Dubai: He may be the boy among men, but Josh Hill has set his sights high in the 2020 Omega Dubai Desert Classic.
Born and raised in Dubai, the 15-year-old Hill qualified for the oldest European Tour event in the region by winning the 2019 Amateur Journey to Jordan on the MENA Tour by Arena, and doesn’t believe in making up the numbers.
Speaking to the media on Tuesday on the eve of his second successive appearance on the European Tour, Hill said: “I think if you don’t aim to win, you’re preparing to fail. I will aim for the win and just go out there and have fun and see where that leaves me.”
Hill is a part of a strong MENA Tour by Arena contingent in the tournament. Also vying for the title are South African MG Keyser and Australian Daniel Gaunt (No1 and 2 in the Professional Journey to Jordan), England’s Harry Konig (winner of the 2019 Final Five Series and the Journey to Jordan Tour Championship), Frenchman Wattel Romain (winner of the 2020 Arena ShootOut) and Saudi Arabia’s Othman Almulla, who has received a sponsor’s invitation.
Hill, who created headlines worldwide by becoming the youngest winner of an OWGR recognized event with his triumph in the 2019 Al Ain Open by Arena (aged 15 years and 210 days), also qualified for the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship last week. He finished on six-over par and missed the cut, but won accolades from some of the giants of the game, including world No1 Brooks Koepka and Masters champion Charl Schwartzel.
It was a huge learning experience for Hill in Abu Dhabi, here he even managed to get a practice round with Koepka and beat him in an eight-hole friendly match.
“Obviously, last week was a bit disappointing, but excited to come back here,” said Hill when asked what he learned in the capital that would help him in Dubai.
“I missed a lot of fairways, which you can’t do around there. You can’t score well around there. I just put a new shaft and driver, so hopefully that will improve it. I played nine holes yesterday and it did, so hopefully keeps going that way.”
The Majlis course at Emirates Golf Club is a much more familiar terrain for Hill, who remembers being perched on his father’s shoulder to watch Tiger Woods in the 2008 Omega Dubai Desert Classic – his first visit to the tournament aged four.
“I love the golf course. There are so many holes here that I love. A lot of tee shots, like on the eighth, for example, such a great view, it always makes you smile before you hit the tee shot, which I think helps you a bit,” said Hill.
“I think the course (with several dogleg holes) suits me, because when I try to hit it hard, I like to hit a massive hook. I find it fun doing that. So yeah, there’s a lot of holes which are doglegs right-to-left, so it suits my eye.”
Hill attended his first ever formal press conference on Tuesday and said he doesn’t mind a bit of attention on him.
“I think you’ve got to learn (this aspect of the game). You always get media. You’ve got to fit it around your practice, which is a good lesson to learn,…and I don’t mind it. Just do it and then go out and do what you need to do on the golf course,” he said.
The 2020 Omega Dubai Desert Classic starts Thursday.
Joy Chakrabvarty can be contacted at @TheJoyOfGolf