Josh Hill – What’s In It for the Amateur?

Josh Hill, Amateur, Youngest to Win Sanctioned Event

There are a few tournaments held in the Middle East and North Africa, and a few of them are on the MENA Tour. One of them, the Al Ain Open, was just won by a westerner who was raised there.  Josh Hill, entering the Al Ain as an amateur, took the final day with an 8 under 62. That’s a fairly impressive way to win a tournament on any tour. The remarkable part of it is that Josh Hill is 15 years of age. The distinction he gained for a good week’s work include points that figure into his world rankings, and the fact that he is now the youngest player to ever win a sanctioned professional event.

I always bristle a little when people start referring to the youngest generation as having superpowers that our generations lacked – the Indigo children, now conquering professions and ceaseless riddles that we took another ten years to master.  In the game of golf, I must admit that the youth movement has made quite an impact, but I’m still unwilling to resign my era to swinging in trees or baying at the moon. In addition to the emergence of talented youngsters, I am also struck at their fearlessness, and immediacy. My colleagues were still working apprenticeships and gaining experience for a later debut. Ask a kid now to “do it for the experience,” and they will look at you as if you just spoke in Martian.

The fact remains, amateur Josh Hill is 15, and won a professional event – so be it. The previous record-holder was Ryo Ishikawa, who was two months older with a win on the Japan Golf Tour. That was in 2007, and who knows when it will happen again? When one wins a tournament, 15 or 50, amateur or professional, he or she deserves to be recognized fully for the victory. In this case, Josh Hill’s name on  the winner’s list will probably be accompanied a little asterisk or “a” for “amateur. What is that addition really saying? On a tangible level, it means that no way are the powers that be going to give Hill $13,500 first prize money…because he is an amateur.  All right then, if that’s how the game is played, what does he get – anything? Nope. He gets his name at the top of the list with an asterisk or “a,” and a few points on the world rankings to show that he’s pretty good. For me, that’s not enough. Harry Ellis came in second by falling short two shots, but he has been awarded the first prize check.
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The distinction between amateur and professional is fine with me, but the brilliant amateur who had what it took to win shouldn’t get skunked. If I can remember that far back, events during my childhood and youth gave the winner the equivalent in merchandise, at least in local events, and that still sounds like a good idea. Hill still had to pay to get there, stay there. He had to feed himself there. He still has coaches to pay. With all of this, and he doesn’t even get a gift card to Dick’s Sporting Goods or a lifetime offer of lamb at the Abu Dabai  Hilton?

I enjoy making good money as much as the next person, but if I were Harry Ellis, taking the first prize check for  second prize work would feel a little off. We might consider the benefits of breaking down the equivalent of $13,500 into appropriate merchandise, or for a certain number of payments for coaches, school scholarships perhaps, or a free flight to Disney World. Trying to imagine myself at 15, I might think “Let’s see, I won the tournament, he got the money, my name has a qualification next to it, and I can’t do sponsors. Wow, let’s do it again next week!”
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