Hillier wins Australian Boys’ Amateur by six
Jordan Spieth, Rory McIlroy and Daniel Hillier.
It’s a long bow to draw to mention Hillier’s name in the same sentence as Spieth and McIlroy but that’s the case when it comes to the Australian Open in Sydney in November.
Hillier, from Wellington, gained a start in the Australian Open when he won the Australian Boys’ Amateur Championship for under 18-year-olds in Tasmania last month.
That means he will be playing in a tournament that has been won by two of the world’s greatest players in the last three years — Spieth in 2014 and McIlroy in 2013.
This year’s Australian Open will be played at the Royal Sydney Golf Club from November 17-20 and Hillier had no idea a start in that tournament was part of the prize package in Tasmania until triumphantly walking off the last green.
“I didn’t even realise that was the prize until someone told me as I was walking off the green. I’m ecstatic about that,” Hillier said.
“That took me by surprise because that’s a really big event and I can’t wait now. To play against that sort of field will be awesome.”
Hillier, from Manor Park Golf Sanctuary, has become one of the most promising male golfers New Zealand has had for years.
The Tasmanian win added to his victories in the New Zealand Amateur Championship at Titirangi in Auckland, the New Zealand Under-19 Championship at Shandon in Wellington and the Harewood Open against professionals on the Charles Tour in Christchurch. He was also the leading amateur at the New Zealand Open in Queenstown.
Hillier was the only player in a field of 156 players for the Australian Boys’ Champs, played at the Ulverston Golf Club, to break par in all four rounds. He finished at 10-under par with scores of 70, 71, 70 and 67 and was six shots clear of his nearest rival.
Hillier started the final round in second place, one shot behind fellow New Zealander, Henry Spring from Whakatane Golf Club.
Spring faltered in the final round to finish in a tie for fourth but Hillier was in brilliant form to score a five-under par, including four birdies on the back nine holes.
Hillier was not aware of what his nearest rivals were scoring in the final round.
“I didn’t know what was going on behind me, which was probably a good thing actually,’’ he said.
“I just could do what I needed to and to finish the way I did was very pleasing.
“I was definitely in the zone, playing safe never crossed my mind. (Hole) 16 is a tight drive and I stuck to my plan of using driver and pulled it off. The same thing happened on 17 and I just did what I needed to do.”
Hillier said he did not know what to expect going into the tournament.
“It feels amazing to be in this position because my game was a bit ‘iffy’ at the start of the week.
“I was really happy today, especially to be four under on the back nine ... it’s reassuring to know I can perform when I need to.
“I don’t know why, but I just felt more comfy than I ever have in that situation and I’m really happy to get the job done.”
The victory is near the top of his achievements so far.
“I think this is definitely right up there, it’s hard to choose between all the amazing experiences over the last year, but one I will certainly cherish for a very, very long time.”