FJT Saddlebrook (16-18) *54-Hole Major*
September 2-4, 2023
WESLEY CHAPEL, Fla. – Saddlebrook Resort hosted the final FJT major of the 2023 season on Labor Day weekend. Mingbo Jiang went wire-to-wire to win while Sofia Cherif Essakali jumped to the top of the leaderboard in the final round. This is the first FJT victory for each player in 2023.
Saturday’s opening round came with soft conditions out on the Saddlebrook course which meant players in the Boys Division had scoring opportunities early and often. Mingbo Jiang would be the first player to take advantage, getting to 4-under in his first seven holes. The sophomore from Orlando would add two more birdies to offset a pair of bogeys coming in and post 4-under 66. A trio of players would sit just behind him at 2-under through 18 holes. Darren Zhou, Dylan Mason, and Tanmay Chandra would look to make up that two shot gap with plenty of holes remaining.
At the start of Round 2, Jiang extended the lead with a birdie on the 1st hole but would be up-and-down throughout the round. Bogeys on Holes 4 & 5, a birdie on 6, and then a bogey on 7 all while Darren Zhou continued to make seven straight pars to start his round. Zhou’s first bogey of the day would come on the 8th and a birdie on the 9th for Jiang meant through the rollercoaster front nine Jiang had, he still had extended his lead by one to three shots. Both Zhou and Jiang would have similar back nines as each made two birdies in the early stages, a bogey late in the back nine and finished with double bogeys on 18. Jiang found the water off the tee while Zhou was in the longest rough on the course in front of the green on 18 after his approach leading to their doubles. With 18 holes left, Jiang would take a three shot lead into the final round over Zhou.
In the final pairing, Bryson Hughes would be the first player to make a move at Jiang’s lead. Hughes made birdie on two of the first three holes to get within two of Jiang. Hughes would also pass Darren Zhou into second place as Zhou made double bogeys on Holes 3 and 7 and turn in 2-over 37. As soon as Hughes got close, Jiang started to make birdies of his own on 5, 9, 12, and 13 to increase the lead back to six. Even with three bogeys to close the round, Jiang would go on to be crowned Champion by two shots with a 3-under par total 207 for the weekend. Darren Zhou would go on to birdie three of his last five holes to move back into second place and the only other player under-par for the weekend. Bryson Hughes continues great play in FJT Majors, as he finishes third to go with his win at the FJT UF Major in January.
Playing long and soft due to the passing Hurricane during the week leading up to the event, Saddlebrook Resort proved difficult in the early stages. The Girls Division was filled with past FJT Champions who came to add a Major victory to their resume. Yaxuan Zheng would be one of the first players to get on the board with a birdie on the par-5 4th hole. A couple of bogeys in the middle portion of her round would make way for Junyuan Zhang as she would birdie the 15th hole on her way to a 2-over 72. Zheng would also post 72 with a birdie on the last to tie the lead after Round 1.
Players were met with a shorter golf course on Sunday but winds were up more than the previous day making the course play more difficult. The co-leaders, Zhang and Zheng, would struggle in Round 2 opening up the way for the players chasing the lead. The best round of the day would come from outside the final pairing, as Mara King would make ten straight pars to close out a round of 1-over 71. Sofia Cherif Essakali would come to her final hole also tied for the and in the middle of the fairway with the opportunity to take it by herself. However, an overaggressive approach came up short in the penalty areas which lead to a double-bogey, 6. Heading to the final round Mara King would seek to win her 1st FJT as she held a two-shot lead.
On Sunday, the first movement from the overnight leaderboard would come when Mara King would bogey her third hole of the day. Sofia, now within just one shot, would go on to birdie three of her next four holes. King would steady herself and make five straight pars during that run by Essakali but a double-bogey on the par-4 18th would have her three shots behind at the turn. Essakali’s lead would be one that she would not give up. A final nine holes of 1-under 34 would see her coast to a six shot victory. This is the Team Florida member’s first (16-18) FJT victory. Mara King finished in second place while Catalina Harvey adds another Top 3 finish in a major after winning the FJT ChampionsGate Major in May.
|Tee||Yardage / Info|
|Boys (16-18)||6,510 yds. 72.3/142|
|Girls (16-18)||5,899 yds. 75.2/138|
|Sunny, Winds 3-5 mph||92 °F|
|Sunny, Winds 5-10 mph||84 °F|
|Sunny, Winds 5-10 mph||30 °F|
Format: 54 holes individual stroke play
Eligibility: Boys and Girls 16-18 (age calculated from the last day of the event)
Field Determination: FJT exemptions, JGS Ranking, 84 player field
Practice Round Information: $40 + tax
Divisions and Approximate Yardages
- Boys (16-18) - 7,000 yards
- Girls (16-18) - 6,000 yards
How Entries are Accepted (Different than 36-hole events)
- Players with an unused FJT exemption will be accepted on a first-come, first-serve basis (if submitted before the entry deadline).
- After the close of entries, all non-exempt players will be ranked by their standing on Junior Golf Scoreboard. The better ranked players will be placed in the tournament field until the limit is reached.
- An alternates list will be posted to the FSGA website under "Tee Times & Player Information".
- Entries submitted after the entry deadline will be added to the bottom of the alternates list or used to fill any openings in the field.
Schedule of Events
Saturday, September 2nd
7:15 AM - 9:30 AM - Tournament Registration (near pro shop)
8:00 AM - 9:57 AM - Round one tee times off of the 1st and 10th tees
Sunday, September 3rd
8:00 AM - 9:57 AM - Round two tee times off of the 1st and 10th tees
Monday, September 4th
8:00 AM - 9:57 AM - Final round tee times off of the 1st and 10th tees
Awards ceremony immediately following the completion of play
How to Enter
Entries are submitted through the FSGA website. To enter, each player must create an FSGA account on this website (free to set-up), purchase a current Junior Membership ($40), and have an active Florida GHIN Handicap (included in membership if golfer does not already have one). To proceed, click the "Enter" button above once entries have opened.
Late Entry Fee: A late fee of $10 will be applied to entries submitted after the close of entries date. The entry fee and late fee will only be applied if the player gets accepted in to the tournament field.
Practice rounds are available one week prior to the tournament on a space-available basis, and only after 12:00 PM the weekend prior. The price for a practice round is $40.00 + tax. Please call (813) 907-4566 to arrange your practice round. The proper place to practice your golf swing is on the driving range, hitting multiple shots on the course, not filling divots, and not repairing ball marks are unacceptable and may cause removal from the tournament without a refund.
TrackMan Sessions Available
We are pleased to offer tournament participants the opportunity to utilize our TrackMan launch moniter, and to have his/her swing recorded on Friday, September 1st. Specifics will be included in the pre-event email. There is no charge for this service. All information will be posted to the junior's FSGA profile for college coaches to view. Click here for more information.
AJGA Performance Based Entry (PBE)
Florida Junior Tour Policies
There is no host hotel for this event
5700 Sadlebrook Way
Wesley Chapel, FL 33543
Click here for directions.