Daniel Hillier had no idea he’d won a berth in this year’s Emirates Australian Open when he saluted in the boys’ Australian Junior Championship today.
But one thing is for sure, he won’t be daunted when he gets to Royal Sydney in November.
The 17-year-old from Wellington, also the reigning New Zealand Amateur champion, beat a field of seasoned pros to win October’s Harewood Open on the Charles Tour at home and was leading amateur in the NZ Open.
But after carding a superb five-under-par 67 to ultimately cruise home by six shots at 10 under at Ulverstone, he admitted the Australian Open would be a different kettle of fish.
“I didn’t even realise that was the prize until someone told me as I was walking off the green. Mate, I’m ecstatic about that,” Hillier said.
“That took me by surprise because that’s a really big event and I can’t wait now … to play against that sort of field will be awesome.”
As he did to close out his Harewood victory in Christchurch, Hillier found his own little groove in the final round as others faltered around him.
The affable teen made four back-nine birdies and was the only person in the 156-man field to break par all four rounds.
Royal Melbourne’s Matias Sanchez was second at four under after Friday rounds of 66-70 vaulted him up the leaderboard.
The chief contenders for what turned out to be Hillier’s crown all had rounds to forget with only those two of the top seven under par in the final round and only three finishing in red numbers.
Glenelg’s Lachlan Barker, the 36-hole leader, had been the biggest threat, but a triple-bogey seven on the 12th effectively ended his chances and he finished third at one under.
“It feels amazing to be in this position because my game was a bit `iffy’ at the start of the week,” Hillier said.
“I was really happy today, especially to be four under on the back nine … it’s reassuring to know I can perform when I need to.
“I don’t know why, but I just felt more comfy than I ever have in that situation and I’m really happy to get the job done.”
Hillier was very respectful of the great honour roll of the Australian Junior Championship.
“There are some great names on that trophy, it’s a memory I’ll hold on to for a very long time, especially with Ryan Ruffels winning it the last two years. It feels great.”
It capped a great week for the Kiwi boys who won the annual Clare Higson Trophy contested between the countries.
The NZ team of Daniel and Harry Hillier, Inia Logan and Henry Spring beat the Australian team of Louis Dobbelaar, Cameron John, Min Woo Lee and Charlie Pilon by 11 strokes.
The Aussie girls exacted a modicum of revenge, getting their hands on the Junior Tasman Cup by 17 strokes over the Kiwis.
Karis Davidson, Becky Kay, Kathryn Norris and Celina Yuan were too good for Alanna Campbell, Amelia Garvey, Ela Grimwood and Momoka Kobori.