Leading English golf prospect Josh Hill (pic - Leaderboard Photography) recently made headlines after becoming the youngest male player to win an Official World Golf Ranking event. Josh was just 15 years, six months and 27 days old when he won the Al Ain Open on the Mena Tour in the United Arab Emirates last month. Josh’s victory also received a lot of attention as he was unable to claim the £10,477 prize due to his amateur status!
Josh, who is the youngest member of the England Under-18s squad, will now make a significant jump up the world rankings having entered the event at 2,072. He finished on 17 under par for the tournament after rounds of 65 and 66 were followed by a score of 62. His success at the Al Ain Open also caught the eyes of Danny Willett, Lee Westwood and Nick Faldo as they tweeted their congratulations.
Josh has a highly impressive track record with several event victories including the Emirates Golf Federation Order of Merit series and the Faldo Series Europe Under-16s title. He has been raised in Dubai after his family moved to the UAE from England a month before he was born. He balances his golfing commitments with his education and is focusing on tackling his GCSEs this year.
Here, Josh reflects on his recent success, highlights the key achievements of his career so far and talks about the importance of his family's support...
How did you feel after winning the Al Ain Open? Did you feel any nerves heading down the back nine? Were you pleased with your three rounds overall?
“I felt good and a sense of achievement after finishing on 18. Going down the back nine I felt I handled myself well and kept enjoying myself. I was pleased in different ways for the three rounds. For the first round I was happy that I didn’t play myself out of the tournament, for the second round I was happy because I didn’t play my best but still managed to shoot a good score and for the third round I was really pleased because I knew I had to get off to a good start, which I did.”
How proud are you to be the youngest male to win an Official World Golf Ranking (OWGR) event? Did you realise you were in the process of making history?
“I am very proud to be the youngest person to win an OWGR event. It’s great to have a record that many of the greatest ever players don’t have. I had no idea I had a chance of making history. I knew I would be the youngest to win on Mena Tour, but when I found out that it was a world record too, I was ecstatic.”
You received congratulatory messages from Danny Willett, Lee Westwood and Nick Faldo. Did this feel quite surreal? Does this give you extra motivation to keep achieving?
“It felt very different for sure - it was weird that major champions were congratulating me. My motivation level is already high and it added a bit more to it which is a great feeling.”
Are there particular inspirations or sporting heroes you’ve looked up to over the years? What qualities do they have that you admire?
“My inspiration in golf is Tiger Woods and it’s great to see him still achieving. I love his determination at his peak and especially when he was struggling and still managed to come back and win a major. Outside of golf, I love Michael Jordan because I admire his motivation and work ethic even when he was the best in the world.”
When did you first realise you were a talented golfer?
“I first became aware of my ability to compete with top players at 10 years of age when I returned to the UK to play the US Kids event at Craigelaw, Scotland. I was aiming to come in the top 50 and managed fifth place in UK links conditions and weather that I had never experienced before having been brought up in the UAE. This was the first time I realised I could compete at the top level which sparked my love of trying to achieve in the competitive world of golf.”
What have been the key achievements, aside from your recent success in the Al Ain Open, during your career up to now?
“One of my main achievements was in the local UAE tournaments in 2018 when I won seven of the last eight men’s open tournaments. This taught me how to win and what to do when it’s tight on the back nine. In the summer of 2018 I was able to maintain a high standard in the UK events that I participated in. I believe this is why I was included in the England squad at 14-years-old. A key achievement was winning the Faldo Series Europe Under-16s final when I was against a fellow England squad member and learnt to beat one of the best in the country. Finally, in the Boys’ Amateur Championship 2018 where I came fifth in the strokeplay, unfortunately getting knocked out in the second round, I learnt how to compete with the best juniors in the world. My main aim for next season is to be consistent in the top amateur events.”
Which experiences in your life have you learnt the most from up to now? What did it teach you?
“I learnt a lot from last season because I was struggling and wasn’t having fun. But when I won in Al Ain it taught me if you keep working hard and you have fun, results will come.”
You received a SportsAid award earlier this year. How does it feel to be recognised by a charity which has previously supported the likes of Justin Rose, Matt Fitzpatrick, Charley Hull and Georgia Hall when they were younger?
“I really appreciated getting a SportsAid award as it helped me travel to and compete in tournaments. It’s amazing knowing that so many great players had the same support as me from SportsAid and hopefully it can help me get to the level that they are competing at.”
How important has the support of your family and support team been to you in pursuing your sporting ambitions?
“My family have played a big part in my ambitions and I can’t thank them enough because they have sacrificed so much for me, from driving me all over the UK to tournaments, supporting me even when things aren’t going well and making me feel happy as much as possible.”
What will you do to #SupportTheNext generation of British sporting heroes? SportsAid needs your help to ensure talented athletes like Josh can continue receiving the backing they rely on. You can make a regular donation to the charity and have a significant impact on the country’s sporting future.