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The Amazing Mr. Hillier

The story below is in Max’s words:

The following account comes to us from one of our superb students; Max Hillier. Max is a very talented person, on many fronts, but his golf story is remarkable. As you will read below, Max only took up the game 9 months ago and has already achieved a milestone, that golfers who have played for many years, have never achieved. Max has goals to break par, and based on his incredible achievements to date, who would doubt him?

“Last May, sitting in my friend, Frank’s restaurant, Copper Falls, Frank mentioned that he played golf EVERY Tuesday. I flippantly said “Well I would like to play with you guys if you ever have space”…..I mean golf and beer in the Caribbean, gotta be fun right? Well, about a month later he called and invited me out on Tuesday. I hacked my way around and had a BLAST, and that was how it all began. In short order I bought custom Titleist AP1 irons with a 1 degree club head adjustment and after having my swing speed analyzed in Miami was fitted with X Stiff shafts (Editor’s note: When Max first told us that he had been fitted for such ‘strong’ shafts we were concerned that it was too much shaft for him. After having the chance to see his swing live; Tim though that the shaft may not be; strong enough! Max creates a LOT of club head speed). I was shooting in the 100’s.

I played every Tuesday and started adding in Thursdays and Saturdays, in between sessions on the driving range. In August, I broke 100 and you would have sworn I had just got back from the moon. Then my friends told me that I had talent and should get a few lessons.

Living in the Cayman Islands, this posed a small dilemma; “How do I get the best possible instruction so that I could build on my natural talent and achieve my goal of shooting under par?”

The answer-GOLF SCHOOL-that’s it. I researched a lot of golf schools on-line and determined that, there was only one choice for me; “The ultimate golf learning experience” ® (Bird Golf). After speaking with Jay Ewing, the Director of Instruction, I arranged for a 5 Day one-on-one school in Florida. My teacher was Tim Peightal, who was in one word; extraordinary. Tim took this raw piece of clay and let it spin while gently working with it to turn it into a fine piece of pottery. What an instructor-what an experience-what a great friend.

I got back to Cayman and instantly got worse. However, I knew that what Tim and I had created was an amazingly strong foundation and that all the rest of the building still had to finished. I worked diligently on that foundation (I also kept in regular contact with Tim, via e-mail and phone). I practiced and played as much as time would allow (on average 3 times per week) and reached a personal milestone, at the Bird Golf Invitational in November, by breaking 90 for the first time (on the second day of the tournament, I shot an 85 at Devil’s Claw, one of the two fantastic golf courses at Whirlwind).

On February 12th 2009, I went to play with the lads. It was a Tuesday after all; “wasn’t Tuesday created as the day we should all golf?” And my life changed again….

I felt great. I was well rested and opened my round with clean strikes and making pars. I never once thought about my score but instead focused on each shot, one at a time. I had practiced distance control on my putts and set my goal which was to have 2 putts or less, per hole (I also track my GIR’s (greens in regulation). The putts rolled and some even dropped in! I was no longer thinking about striking the ball but rather, where I wanted to leave this approach to land or where I wanted that chip to go.

And it all just came together. I shot 79!

So after 9 months, a flippant suggestion, new clubs, a golf school, a pro am, 2 golf vacations, a sky caddie and ProV 1’s and X’s – I broke 80!

I am now working on becoming a 70’s guy, which as we all know, should take more time than 100 to 90’s or 90’s to 80’s however, you just never know. I love this game, the people, the friendships, and the places.

I used to say “100 opportunities to create greatness” – now I only have 80 or so.”

Max Hillier
Grand Cayman