ABU DHABI, DUBAI, JEDDAH: Josh Hill’s journey through major GCC golf tournaments continues this week at Saudi International, which kicks off at the Royal Greens Golf and Country Club in King Abdullah Economic City on Thursday morning.

And although the 17-year-old Dubai-based player puts in another great performance at the Slync.io Dubai Desert Classic, he continues to aim ever higher. Simply participating and making the cut, as he did in the two UAE-based events, is not enough.

“The Desert Classic was a good week, it was fun,” said the young Briton. “The setup was amazing and Slync did a really good job of creating such a great atmosphere.”

Hill finished 53rd, having at one point reached 23 in the standings.

“I made another cut which isn’t always the goal but it’s a great achievement. I had a good third lap, moved up the leaderboard, then had a bad last day,” he said.

“There are many reasons for this, but the overall experience of playing the Desert Classic was unreal, and playing in Abu Dhabi taught me a lot this week. I feel like I can keep pushing, keep playing good golf. and keep climbing the leaderboards at these big events, so it was a good week and I learned a lot.

A week earlier, Hill had excelled in his first-ever appearance at the HSBC Abu Dhabi Golf Championship. And playing alongside some of the best players in the world didn’t seem to deter him.

“It was a lot of fun, all week,” he said. “I played a practice round with Lee (Westwood) and Bernd (Wiesberger) and then with (Emirati golfer) Ahmad Skaik, a good friend. And then playing good golf on Thursday, I was quite happy with it and then it was a fight on Friday.

“But bouncing back like I did on Saturday was such a good feeling. And then I had a disappointing Sunday, but the whole week in general was a great experience and I learned a lot from it.

While all golfers are always happy to make the cut, Hill said he was thinking about more than that.

“I mean, my goal wasn’t really to make the cut,” he said. “My goal was to stick to the process of every shot and see what the outcome was. I feel like I’m good enough not just to make the cut, but to push a bit further. But if I focus results, that’s where results won’t come in. So my focus has never been results-based.

When asked if his experience at Yas Links was one of the highlights of his young career, Hill said: “It’s definitely up there. Especially in the way I made the cut. It was quite special. And it was a great week.

Hill was born and raised in Dubai and was swinging plastic clubs at the age of two, before transitioning to the real thing at just six. Although neither of his parents were golfers, his family played a major role in teaching him the game at such a young age.

“My grandparents live in Spain, and when you leave the house, it’s on a golf course. That’s pretty much how I got into it,” he said.

It didn’t take long before he was competing in junior events in Dubai.

“I was between six and eight years old, I was just playing the three-man Creek tournaments. It was the first time I really competed as a golfer.

A decade later, he travels to Jeddah for the Saudi International alongside defending champion Dustin Johnson, US Open winner Bryson DeChambeau and former grand champions Louis Oosthuizen, Phil Mickelson, Shane Lowry and Bubba Watson.

“It’s a great honor to be invited, with such big names taking part in such a big tournament,” Hill said. “I can only thank everyone who helped me get in there and invited me. And I can’t wait to go there. Heard a lot of good things about the place.

“I am very lucky to be in the position I occupy and I am very grateful for that. Playing with some of the best players in the world and competing with them is a great experience. It’s an opportunity that people my age rarely have, but I’m lucky enough to take it and take full advantage of it.

Although playing alongside the pros for the past few weeks has been an education, Hill continues to draw inspiration from the greatest golfer of all time.

“The main man is Tiger, right?” he said. “You watch Tiger and you learned so much from him. And he’s just a guy who’s done a lot of golf and I think I speak for everyone when I say that, he’s the role model for most people.

Hill trains at the Trump International Golf Club in Dubai and sent a special message to all staff.

“They have been so helpful and supportive that I can’t thank them enough,” he said.

Hill is guided by one of golf’s leading coaches, but it’s not without its challenges as he doesn’t reside in the United Arab Emirates.

“My coach lives in England actually, Rob Watts,” Hill said. “He’s also the England manager and since I met him we get along very well, and I like his philosophy of the swing and the game in general. So we work very well together.

“I see him every summer, but when I’m in Dubai and the UAE, I just FaceTime him, call him on the phone and we chat,” he added. “I send videos, and even though we’re several miles away, it’s still working pretty well.”

Beyond the Saudi international, Hill, unsurprisingly given his level-headed approach to his career, has no specific goals for 2022.

“Playing a lot of amateur stuff, hopefully I can get to the United States to play there as well,” he said. “I still have a decision to make on my future in general, but I will try to savor these few weeks and make the decision afterwards.”

And the big decision to “turn pro or go to college” will have to wait, he said.