Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 20 February 2020

Teen sensations Josh Hill and Jayden Schaper thinking big at the Omega Dubai Desert Classic

Young duo both insist they are going for glory in the UAE, with Dubai-born Hill insisting: 'If you don't aim to win, you're preparing to fail.'

At 15 and 18 respectively, with ages combined Josh Hill and Jayden Schaper are just about older than the Omega Dubai Desert Classic itself.

Both amateurs possessing seemingly sparkling futures, the teens are revelling in the present, when this week they contest the 31st staging of the trailblazing tournament at Emirates Golf Club.

Dubai born and raised, Hill can claim to be something of a European Tour regular, having last week made his debut at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship presented by EGA.

A wayward driver precipitated the English Boys’ representative missing the cut, but still, he loved mixing it with the game's top players, Brooks Koepka specifically. On the Monday pre-tournament, he even practiced with the world No 1.

Schaper, meanwhile, took the week off after finishing tied-6th at the South African Open. It was only the Benoni-born golfer’s second European Tour start.

On Tuesday, the duo faced the media together like a pair of grizzled pros, not shirking from the attention or fazed by whatever was put to them. For example, when asked about their expectations for the week.

“Basically, everyone wants to come out and go for the win,” Schaper said. “Obviously, that's what you want to do. But I'm just going to take it one step at a time, one shot at a time and one hole at a time, take it as it comes, and enjoy the experience overall.”

That works for Hill, too. “I agree,” he said. “If you don't aim to win, you're preparing to fail. Aim for the win and just go out there and have fun and see where that leaves you.”

Whether youthful innocence or teenage self-confidence, both Hill and Schaper are certainly impressive, even at this stage of their development.

By now, Hill is familiar beyond the UAE scene having risen to prominence on the Mena Tour. At the Al Ain Open in October, he set a world record by becoming the youngest winner of an Official World Golf Ranking event. He qualified for the Classic by finishing atop the developmental tour’s amateur Order of Merit.

In Schaper’s case, he triumphed last year at the Junior Players Championship on the famed TPC Sawgrass, before thriving on debut at the recent Junior Presidents Cup.

The Sawgrass success earned Schaper a shout-out on social media from Rory McIlroy. Which, considering he refers to the four-time major winner and current Players champion as his “idol”, was extra sweet.

Jayden Schaper was victorious at last year's Junior Players Championship on the famed TPC Sawgrass. EPA
Jayden Schaper was victorious at last year's Junior Players Championship on the famed TPC Sawgrass. EPA

“Rory is just something special,” Schaper said. “Even off the golf course, it's pretty special to watch him. On the course he's just magical: his swing, the way he approaches the game.

“And obviously, South Africa, we have so many great golfers, Louis Oosthuizen being one of them – I look up to him. I played with him in the South African Open two weeks ago, and it was pretty special.

"He basically said just keep doing the same and have fun and, with my team – my dad my coach – we just approach it the same as any other tournaments.

“I see Rory as a guy that I want to go up and compare my game to his and just work towards that. Again, Louis, he's an unbelievable player, definitely one of the best from tee-to-green I've seen. I was just fortunate to play with him.”

Given his background, Hill’s been rather lucky himself. His Dubai residence has allowed him to take in the Classic as a fan, a privilege that dates back to around 2008, when his love of golf was taking root.

“I remember when Tiger [Woods] came here how big the crowd was,” Hill said. “It was probably eight deep and I was so shocked. I remember being on my dad's shoulders just watching it from a perfect view rather than behind people.”

This week he's out there, front and centre. "It is obviously a dream come true now,” Hill said. “Hopefully I can keep on going with it.”

Updated: January 22, 2020 11:10 AM

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