : Zachary Phan : 79 – 83 – 162
Congratulations Maggie from us all. A seriously impressive second round and the only player in the field on day 2 under par. You are a very well deserved and fitting HJT Summer Open Champion!
The Bobby Jones Flight
Champion : Aiden Skrocki : 88 – 89 – 177
Runner Up : Rhett Kirkland : 98 – 99 – 197
Third Place : AJ Sims : 105 – 89 – 204
Congratulations Aiden from us all. You led the field from day one and your consistently strong game made it difficult for the other players to catch you. Great job Aiden, you are a hugely popular winner and we are delighted that you are an HJT Summer Open Champion!
Congratulations also go to the winners of our daily Nearest The Pin competitions:
Day one ; Aiden Skrocki (again!) distance from hole recorded at 2 ft. 6 inches.
Day two : Hunter Lewis distance from hole recorded at 10ft 7 inches.
Well done to all of our players. You each have our thanks and admiration for the way you played and the manner in which you all took part in this competition. Thank you to all parents and spectators for your support of all of the players.
Next event is Saturday June 20th at Harbor Hills. This is a 1 day event. 18 holes stroke play. Registration is open by clicking HERE