Daniel Hillier – photo Getty Images – European Tour
23 year old New Zealander Daniel Hillier earlier this week won his first European Challenge Tour event, the Challenge Costa Brava in Girona in Spain, and as a consequence jumped to 18th in the Road to Mallorca rankings and opened up the possibility of earning his way to the 2022 European Tour.
For Hillier it was his first professional win outside of New Zealand having won three Charles (Sir Bob Charles) Tour events, one of those as a 15 year old amateur.
The Wellingtonian has long promised to be an outstanding prospect for New Zealand golf, having won both the Australian and New Zealand Junior titles and the New Zealand Amateur Championship twice.
In 2019 Hillier finished third in the individual at the Eisenhower Trophy and turned professional a year later with one of New Zealand golf’s best amateur careers behind him.
He has qualified for both the US Open and the Open Championship through the rigorous qualifying process for both events and in 2021 has proven to be an absolute workhorse having now played 28 events with still more to come.
In order for Hillier to earn the right to play the European Tour with full status in 2022, he must finish inside the top 20 on the Road to Mallorca but his performances this year have already guaranteed him the right to play significantly more European Tour events next season even if they might be the lesser events.
A good finish to the season at the upcoming 2021 Rolex Challenge Tour Grand Final supported by The R&A. (Nov 4th – 7th) however will cement his position inside that all important milestone and have him join his fellow New Zealander Ryan Fox as a New Zealander with full playing rights in Europe next season.
The leading 45 players from the Road to Mallorca rankings will contest the season ending event at the completion of which the immediate future of many of the European Tour’s future stars is determined.
The importance of Hillier’s great week in Girona is further emphasised by the fact that leading into the week he was in a precarious 45th position in the Road to Mallorca rankings and flirting with the possibility of missing out on the Grand Final event.
Hillier was forced to hole a four foot birdie putt to complete a round of 65 and defeat Denmark’s Marcus Helligkilde, with a further three shots back to the players tied in third place.
“I’m pretty overwhelmed at the moment to be honest,” he said. “It’s been a pretty unreal week from the get go. We had some tough conditions to battle with but I managed to battle through that and probably had the round of my life in round three. To follow that up today and to hole a nice put on the last is just unbelievable, I can’t really believe I’m standing here right now.
“I’m shaking in my boots really, (the final putt) it was massive and just the fact that I’ve been over here since April away from family, I spent the first three months on my own and then my girlfriend came over and she’s been a massive help and has made everything a lot easier.
“It’s probably been one of the most mentally taxing year that I’ve ever had so to get a win at the end of the season, I’m just more than grateful that I am standing here right now.
“It’s absolutely amazing,” he said. “I’ve dreamt of playing professional golf since I was a youngster and to have the opportunity to get straight onto the main Tour after coming here and just playing off invites on the Challenge Tour – it’s amazing, and hopefully I can give it another good run next week. But I am just going to celebrate now and worry about that later.”