Elite amateur tournaments are coming in thick and fast for Dubai-born sensation Josh Hill as he continues travelling up and down the United Kingdom in a bid to improve his world amateur golf ranking (WAGR) this summer.
Hill, who plays out of Trump International Golf Club, Dubai, has set the golf scene in the UAE alight over the last couple of years, picking up numerous trophies in men’s opens and club championships as well as becoming the youngest player ever to win an official world golf ranking (OWGR) event with his two-stroke triumph in the MENA Tour’s Al Ain Open at Al Ain Equestrian Shooting and Golf Club in 2019.
Those victories have made him one of the hottest prospects to emerge from the UAE and he’s once again putting his game to the test against some of the best amateur golfers in the UK with a jam-packed summer schedule of tournament golf.
The 17-year-old has already competed in the prestigious St Andrew Links Trophy, where he finished in fourth and just a shot shy of a play-off as well as the Amateur Championship plus Regional and Final Qualifying for the 149th Open Championship.
“Finishing fourth at the St Andrew Links Trophy was a good result but I was pretty gutted to miss out on the win as I thought I had a pretty good chance to pick up the trophy and only missing out on the play-off by one shot hurt,” said Hill. “The Amateur Championship was another good experience where I got through the stroke play phase but fell at the second hurdle of the match play. I never really felt like I had my full game while I was there which meant I didn’t play anywhere near as well as I can but that’s golf and it wasn’t a bad result considering I didn’t play that well.
“I then travelled to Holinwell for Regional Qualifying for The Open and booked my spot in Final Qualifying but played poorly in that. It was a great experience and certainly a nice little bonus for me in preparation for the big amateur events on my schedule.”
Courses, weather and level of competition in the UK are very different compared to that of the UAE and it’s something Hill has only begun to realise in recent years after admitting he was naive about the need to adapt his game as he travelled the world.
“I think it is different and it can be difficult adapting,” admitted Hill. “I always thought ‘it’s golf and how different can it be’ but the more I’ve played, the more I’ve seen how different it is.
“In Dubai its more target golf where you can hit the ball straight at the pin whereas in the UK it’s all about course management and thinking ‘if I put myself in trouble, how can I get out of it and move on to the next hole’. Even If you miss the fairway by a yard, you don’t have as much control of the ball compared to missing by that distance in Dubai.
“It’s a lot different and it does take a week or two to adapt to it and that’s why you’ve got to come out a bit earlier to get familiar with the courses. I think I know golf in Dubai a lot better than I do in the UK but I’m learning and improving constantly.
“In terms of the level of competition, it’s definitely different to the UAE. There are more people in England so statistically its going to be harder. I think the top guys in the UAE are very good and can compete with the guys in England but because of the larger population there are more players who can compete at the highest level.”
Despite the differences in courses, Hill was quick to credit the UAE golf scene for its plethora of fantastic facilities helping him get in shape for an assault on the major amateur tournaments in the UK.
“For such a small population in the UAE, it’s such a competitive place and it has been such a great place to get me prepared for these events,” he said “My home club, Trump International, Dubai, have been brilliant and I can’t thank them enough for everything they’ve done for me. I practice there every day and playing in all of the EGF Men’s Open events has kept me competitive so I owe them a lot of thanks for supporting me as well. The practice facilities are great and the support from everyone in the country has been second to none.”
Hill now turns his attentions to the English Men’s Amateur Championship, which is contested through two phases. It begins with a 36-hole strokeplay competition, with the leading 64 competitors progressing to the knockout matchplay competition.
The prestigious event has been won the by the likes of Matthew Fitzpatrick, Richard Bland and Chris Paisley, who have all gone on to win on the European Tour and Hill is hoping to follow in their footsteps by etching his name on the trophy but admits he needs to up his game to be in contention.
“My game is in an OK position right now,” he said. “It’s weird, I don’t feel like I’m playing as well as I was before I left to come over to the UK but I’m grinding out results and learning how to score which is a very important thing in golf.
“When I do feel like I’m playing as good as I was in Dubai then I’ll be in a position to score even lower. My short game has improved a lot since I came back and my long game is still good but it’s not as good as it was when I left Dubai.
“I guess it was just very good before I left so I’ve set such a high standard for myself. I can be very harsh on my own game but when I actually look at it I’m not playing badly. I’ll always push myself to keep improving.”
“It would mean everything to win my national championship. Some of the names on that trophy have gone on to do great things in the game and obviously I’d love to add my name to it. I know a lot of my teammates on the England squad will be competing so I know I’m going to have to play well but I’m just going to take it one shot at a time and go out and have a fun and see where I end up at the close of play.”
Looking ahead to the future of the amateur game, there is set to be significant changes from January 1, 2022 after the R&A and the USGA announced proposals to the Rules of Amateur Status that govern the game worldwide, with elite amateur golfers now being able to receive payment for sponsorship deals.
The proposals, which could result in Hill receiving sponsorship to cover his expenses to travel around the world to the biggest amateur competitions, are set to shake up the game and the Dubai-born ace insisted he needs to be ready to welcome potential sponsorship on board in a bid to compete with the very best.
“I think this could be really exciting for the amateur game if this does come into play,” he said. “The proposals open up a world of opportunities for us amateurs and would allow me to travel to tournaments that I haven’t had the chance to go to before which would aid my ascent up the amateur rankings.”
For now, Hill is taking it one round at a time but the youngster has big goals for the future and you wouldn’t back against him achieving them and thrusting the UAE golf scene into the spotlight once again.
“I think playing on Tour and winning Majors is obviously a big goal of mine,” he said. “Being able to make a living playing golf and travelling the world would be unreal and winning the biggest events at the same time would be fantastic. I’m working hard to hopefully get there one day.”