Josh Hilleard: How does the somerset left-hander keep winning?July 16, 2016 Golf News
We meet the man who has been leaving the rest in his wake..
We’ve all dreamed of it – the hot streak where nothing can go wrong.
The feeling of standing on the tee knowing with absolute certainty that you are going to split the fairway. Of rolling each putt and watching it track unerringly into the centre of the cup.
For most of us, that’s all it remains. A tantalising dream. But Josh Hilleard has lived it. The 21-year-old embarked on a streak in April that would have made even Tiger Woods raise an eyebrow.
Tournament fields fell like dominoes to the Somerset youngster as he won four events in the space of just 22 days.
After returning unbeaten from England’s winning assault on the Costa Ballena Quadrangular tournament, in Spain, he claimed Berkhamsted Trophy glory, added the Faldo Series Wales Championship to his burgeoning trophy cabinet, won the Hampshire Salver and then swept to an eight-shot victory in the West of England Championship at Royal North Devon. It was quite a month.
“I wasn’t even playing that well,” Hilleard admitted. “Form is a funny thing, it comes and goes when you don’t expect it.
“Each tournament was more pressure. I had won the week before and everyone is looking at you to win again.
“People are seeing a bit of form and then to play and win again at Royal North Devon for the fourth time (was amazing).
“The golf was good. It wasn’t that people weren’t playing well. It was that I played better.
“There’s obviously a time when that form will finish and I was really relaxed. Royal North Devon isn’t too far away from me and it was a relaxed environment.
“I stayed with five of my county players down there and we had a great laugh off the course. The golf took care of itself. I was brimming with confidence to go and play proper golf.
“I had no idea it was going to happen. I put a lot of effort in to make it happen but there are no guarantees. Someone can always play better than you.”
Results bring their own rewards. Hilleard’s irresistible form made him a compulsory selection for the England team that beat France at Formby in May. It was an impressive week for the young man as he picked up three points in a 14-10 success, which included an 8&7 demolition of Ko Jeong-Weon.
“It was nice when it happened and to get into the England team against France was a dream and something that I hoped would happen but didn’t expect so soon,” Hilleard added.
“The target at the start of the year was to play for England. I made it into the ‘A’ squad at the end of last year and I thought ‘let’s make it into the Elite squad after year one’.
“That was good progress. But representing my country for a full cap was brilliant.
“It was better than you could imagine or want it to be, especially for a debut.
“I didn’t know any of the French lads and only half of the England team properly.
“As soon as we sat down at our first team brief you appreciated who was in the room. Everyone had their own strengths and everyone else knew them.
“That breeds confidence and a relationship between all eight of us – to trust each other’s ability and go and play golf. That was the winning formula. Everyone plays differently and it is trusting individuals to play the shots they are most comfortable with.”
What impressed Hilleard most were the lengths England Golf went to in order to make sure each player could fulfil their potential.
“The way the whole thing is set up, there is no stress. It is just allowing us to play the best golf possible. The pressure is on you to play your best and you have to get used to the spectators quickly. That hits you quite hard.”
Hilleard’s stellar season then received a further unexpected boost when he caught American eyes.
Rickie Fowler, Hunter Mahan, JB Holmes and Michelle Wie have been previous recipients of the Southern Golf Association’s Amateur of the Month Award – and now the Farrington Park player.
His winning streak was an “accomplishment worthy of this award and something you will recall for the rest of your life”, he was told.
Hilleard was thrilled to follow in such illustrious company – even though he admitted he had to find out what the gong was all about.
“I hadn’t a clue,” he said. “They shipped the award over to Nigel Edwards (England Golf performance director) to hand over and it topped off a great month.
“To see how well distributed it has been just makes it more even astounding as to my achievements.
“When you are doing it, it just feels easy and this award makes it something altogether new.”