23 Feb 2022

Josh Hill – Coming of age

There was a historic moment for golf in the UAE last month when Josh Hill became the first player born in the country to make the cut a DP World Tour event with an astonishing finish to his second round at Yas Links Abu Dhabi. Not content with etching his name into the history books with his display at first Rolex Series event of the season, the 17-year-old went on to make the weekend for the second successive week at the Dubai Desert Classic, finishing above a whole host of golfing heavyweights on the way.

Hill’s double desert delight started on the front foot with an impressive one under par 71 on the opening day of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, before mother nature wreaked havoc in the capital with blustering winds leaving scorecards in tatters at the Kyle Phillips- designed track. “I’ve never been so glad to get off the golf course,” four-time Major champion Rory McIlroy was heard saying as he walked off the 18th green.

Josh Hill made the cut right on the line at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

Hill, who had dropped seven shots during the chaos, failed to finish his second round due to bad light, which meant he would return on Saturday morning to complete his final six holes. Luck of the draw some might say, but the Englishman still needed to pick up three more shots on the challenging links layout to book a spot for the weekend. No luck on the 13th and the 14th with a pair or pars, but Hill then came out all guns blazing with three birdies in his final four holes to make the cut right on line to herald a new beginning for golfers in the UAE.

“I knew I had to make three birdies in six holes but I also knew that I needed to be patient so I was thinking that if I managed to play some good shots then I could do it,” said Hill. “I was able to hole a great putt on the 18th and it was a great feeling. It was a pretty cool feeling but like I said to people close to me, I felt that I could do it and then to go out and actually make it was a great feeling.

Was it the most pressure he had ever felt on a golf course, knowing he needed to play the final six holes at three under par? “No, I would say the MENA Tour event in Al Ain was when I felt the most pressure,” said Hill, referring to becoming the youngest winner of an Official World Golf Ranking event when he won the Al Ain Open on the Mena Tour in 2019. “The fact I came off a bad season in the summer, I put a lot of pressure on myself to perform after that, so even though I was in contention to make the cut I didn’t feel as much pressure as before.

“The thing I was really pleased with was that I didn’t just ease off and pat myself on the back after earning the right to play the final 36 holes. I made six birdies and an eagle to shoot 69 in the third round straight after finishing off the second round, and if I hadn’t made a couple of double bogeys by being over- aggressive it would have been even better. That impressive 69 was followed with a not so impressive 75, but after the rollercoaster week Hill had endured he could be forgiven for not producing his best golf after a physically and mentally tiring week.

Hill had to wrap up warm during the blustering conditions at Yas Links Abu Dhabi

“It was disappointing to finish with a 75, especially as I bogeyed three of the last four this time,” he said. “But it was still a great week, and even though I was aiming for better than a share of 58th I still managed to finish a couple of shots in front of Collin Morikawa. That’s not bad, is it? This was huge for my confidence, and in terms of showing that my game is good enough to compete at this level. It really was a case of moving up to another level.”

Dubai Desert Classic

Next up for the teenage prodigy was a second outing at the Dubai Desert Classic, famed for hosting the longest- running DP World Tour event outside of Europe as well as boasting one of the most coveted pieces of silverware on the year-long schedule – the Dallah Trophy. With last week’s result still fresh in the memory, Hill fired an opening round two under par 70, but had at one point been on the first screen of the leaderboard at four under par in seventh before dropping a couple of shots later in the round. Hill successfully made the cut for a second successive week, albeit in less dramatic fashion than just seven days before, with a second round 74 before reeling off a third round 69, just as he did in Abu Dhabi, to surge back up the leaderboard at Emirates Golf Club. “Sure, there are a few big names around me, but it is just another round of golf, said Hill straight after that impressive third round showing.

His reward of shooting a three under par 69 over the Majlis? A final round three-ball with DP World Tour winner Romain Langasque and 2019 Open Champion Shane Lowry. Hill went on to post a disappointing 78 but was grateful of the support he had from his fellow peers out on course as well as his army of friends and teammates from Trump International Golf Club, Dubai. “It was probably one of the worst rounds I have played in a while,” he said.

Hill was rewarded with a final round pairing with Shane Lowry and Romain Langasque after a third round 69

“But I can put it behind me and having all these guys come out and support me was unreal. “These guys see me every day at Trump and elsewhere and for them to give up their time — five hours a day — to help me along is amazing. They could be out watching the likes of the Rorys and Morikawas but they were here with me. Amazing.” “Shane was also amazing. After a bad front nine, he just wrapped an arm around me and told me to keep fighting in a tough game. He was a great help. He also told me: ‘See you in a few years,’ which really told me I am doing the right things and I am on my way. “It is always nice to play on the weekend when there a few less competitors and not as much pressure as you have made the cut. Even though I had a poor round it was fun.” Despite the final round 78, Hill finished the tournament as Leading Amateur with Viktor Hovland personally congratulating him on his performance before both men picked up their trophies.

What’s next?

Hovland was also overheard telling the youngster: “I’ve heard my college coach wants you to go to the school, but I heard you’re probably not going to go to college.” After Hill had told the Norwegian star that he was going to made a decision soon, Hovland replied: “You’ve got a bright future so keep going.”

So, what is next for this Dubai-born prodigy? “I get asked a lot about turning professional, but there’s no rush, especially with some great offers to go to the States on the table,” he said. “I’ll talk it over with my family and decide what comes next, but for now I just want to enjoy the opportunities I’ve been given. “I felt comfortable in this new environment of making the weekend at these tournaments. I’d like to play in the top amateur events but right now I’m focusing on the immediate future and seeing where that takes me”

Viktor Hovland praised Josh Hill for his performance at Emirates Golf Club

One of those opportunities he has been given is the recent change of Rules to Amateur Status, with elite amateur golfers now being able to receive payment for sponsorship deals. When quizzed on what this means for Hill going forward he was reluctant to answer, before a representative from Wasserman Media Group, believed to be Andy Sullivan’s manager, stepped in and told us that they were actively looking for sponsorship to aid Hill’s promising career. It’s no surprise that Hill’s exceptional talent is attracting some of the biggest names in sports marketing and talent management with his impressive roll of honour. Whatever happens next for the youngster, the UAE should be proud that such a talent calls the country his home and with the help of fans, coaches and golf clubs up and down the region, along with the supreme quality Hill possesses, who knows what this boy can achieve in the game we all love.

Share this article
Swing Sequence

Wyndham Clark Swing Sequence

By Jonathan Craddock, PGA Professional, Pete Cowen Academy One of the...

Xander Schauffele swing sequence

By Jonathan Craddock, PGA Professional, Pete Cowen Academy Xander Schauffele has...

Related articles

Tiger Woods Golf Cart Rule Change For US Senior Open

Tiger Woods is reportedly in discussions to participate in the US...

Rory Returns for the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

Rory McIlroy will return to Yas Links for the Abu Dhabi...

Upbeat McIlroy Ready for US Open After Marital Reconciliation

Rory McIlroy’s upbeat mindset ahead of this week’s US Open at...

U.S. Open Preview – Who will claim the year’s third Major?

The third Major of men’s schedule gets underway this month with...

Surviving Summer – How Courses Cope With The Heat

Words: Will Kent Photography: Provided by Stuart & Getty Images The...

Kiaan Keeps On Winning – UAE’s Latest Jnr Star

Photography & words by Will Kent Eight-year-old Kiaan Maharaj has become...