ABU DHABI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES | Josh Hill, a gangling, 6-foot-3 15-year-old who lives half the year in Dubai and half in England, won a professional tournament on the MENA Tour in the Middle East late last year. This earned him a place in the record books as the youngest player to win a professional event that offered world ranking points. Most people are doing little more than struggling with their school books when they are that age.
If possible, things got even better for Hill (above), who plays off a handicap of plus-5, when on the eve of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship in which he was to compete he played nine holes with Brooks Koepka – and beat the world No. 1. “I know it’s not a tournament but it’s still nice to say you beat the world No. 1,” said Hill, following his victory by one hole. “I was a bit nervous at first but he was so nice and helpful. We did play for 100 dirhams. No, he hasn’t paid me yet.
“I just learned so much from Brooks,” said the teenager. “I thought it was fascinating when he said that, typically, he only attacked four or five pins each round, playing for the middle of the greens for the rest of the time. I asked him lots of questions, things like how he practises, what he talks about to his caddie during a round.”
When in Devon, Hill is home-schooled with his mother keeping a keen eye on his studies. But when he is in Dubai, where his father is an osteopath, he studies at the Claude Harmon Performance Institute. Claude Harmon III, son of Butch, is Koepka’s swing coach, and it was the younger Harmon’s influence with Koepka that got the two golfers together.
Koepka was full of praise for Hill. “At 15 I know my golf was nowhere near as far along as Josh’s,” Koepka said. “I am sure he enjoyed getting the better of me, as he should. He's a good player, he strikes it well and putts really well and he asks good questions. In his shoes, I’d have been afraid to ask but he wanted advice about how to handle the week, and it’s important to pick a good player’s mind.”
Pete Cowen, perhaps the best and most famous golf coach in Europe, also has cast an eye over Hill and is impressed. “He’s good for 15,” Cowen said. “He has got a very youthful swing. It’s all about power. There were times when he was only about 20 yards behind Brooks. His putting is unbelievable. If I could have putted like that when I was playing I would still be on tour.”
Hill, who went on to miss the cut in Abu Dhabi with rounds of 74-76, will also be in the field for this week’s Omega Dubai Desert Classic.