THIS IS ME

Meet Allan Hill: A model of consistency who is not afraid of the big occasion

by Ronan MacNamara

Golf is a funny old game. It flirts with glory and disaster. In fact, the mere bounce of a golf ball can define whether you are successful or not on the day.

Allan Hill of Athenry Golf Club might have been basking in the late afternoon sun at the European Club last month holding the Flogas Irish Amateur Open trophy aloft had he not experienced the cruel breaks that golf can give you on the 4th hole of his final round where he entered the day tied for the lead.

“I had three decent pars to start off the tricky part of the course so I was happy enough there,” he said. “I got bit unlucky on the 4th. I had a 4-iron from 200 yards and missed my target by ten or fifteen feet and the ball was nowhere to be seen again so that was bad luck at the wrong time.

“Next I hit my 4th shot into the bunker and it plugged up against the sleeper so I had to take a penalty drop in the bunker so that was my championship gone straight away.”

The 21-year-old to his credit, showed a maturity beyond his years to keep the wheels on track and finish the week in 5th place, his best finish in the event in just his second start.

“The pressure was gone then and I kind of let loose really after that.”

Hill who is in the final year of an accounting and finance degree in Maynooth University has absolutely loved his time in the college and has desires to remain there and study a master’s degree in data analytics next year.

On a golf scholarship in the university, Hill is enjoying his time and has also adapted well to the challenges of studying and playing golf.

“I get to play plenty of golf so it’s great,” he said.

“The work and study balance is grand. We have gym sessions in the morning at eight o’clock and that gets me up and out of bed in the mornings Monday to Wednesday. From there on you’re just balancing your time if you have lectures and that in the morning you can get them out of the way and go practice for a couple of hours and then come back and do a bit more in the evening so yeah it’s good to be in the routine,” he added.

While he dabbled a little in GAA until he turned 12, golf has always been Hill’s first love and perhaps his great ball striking stems from swinging a tiny cut down eight iron in his back garden.

“My dad kind of got me into it. He gave me a little cut down eight-iron which is probably the length of my forearm now. He was the driving influence behind that and kind of kept me tipping along, he kept it fun, so I just started from there.

“I used to hit that same little 8-iron and hit golf balls up onto the roof of the house and get given out to. They weren’t plastic golf balls either!”

The Roscommon native is known as a grinder who enjoys the tougher golf courses and he takes his inspiration from 2019 Open champion Shane Lowry whose short game has left him mesmerised at times.

Lowry has developed a reputation for raising his game for the big events and if you look through Hill's results you could say the same thing.

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Allan Hill by Golffile

“I’d have to go for Shane Lowry! His short game is unbelievable. He has a natural swing, doesn’t get too bogged down in the technique and has everything down to a tee with his own golf. He’s a great example to anyone coming up in the game to trust your own swing and perfect what you have.

“Some short game, Jesus.”

Originally from Roscommon, Hill plied his trade at Roscommon Golf Club as a child before moving to Athenry six years ago and with that he took up membership in Athenry Golf Club and he has been blown away by the reception he gets from the members who are never short of encouragement for him.

“It’s a lovely club, the members there are fantastic. They are always very supportive. I won the Fred Daly with Athenry and the Barton Shield so that was great. It’s a very tight knit golf club in a team sense.

“They’re always there to send you a text and say ‘well done’ if you have had a good round. There’s always a keen eye in Athenry!”

One of the highlights of Hill’s year was representing an international team against the USA in the Arnold Palmer Cup.

The Arnold Palmer Cup is an annual team event for college/university golfers and Hill secured his spot on the team by virtue of his R&A Student Series Order of Merit Ranking.

Unfortunately, the Internationals came out on the wrong side of a tight contest, but Hill was delighted to be able to travel Stateside and tick off a goal for the year.

“I always wanted to play the Palmer Cup, so to be able to play that was fantastic. It was a so, so performance from my point of view but I didn’t embarrass myself anyway,” he laughed.

“It was absolutely surreal. You were treated like a professional for the whole week. The facilities were second to none. I was throwing myself a little into the deep end I hadn’t too much competitive golf at that stage with all the lockdowns, but I found I got to grips with it pretty quickly and I remembered why I was there and I tried to do the job as best I can.

“There were a few people there that I would have known from my underage days from international teams that I’d have played with before, so it was nice to meet them again.

“I knew Lauren Walsh obviously she’s a very strong player from Ireland so she’s around my age and I know her from coming through the ranks together. You’re meeting new people too which is great.

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Allan Hill by Golffile

“I’m friendly enough with a lad from Peru Julien Perico, I played with him in an event in the States two years ago with the college, so it was great to catch up with him and some others. I wasn’t a total stranger going over, so it was brilliant.”

Hill certainly has a taste for the big events and perhaps his experience in the Palmer Cup gave him the confidence to go deep in the major championships in Ireland.

Hill can boast top-5s in the Irish Amateur Close and the Irish Amateur Open while he posted further top-10s in the Munster Men’s Strokeplay and the R&A Student Tour Series in Scotland.

At just 21, Hill has taken to the big stage like a duck to water and feels he can learn from playing alongside the likes of Peter O’Keeffe in the final rounds of majors as he tries to etch his name onto one of the big trophies in the future.

“It was a great experience playing in the Irish Am at the European Club. I didn’t feel like I did anything too differently compared to normal tournaments, so I just tried to keep going.

“I loved the course. A proper test of golf. Probably one of the toughest courses I have ever played you really have to be very precise off the tee. There’s no room for error, it’s absolutely perfect, you couldn’t blame the course or the weather it was all up to your own golf. I’ve never seen a course in as good condition as that.

“I played my first Irish Am with Peter in one of the rounds in Royal County Down in 2018 so I knew him from around the scene. He’s a fantastic player who’s had a fantastic year so it was great to see how he could put himself into contention and remain there for the whole round.

“It was great to see how one of the elite amateurs goes about his business and gets the job done,” he added.

Hill held the overnight lead after the opening round at the European Club. He was the only man to shoot a round in the 60s in the tricky conditions and his round of 69 ended up as the joint low round of the week. Proof that the youngster can hang tough in the big events.

“Everything kind of went right for me on the day. I was one-over through 13 and was playing pretty good stuff. I was annoyed with myself after the 13th, the par-5. I had a decent birdie chance and made a mess of it.

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Allan Hill. Photo by Golffile

“I think I birdied three of the last five holes. I got a few putts to drop and it was nice I wasn’t expecting to be in the lead but I knew I would be around the top-5 or top-10 so I was happy at days end.

“Even in the second round I was five-over after nine I think I had a triple bogey somewhere which is fairly easily done. I knew not to panic I was playing OK but yeah you just know that the majority of people will have a mare on one of the holes so it’s all about resetting and going again,” he added.

While he hopes to study data analytics next year. Hill has lofty ambitions on the golf course too. Ireland won their first Home Internationals title since 2017 in the most dramatic circumstances that has been well documented at this stage. The influence that will have on amateur golfers across the country will be huge and Hill is desperate to make the team next year after narrowly missing out on a place this year.

Having experienced the pressures of being in contention deep into a tournament on Sunday, he also has his eyes set on winning amateur titles over the next few years as he looks to keep climbing the golfing ladder.

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