Al Ain: History was created on the Mena Tour on Wednesday when Dubai-born 15-year-old Josh Hill became the youngest player ever to win an Official World Golf Ranking (OWGR) event with his two-stroke triumph in the Al Ain Open at Al Ain Equestrian Shooting and Golf Club.
Hill, who is the reigning Al Ain Men’s Open champion for the past two years and also won the Faldo Series Middle East Championship on the golf course, shot a stunning final-round eight-under par 62 to finish on 17-under par 193.
England’s Harry Ellis (67) had to be satisfied being the bridesmaid for the second tournament in a row after finishing tied second in the Abu Dhabi Open. He finished on 15-under par and the consolation this time was the winner’s cheque of $13,500.
Another England amateur, Curtis Knipes (66) was tied third at 13-under par 197 alongside American Ben Schlottman (65). Knipes, who had qualified for The Open earlier this year at Royal Portrush, went on top of the Amateur Order of Merit following the finish with Hill moving to second place.
But the man of the moment was Hill, who at 15 years, six months and 27 days old, broke the existing record of Ryo Ishikawa as the youngest winner of an official OWGR event. Japan’s ‘Bashful Prince’ was 15 years and eight months when he won the Munsingwear Open KSB Cup in 2007.
Starting the day three shots behind overnight leader Ellis, a 12ft putt straight into the heart of the cup on the first hole kick-started the day and Hill never looked after that.
Four birdies in a row were followed by further birdies at the ninth, 11th and 14th.
“I really don’t know what to say right now. I am shocked. If you had told me during the summer that I will be winning a Mena Tour title against professionals and become the youngest ever winner of an OWGR event, I would have laughed at the notion. I guess hard work pays,” said Hill.
“I was struggling in the summer and then something changed in the last Mena Tour event at Yas Links. That top-10 finish gave me a lot of confidence and I knew it in my heart that I would do well here in Al Ain because I have such a good history here. I just love this track.
“I am actually a little disappointed with my finish because I missed so many opportunities coming in. I honestly could have broken 60 today. I knew I needed a good start, and once I got it, I just kept hitting one good shot after the other.”
Ellis, who was looking for his first win on a recognised Tour event, was disappointed but took it on the chin and doffed his cap to Hill.
“I finally made one mistake on this course (his first and only bogey of the tournament) on the second hole, and then I played solid golf. But all credit to Josh. He played an unbelievable round today. It was doable in the conditions we had today and he did it. I can’t complain about how I played and there are plenty of positives to take from this week,” said the 24-year-old from Southampton.
AL AIN OPEN — FINAL SCORES (54 holes, par-70 course)
193 — Josh Hill (Am, ENG) 65-66-62
195 — Harry Ellis (ENG) 64-64-67
197 — Ben Schlottman (USA) 65-67-65, Curtis Knipes (Am, ENG) 67-64-66
198 — Jake Ayers (ENG) 68-66-66, Jesper Alm (SWE) 65-65-68
199 — Alex Belt (ENG) 68-67-64
200 — Niclas Weiland (SWE) 68-65-67, Robin Petersson (SWE) 66-68-66, Gustaf Kocken (SWE) 66-65-69