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Last updated Monday 29th April 2024.

Daniel Hillier won the British Masters at The Belfry in June 2023 on his way to being named Challenge Tour Graduate of the Year following his breakout season on the DP World Tour.

Here the 25-year-old discusses his journey from what was a successful amateur career – which encompassed two New Zealand Amateur titles – to a 30th-place finish on last year’s Race to Dubai Rankings.

There are photographs of me swinging plastic golf clubs around the house when I was 18 months old so I guess you could say my golf career began pretty early!
Dad took me up to the local golf course when I was four years old. I played a lot of other sports when I was growing up; cricket, football, athletics … but as I got older, golf took over. It got a bit more serious when I was in my early teens and I started getting more and more competitive from there.

Looking at old videos of me, it looks like I had a fairly natural swing as a kid.
When I was a toddler I could swing the club properly rather than wood chop at the ball. I guess there was something there to start with but then I put a lot of hard work in after that. I suppose my dad was my first coach. He taught me the basics. Then I went to a club coach and then to a national coach when I was 12, who I’m still with now.

I love sport, particularly team sports, so it was a difficult choice to focus on just one.
I’m still mates with the lads I played footie and cricket with and it was hard to walk away from that team environment. Golf is obviously an individual sport. Everything is on you; how much you want to practice, what you practice on and stuff like that. You still have a team around you but you have to take ownership of your own career; no one is going to hold your hand. It was actually this individual responsibility that appealed to me about golf. I picked up a lot of injuries playing team sports, to the point where I was told I’d need surgery to continue playing, so that was part of it, too. But looking back, I would have chosen golf over all the others, regardless of injuries.

The journey I’ve been on since those early days has been awesome and I’m very grateful to be doing what I’m doing.
It was interesting playing the elite amateur events because I didn’t really know where I stacked up against other golfers from the rest of the world. I was always good at matchplay and always did well in the New Zealand Amateur, but I didn’t play loads of four-round strokeplay events. My first year on the Challenge Tour was definitely a learning curve. I knew my good stuff was good enough, but there was room for improvement in terms of my consistency and limiting damage on the bad holes across four rounds of strokeplay when every shot counts. I think I was making a double bogey every round which you can’t afford to do. But I managed to play well enough off the invites, I won the penultimate event of the year and finished 23rd on the rankings.

I did pretty well in my second year and I had a good caddie for the back half of that.
I made sure each week I was out there that I was smart with my gameplan and played to my strengths. I accepted over time that some courses are going to suit me and some aren’t, so I tried to make the most of the ones that did. That seems to be my approach even to this day and hopefully it keeps paying off.

Winning the British Masters [above] last year was incredible.
The fact that it was at The Belfry – which is such an iconic venue – and that I had a lot of my good mates there watching was awesome. I had a couple of close calls at the KLM Open and the BMW International Open before that so I was delighted to get over the line at The Belfry. I look back on it every now and then and still pinch myself. It was a great feeling.

I’ve played in The Open twice now and I’m super excited about Royal Troon in July.
It’s an atmosphere like no other and it’s a pretty special week to be a part of. Links golf definitely takes some getting used to because it’s different to what I grew up with. But if you want to be a great golfer you need to be able to adjust to different courses so it’s something that I’ll continue to figure out. Troon is one of the most famous courses in golf so it will be awesome to tee it up there.

Daniel Hillier won the British Masters at The Belfry in June 2023 on his way to being named Challenge Tour Graduate of the Year following his breakout season on the DP World Tour.