Record-breaking Josh Hill has admitted his historic victory in a professional event aged just 15 could be the first of many success stories for English golf because of the growing strength in depth at amateur level.
The England Boys’ squad member rewrote the record books with his victory in the Al Ain Open by Arena at Al Ain Equestrian Shooting and Golf Club in the United Arab Emirates on Wednesday.
At the tender age of 15 years, six months and 27 days, the English teenager became the youngest ever winner of an Official World Golf Ranking event.
Hill’s achievement trumps that of Japanese prodigy Ryo Ishikawa who was three months older when he set the previous record in 2007.
His story has created headlines across the golfing world with superstars of the game lining up to acknowledge his feat.
Six-times major winner Sir Nick Faldo hailed his victory as did former Master champion Danny Willett who described his closing round of 62 for a two-shot victory as ‘seriously impressive’
Ryder Cup legend Ian Poulter has added his congratulations by calling Hill’s triumph ‘beyond impressive’ and adding ‘this is awesome.’
Hill is flattered to receive so many mentions from players he admires and hopes one day to follow them to the top of the game.
However, he’s also well aware that he is just one of a batch of young English players with the potential to go right to the summit of the sport if they keep working on their game.
This week some of Hill’s England Boys’ squad colleagues were together at the National Performance Centre at Woodhall Spa to begin their preparations for the 2020 season.
Hill will join up with them later in the year and he knows that while the headlines are his for the moment, there is so much strength in depth that the game in England that others are capable of emulating his breakthrough performance.
“I got quite a few messages from my England team-mates,” admitted Hill as he tried to take in the enormity of his victory and the headlines his win had generated.
“They were probably just a bit jealous that I was playing in the sunshine while they were in the rain at Woodhall Spa!
“But seriously they were having fun as a team in England and they are a good group of boys.
“The strength of the players coming through the England levels right now is amazing.
“Although I live in Dubai I’m always immensely proud to represent England when I can and I’m always happy to wear that shirt with the England badge.
“You can see that there are a lot of players emerging from the England Golf squads to make a name for themselves.
“Another English player – Robin Williams – won before me on the MENA Tour. To shoot 16-under to win on a tough course in Jordan was some going from him.
“You see the exploits of Conor Gough last season in the British Amateur and also Ben Schmidt who was winning just about everything he played in.
“Max Hopkins too has been playing well and you are starting to see more and more English names at the top of leaderboards in boys’ and girls’ events.”
Hill was born in Dubai and still lives and trains in the Emirate although he is fiercely proud to be the youngest member of the England Boys’ Under-18 squad.
His world became a little crazy for a few hours on Wednesday night as word filtered through that he had re-written the record books with his two-shot victory over another Englishman, Harry Ellis.
Hill added: “It’s not really sunk in yet.
“How did I celebrate? I just got a KFC – nothing special. I didn’t get on wifi until I got home and then I realised that something unusual was going on.
“I had around 120 WhatsApp notifications and 250 more on Instagram and I knew then that this was a bit different.
“I felt in control of my game as the round progressed – to be honest I wasn’t sure how I was doing until I got to the 16th hole of my final round.
“At that point people started appearing on buggies to watch and I knew then I was leading.
“The drive at 16 is tough with a lot of water on the right but I hit my drive perfectly and took it from there.
“My dad was in the galleries to watch too and that was special.
“I still have two events on the MENA Tour and I want to make sure I play well in them. Then I can practise and chill over the winter ahead of next season
“Ultimately I want to get a Tour card and make my way in the game.
“Like any young golfer the dream is to win a Major, but that’s a long way away and I just have to keep working hard at my game.
“Tiger Woods is my hero – I think everyone loves Tiger and watching him win the Masters again was inspiring.”
Hill and his England team-mates are planning for key team events in 2020. These include the European Boys’ Team Championships in Uppsala, Sweden and the Boys’ Home Internationals which will be staged in August at Killarney Golf Club in Ireland.
Photography credit: MENA Tour/Leaderboard