AQABA, February 7: After creating history on the MENA Tour by Arena when he became the youngest player to secure his card through the Qualifying School, Dubai-based Josh Hill has now set his sight on further glory when the season starts with the first tournament at the Ayla Golf Club in Aqaba, Jordan, from Saturday.
The 14-year-old Hill, who was a runaway winner of the 2017 Emirates Golf Federation Men’s Order of Merit, finished tied 27th at three-over 219 in the 54-hole B Stage of the Q School, from where the top-34 players qualified at five-over 221.
Hill’s effort was even more remarkable because he had a nightmarish start with an eight-over 80 in tough playing conditions on day one. No other player who shot worse than 77 (Netherland’s Maarten Bosch) on the opening day, could qualify. He then added a three-under 69 and 70 in the final two rounds on the par-72 Greg Norman-designed golf course.
When told that he was the youngest ever to secure a full card on the MENA Tour by Arena, Hill was taken by surprise and said: “I did not know that. That’s pretty cool.
“But to be honest, I thought I’d finish a bit higher. Having said that, the field was very good, much better than what I thought it was going to be. Considering that I got a full card in a field that had so many Challenge Tour and other established players, it was a pretty good effort.”
Hill, who also won the European Under-16 Faldo Series title and is coached by Joe Marshall at the Claude Harmon III Performance Institute in Dubai Sports City, said he would cherish the experience of playing a Qualifying School so early in his career and felt the learnings will give him a definite advantage when he plays the first tournament, Journey to Jordan 1.
“I did feel a bit of pressure. I wanted to guarantee that I had a card for myself so that I can play all nine or 10 events that I want to play this season. So, I did feel a bit of pressure…not much, not like what the pros must have felt,” said Hill.
“It has definitely prepared me for the first tournament. I know how the course plays now and how I need to play it under tournament pressure. In any other tournament, I would not have so much information before teeing off on day one. I am really pumped up for the tournament and can’t wait for it to start.”
Hill has set himself some lofty goals for the season.
“My expectations are to top the Amateur Order of Merit and get at least one top-five finish. I want to win a lot of World Amateur Golf Ranking points and compete against the top players in the region,” revealed Hill, who is currently ranked 1753 in WAGR.
“I hope to gain a lot of experience of what the professional game is like. There is a lot more etiquette and rules around the game that I need to be aware of. I think the MENA Tour by Arena is going to be great preparation for my future career as a pro golfer.”
Ayla Golf Club is the first Championship-size green golf course in Jordan and opened to public play in September 2016. The condition of the golf course, and its scenic setting adjacent to the Red Sea and at the foothills of the Shara Mountains, have wowed the critics and golf fans ever since. The club will host three events of the 2019 season’s Journey to Jordan, including the season-ending Tour Championship.
The MENA Tour by Arena is returning to the world schedule after a year of restructuring and will feature 10 tournaments in 2019. It will continue to provide Official World Golf Ranking (OWGR) points, thus making it a perfect pathway for ambitious young professional to the bigger tours, and for the players from the region to qualify for the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo.