PGA Professional teaches son life lesson in perseverance on Father's Day at PPC

Angie Hillman
Josh Hillman, with 7-year-old son Jake, was a tremendous role model for his son during and after a first-round, 15-over 86 at the PGA Professional Championship on Sunday.
By T.J. Auclair
PGA.com
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Published: Monday, June 19, 2017 | 4:38 p.m.

SUNRIVER, Oregon -- There were 312 players who teed it up in the first round of the 50th PGA Professional Championship at Sunriver Resort on Sunday.

When the round was complete, 39-year-old Josh Hillman found himself in dead last after shooting a 15-over-par 86 at the Meadows course, which, in Round 1, played as the easier of the two host courses.

The conditions were perfect. Hillman's game was not.

His colorful scorecard consisted of nine pars, six bogeys, two double bogeys and a quintuple-bogey 9 on the par-5 12th hole.

Even still, when talking to Hillman before he set out for his second round at Crosswater on a perfect, cloudless, Monday, there wasn't even a hint of anger or disappointment.

"This is the biggest championship we have to play for and this is a phenomenal facility," said the Williams College coach and head professional at Taconic Golf Club in Williamstown, Mass. "Basically, my downfall on Sunday was not keeping the ball in play off the tee. It's been a struggle for me the last couple of years now."

With all the different hats Hillman wears while working two full-time jobs, it's no wonder he hasn't had a whole lot of time to spend working on his own game.

His Williams College Ephlats golf team made it to the NCAA Championship, extending the season another couple of weeks, which delighted Hillman. It just meant he couldn't turn his attention to his own game until late May.

"Here I am a month later still trying to figure it out in our biggest tournament of the year," he laughed.

Here at Sunriver this week, Hillman has his wife Angie and their 7-year-old son Jake along for the trip.

Hillman and Jake play loads of golf together. Jake is his dad's biggest fan, something Hillman was very much aware of especially on Sunday.

Kids are impressionable and a lot of young boys want to be just like their dad.

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With that in mind, even as the going got tougher and tougher at Meadows, the thought of giving up never crossed Hillman's mind -- not in general and especially not with Jake watching.

"I never thought about quitting," Hillman said. "You keep your head up, you make your club proud, you take your hat off and you shake your fellow competitors hands. That's just what you do. You put your best foot forward every single shot. Sometimes you have it, sometimes you don't. Clearly I didn't have it yesterday."

What a lesson for young Jake to learn from his dad... on Father's Day of all days.

"Jake saw me hit some shots yesterday that he's never seen me hit in his life," Hillman said. "We play a lot of golf at Taconic together in the evenings. Every 7-year-old looks up to their dad. The last thing I want to do is portray a PGA professional -- or your dad -- in a bad light and be angry and throwing clubs and upset. He knows I was trying hard.

"I got done yesterday and Jake said, 'Dad, why did you hit two over the trees on No. 12 out of bounds?' I was like, 'Because I just did. I didn't mean to,'" a smiling Hillman said.

Following Sunday's round, Hillman hit the range hard with longtime friend T.J. Doton, who flew in from Seattle this week to loop for Hillman. They worked some things out and Hillman felt better heading to Crosswater on Monday for his 1:35 p.m. PDT tee time.

"Today we're going to go out there at Crosswater with another game plan and we're going to try and put it together," he said. "You've got to own your 86. That's what I tell my college kids and it's no different for me, their coach. You've got to own it, formulate a game plan, stick to it and either it goes right or it goes wrong. Whatever it is, it is. There will be another tournament where you're going to work just as hard."

No matter what happens on Monday on the course, Hillman is chalking this one up as a spectacular family trip.

"Crosswater is a phenomenal golf course in just perfect shape," he said. "It's a bear. It's a good golf course. You have to drive the ball well and leave it in good spots around the greens. But it's a fun course and it's got a good look to it. This whole area in Bend is amazing. We've had a blast out here this week. My wife Angie and Jake, we've been hanging out and exploring the area. I had never been out this way before. This is such a great tournament."

Not that Hillman needed to hear it, but Angie put everything in perspective for her husband.

"Angie talked to me about my job description versus a lot of the others in the field and she said, 'You've got a lot going on. Plus, you're a dad. Take it for what it's worth and enjoy the trip,'" he said. "She's a smart girl."

And how about the lessons Hillman has passed down to his son, who loves golf, this week?

"Never give up," Hillman said. "There's no quit in golf. Just keep going at it." 

T.J. Auclair is a Senior Interactive Producer for PGA.com and has covered professional golf since 1998, traveling to over 60 major championships. You can follow him on Twitter, @tjauclair.