Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 30 March 2020

Josh Hill 'a bit disappointed' despite making history at Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

The 15-year-old is the youngest player in the tournament's history and carded a 2-over par in the first round

Josh Hill putts on the 18th green during Day One of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, presented by EGA. Getty Images
Josh Hill putts on the 18th green during Day One of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, presented by EGA. Getty Images

Such are Josh Hill’s personal expectations, that 2-over par on his European Tour debut ranks as “a bit disappointing”.

It says a lot, really, especially when he’s still a couple of months' shy of his 16th birthday, a mark that makes him the youngest player to ever participate in the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, presented by EGA.

But the Dubai-based amateur battled nerves - “a little” - some errant driving and the heightened attention on Thursday to open with a 74 bookended by birdies.

It was just the five bogeys that offset five birdies in all, and the rueful double-bogey on nine when he found the water off the tee. It leaves him 10 shots behind the leaders.

“I’m a bit disappointed, but it was really good to be out there,” Hill said. “I was a bit nervous walking on greens, if I’m going to stand in front of a line or make a spike mark.

“But once I got into the round I started to feel more comfortable. Not too happy with the end result, but 2-over, and a good round tomorrow hopefully.”

Looks clearly can be deceiving, since Hill’s first ever shot on the European Tour was easily the pick of the bunch from a group comprising Charl Schwartzel, a Masters champion, and Mattias Schwab, a fast-rising star.

“I was shaking a bit over the ball and in my head I was just ‘take it back and it’ll be fine’,” said Hill, who qualified for the event by triumphing at last month's Abu Dhabi Amateur Championship. “Took it back and ripped it, then holed a good putt. So it was very nerve settling.”

And when the immediate disappointment subsides, Hill will no doubt reflect on the round as being integral to his golfing journey. He has already made a name for himself on the Mena Tour and beyond, winning its Al Ain Open in October and entering the record books as the youngest winner of an Official World Golf Ranking event.

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Photos from first round of Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, presented by EGA

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Obviously, the developmental tour has provided a good base.

“It felt normal, actually,” Hill said of his Abu Dhabi experience. “It felt like I was playing on the Mena Tour. Just with a few people watching. It was nice they watched - hopefully I’ll get the same support tomorrow.”

Actually, he rated that as the most memorable part of his day.

“Probably the support coming down the last, everybody shouting my name,” Hill said. “That was quite nice.”

Asked if he would do anything differently when he tees off early on Friday, Hill replied: “Just making sure I’m in play off the tee. I lost about four or five shots off the tee today. If I just hit it somewhere on the grass I could’ve probably easily shot 2- or 3- under.

“Considering I was hitting my driver bad, 2-over’s not too bad. I don’t mind [getting up early tomorrow]: fresh greens and hopefully a better score.”

Updated: January 16, 2020 07:57 PM

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