Seventeen-year-old Dubai-born resident Josh Hill is making impressive strides in his young golfing career this summer in Europe. Gulf News caught up with his father Russell in Dubai to chat through Josh’s progress.
We started our conversation by discussing how Josh took up the game.
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“It was certainly not through parental encouragement and planning,” said Russell. “It all started when Josh was just two years old when he visited his grandparents in southern Spain near Cadiz. Josh seemed drawn to the golf course over the wall of the back garden and was excited to watch the golfers pass by.
"We returned to stay again with his grandparents the next year and his enthusiasm grew. He started by knocking a golf ball around the garden with plastic clubs and then with a cut down 7 iron that his grandfather made for him.
"Once back in Dubai Josh, began to hit balls on the driving range at the Dubai Creek Golf & Yacht Club and then progressed to the Par 3 course which he loved playing. On advice from family and friends, it was not until Josh was six that we enrolled him to a group golf lesson programme. Josh was just having fun up until then and we all felt that was very important at this early stage.’
“I recall Josh playing more and more at Dubai Creek and he found friends with the Paul King family and children, and one day he came home to say that they had played the full 18 holes of the Dubai Creek course and told us he had shot 99 from the ladies tees.”
Josh continued to improve and soon professionals we beginning to see he had a real talent.
“Was this parental pride or was Josh a serious talent?” Russell wondered. “We decided to enter Josh as a 10-year-old in the European US Kids Championship in Scotland at Craigielaw Golf Club. We had no idea how he would play. In typical Scottish weather of rain and wind, Josh finished an exceptional fifth from a field of more than 100 junior golfers from around the world. He had never played in rain or in waterproofs. This was when we realised that Josh had a genuine talent.”
Moving on a few years and here we are in the summer of 2021, Josh and all his fellow golfers having lost an important season last year due to COVID-19, he is making a name for himself on the international stage.
Representing Trump International Golf Club, Dubai, he currently boasts a world amateur ranking high of 192. Josh is coached by Rob Watts from Castle Royle Golf Club in Reading and has been working with him for the past 18 months. Elite junior golfers these days do not refer to handicaps but only world rankings.
Recently, Josh finished fourth at the St Andrews Links Trophy, just one shot outside the play-off. In the Amateur Championship, he qualified 50th with rounds of 73 and 73 and lost in Round 2 of the matchplay. He then competed in both regional (Hollinwell) and final qualifying for The Open, and in the English Amateur Championship at Moortown shot rounds of 69 and 77 as the No. 53 qualifier and lost in the last 16 of the matchplay. In the British Boys Championship at Royal Cinque Ports, Josh was the ninth qualifier and lost in Round 2. At the Junior Home Internationals Josh was part of the winning England team.
This week sees Josh play in the Brabazon Trophy at Ganton Golf Club, an important event on the summer golfing calendar.
“Josh is very focused on doing all he can to make the next Walker Cup team,” said Russell. “He has already caught the attention of the selectors and he needs to continue this progress. Josh has uniquely adapted to the conditions of golf in the UK and we are all rightly proud of his achievements to date. We are not sure what the future holds, with the R&A amending its rules for amateur status on January 1 2022, with some expected updates for elite golfers. We will see how this develops and Josh must look to improve his ranking and perhaps this can be done more in the US than here at home in Dubai. The European Tour events in the UAE and the Middle East are also tournaments where he would love to test his game against the best professionals in the business.
“Josh will concentrate on his immediate golf and the forthcoming Jacques Leglise Trophy (representing Great Britain and Ireland against Europe in a Ryder Cup-style event) and then come home to Dubai having lived out of a suitcase for four months along with his mother. He will continue his home schooling and we will review what he has achieved in golf this summer and where his next important steps will take him.”
Exciting times ahead for a genuinely talented golfer born and bred in Dubai.