Daniel Hillier sets a new record in NZ Amateur after having lost another
Daniel Hillier was the youngest male to win the New Zealand Amateur when he achieved that feat as a 17-year-old in 2015.
But that record only lasted 12 months. Louis Dobbelaar from Australia was aged just 15 when he triumphed in the same event last year.
With that record gone Hillier created a new one when he again won New Zealand’s premier tournament for amateurs, this time at the Russley Golf Club in Christchurch last month. That victory saw him become the first male to win the tournament twice as a teenager.
The Wellington 19-year-old made a one-horse race of the 36-hole final, beating Tom Parker from Canterbury 10 and 9.
But while the final was a one-sided affair, Hillier had a couple of narrow escapes in earlier rounds.
None more so was in the first round of matchplay when Hillier was up against Dominic Brettkelly from Canterbury.
Hillier went into the final of the regulation 18 holes one down and when his drive off the tee ended up under a tree it appeared one of the tournament’s favourites was about to make an early departure.
But what followed was a touch of brilliance and a fair dollop of luck. Hillier was able to sting the ball out and finish just off the green. From there he amazingly chipped in for an eagle three and take the match to a sudden-death playoff.
On the first playoff hole Hillier came close to hitting his tee shot out of bounds. But he rectified the situation with a good approach shot and sank his putt for birdie and victory over Brettkelly.
Hillier admitted good fortune went his way.
“I don’t really know what just happened,’’ Hillier said after the match.
``It was a bit of a grind and Dom played so, so well and was holing a lot of putts.
``I was just very fortunate to hole that chip. I was even more lucky to stay in bounds in the playoff and it was just one of those situations where you don’t want it to end that way, but it just happened.”
Hillier also had a close game in the quarter-finals against Mark Hutson. He went to the final hole one up but was able to win that as well and score a two-up victory.
It was ironic that Hillier played Parker in the final. He had stayed at the Parker family home during the tournament.
“It feels amazing, it’s been one heck of a week,’’ Hillier said after the tournament win.
``I managed to get some putts to drop in the final and that was the difference today. Tom was brilliant all week and it was awesome to go head to head with him at one of the biggest events.
“This certainly is one of the more special victories. To win it for the second time feels just as good if not better.’’
Hillier said he was in no hurry to become a professional golfer.
“It is a big step for me and I feel like my career is progressing nicely. If I can keep improving my game I may look to turn pro in a year or two and challenge myself at the next level.”
Hillier’s win came a week after finishing a meritorious sixth in the Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship in Wellington, in which he was the highest placed New Zealander.
The win adds to Hillier’s already impressive golfing curriculum vitae. He has also won the New Zealand Under 19 Strokeplay Championship, two New Zealand Age Group Championships, an Australian Juniors’ Championship and the Harewood Open, a professional tournament on New Zealand’s Charles Tour.