World Tour for Calum Hill as he strives to keep improving

Calum Hill plays his tee shot at the 1st in the final round of the Open de Espana. Picture: Luke Walker/Getty
Calum Hill plays his tee shot at the 1st in the final round of the Open de Espana. Picture: Luke Walker/Getty
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Talk about a grand tour. Over the next four weeks, Calum Hill is set to tee it up on three different circuits, taking him to Mallorca on the Challenge Tour, Mexico on the PGA Tour and either Hong Kong or South Africa on the European Tour.

The middle leg of that exciting adventure will see him make his first appearance in a regular event on the US circuit, having managed to secure an invitation for the $7.2 million Mayakoba Classic at Playa del Carmen, where past winners include Graeme McDowell, Matt Kucher and Pat Perez.

It’s an opportunity that has arisen through Hill’s spell at Western New Mexico University, where he graduated with an accountancy degree before staying on to be the men’s assistant golf coach and, 
during that time, secured 
a Masters in business 
administration.

“When I was coaching and doing my Masters, one of the freshmen on the team was the son of the CEO of a section of OHL, a former title sponsor of what is now the Mayakoba Classic,” said Hill, who turns 25 on Sunday. “Through that connection, I was able to go down to El Camaleon in Playa del Carmen a couple of times and also played in one of the Monday qualifiers, which I wasn’t successful in.

“I then got an invitation for the Mayakoba Classic last year but was unable to take it because of the final stage of the European Tour Qualifying School.

“I was fortunate to get it again this season and I have happily accepted it because I don’t need to go to the final stage this time. It’s brilliant and it will be a fun week. It’s good that I know the place, which is fantastic.”

Hill, who played in the 2018 US Open at Shinnecock Hills as a qualifier, will make that trip to Mexico with a European Tour card safely secured, having been guaranteed to make the step up from the Challenge Tour ever since he won twice in three starts on the second-tier circuit during a purple patch in the summer.

His target next week in Mallorca, where the Challenge Tour Grand Final is being held at Club de Golf Alcanada for the first time, is to become the first Scot to finish the season as No 1 on the circuit since Marc Warren in 2005, having regained top spot a week after losing it as he signed off with five straight birdies to claim third position in the Foshan Open in China on Sunday.

“I had an okay week – certainly not a bad one – the previous week, yet I dropped down four spots, which was a bit of a surprise,” said Hill, who is enjoying being attached to Gleneagles Hotel, both in terms of it being close to the family home in Crook of Devon and because it offers top-class courses and practice facilities.

“I want to finish in the first place position, so it was good to finish the way I did in the Foshan Open and jump back up straight away. I’m in a prime position to sign off the season as No 1.

“It is good to have a little bit of a lead, but next week’s event carries a lot of prize money for a Challenge Tour event, so a lot can change over the four days.”

Hill, who is set to be joined in the season-ending tournament by Connor Syme, pictured, who sits 12th and is also on course to secure a European Tour card, and 23rd-ranked Ewen Ferguson, has already shown he can handle the step up to the main circuit, having recorded top-30 finishes in the Aberdeen Standard Investments Scottish Open, Alfred Dunhill Links Championship and Spanish Open this year.

“Stoddy [Iain Stoddart, his manager] was quite set on me having a go in a few of them so that I could see what they were like and, to be honest, I don’t find them any different apart from having more strength in depth,” said Hill, who has his younger brother, Ian, starting full-time on his bag next week as they see if they can work as well together as Dustin Johnson has with his sibling, Austin, in recent years.

He added: “It seems as though I am able to compete in them. I played quite well in all of them and the results were good. It was good to dip my toe in the water, so to speak. I think my game is continually getting better.

“I have not hit a barrier yet and, hopefully, I don’t for some time.”