By Paul Gueorgieff
Editor Golfer Pacific NZ
It was the perfect example of Harry Hillier’s positive attitude.
The Bay of Plenty teenage golfer was explaining in an interview with Golfer Pacific how the diagnosis of a rare disorder known as protein C deficiency robbed him of a highly-anticipated trip to play golf in Mexico.
Hillier had been invited to Mexico by some golfing friends he had met on a visit to the United States and had planned to stay more than two months, including playing in the Mexico Amateur Championship.
Everything had been booked, including flights, but then just a few days out from departure there was a heartbreaking phone call from medical advisors.
Hillier, like his father, was found to have protein C deficiency which increases the risk of developing abnormal blood clots, such as deep vein thrombosis. Air travel and deep vein thrombosis don’t mix.
“Three days out I get a phone call saying I can’t fly, that I might die,” Hillier dramatically recalled.
He said not even domestic air travel could be considered which ruled him out of representing Bay of Plenty at the Interprovincials in Invercargill last December.
But a couple of months down the track Hillier was able to pick out the positive of having to remain in New Zealand instead of dining out on tacos and chilli peppers.
“I wouldn’t have won the North Island under 19s,” he said.
The North Island under-19 Championship was held at Hamilton Golf Club last month, when he should have still been in Mexico, and Hillier ran out the winner to register his best result as a golfer.
The way he won was another example of his positive attitude.
Hillier scored a seven-over par 79 on the first of the three-day event and was a long way back in the field.
“I think was about sixtieth,” Hillier recalled.
His initial thoughts that any aspirations of winning were over. But then the positive kicked in.
“I just thought go out tomorrow and take it shot by shot and see if I can work my way back in.”
Tomorrow produced a brilliant four-under par 68 and he followed up with an even more brilliant five-under par 67 on the final day.
“Everything sort of clicked,” was Hillier’s simple explanation of his final two rounds.
In one stretch of nine holes on the final day he reeled off seven birdies which he said ``was pretty exciting”.
Hillier, 16, came to last hole knowing par would see him win the tournament and in the process beat his older brother Charlie, in the group ahead, by one shot.
But all did not go to plan.
“I hit my ball into the bunker and it was plugged. But I probably made the best up and down of my life.
“I bounced the ball off the face (of the bunker), it dribbled down to about eight feet from the hole and I holed the putt to beat Charlie.”
The win completed a great family double for the Hillier family. Charlie Hillier, now aged 19, won the same tournament in 2014.
Charlie Hillier has returned to the United States where he attends the University of Kansas on a golf scholarship. Harry Hillier wants to do the same.
“I’ll be looking to do something similar. I’ve already had some offers but I’ll probably leave it for another 18 months.”
There was no hesitation when asked what his ambition is.
“To be a PGA Tour professional.”
But he is also under no illusion some giant strides will need to be made.
“It’s a very big step. It’s going to take hard work, dedication, gym, practice but I am willing to take up the challenge.’’
Hillier, lives in Te Puke and is a member of the Te Puke Golf Club. But he goes to the Auckland public golf course of Chamberlain Park for coaching with James Kupa.
“I go there about once a fortnight and just work on the basics.”
Hillier said he started playing golf at the age of 10 but earlier had said no to the game.
“I used to caddy for dad, he loved playing golf. When I was about six or seven he said why don’t you play. I said nah.
“A couple of years later I got a set of clubs and off I went.”