Greenfield native Josh Hillman keeps a busy golf life

  • Josh Hillman with Williams golfer Sam Goldenring, who became the first Eph men's golfer to win the NCAA DIII Individual title last May.

  • Josh Hillman, winner of the 2019 NENY Golf Professional of the Year, is the pro at Taconic Golf Club and head coach at Williams College.

Staff Writer
Published: 3/19/2020 4:38:21 PM
Modified: 3/19/2020 4:38:11 PM

Josh Hillman had a busy 2019 on the golf course. 

The Greenfield native and graduate of Greenfield High School in 2003 spent the year as the head pro at Taconic Golf Club as well as serving as the head coach at Williams College.

His hard work and long days on the course were rewarded, as he was named the Northeast New York Golf Professional of the Year 

“I’ve been out here for 16 years, it’s our highest honor in our PGA section,” Hillman said. “It’s voted on by peers which is a nice compliment and was very humbling to hear. I was shocked when I found out. I may be the youngest pro to win the award. I put in time with the section in doing things because I want to. ”

Hillman credits his success to his mentors, Buck O’Brien and Ron Beck. O’Brien was the longtime pro at the Country Club of Greenfield and Beck at Crumpin-Fox. Hillman spent time with both as a kid, with both shaping the way he views the game of golf. 

Without them, he feels he wouldn’t be in the position he’s in now. 

“It goes back to Bucky O’Brien and Ron Beck,” Hillman said. “When I started golfing at age seven, eight, they helped me become the golfer I am and got me hooked on the sport. It’s 12-, 13-hour days on the course but it’s not work to me. Bucky told me years ago, ‘I love coming here. It’s my second family here and I don’t know what I’d be doing if it wasn’t doing this.’ That’s what I’m doing now.”

He may not be patrolling the courses in Franklin County often anymore, but Hillman still has a connection with his local town. 

After winning the award, he received multiple calls from his hometown club in Greenfield, remembering the days he spent at the Country Club of Greenfield learning and loving the sport, aspiring him to his profession today. 

“I’d say my biggest influence was Bucky,” Hillman said. “He was the pro for 30 or 40 years at CCG. He’s the guy who took me under his wing and taught me the ropes of the business even in high school. I’d work the pro shop and he’d get out of there early to go home and I’d run the counter for him. That’s where I caught the bug to get into the profession. The CCG has been a huge part of my life and is an extended part of my family. The people there are one’s you keep in close contact with.” 

One of the downsides to working two jobs that take up most of the day is not having time for leisure activities. 

For Hillman, that means not being able to play golf on his own, but he doesn’t mind not physically being part of the action. 

“I play less and less golf,” Hillman said. “Helping people out is even better to me. My job is helping people and letting them enjoy their recreation. They’re out there looking to have fun and enjoy their rec time. My role as a head professional is to make that a good one. If they aren’t having fun, something has to change.”

One of Hillman’s best success stories comes from his development of Williams’ Sam Goldenring. The senior became the first Eph men’s golfer to win the NCAA Division III Individual title during the spring season last year, much due to the coaching of Hillman. 

Since taking over the program in 2013, Hillman has grown it year to year, with the team ranked in the top 20 in the country this past season. 

The success makes him proud, but getting to teach the game to young adults brings Hillman even more joy. 

“It’s amazing to work with these young men,” Hillman said. “They come to school and they’re on their own, they lean on you hard and I take great pride in steering them down the right road. Good experience, trying to help them out while also running a productive golf club. Juggling two hats at once isn’t always easy, sacrifice here and there but it’s fun to be a part of it all.” 

Coaching is part of Hillman’s life, and he brings that to his job as the pro at Taconic. Just the fourth head pro in the long history of the club, he takes great pride in helping out in whatever way he can with members. 

Another part of the job is helping his assistants grow in the field. Having learned so much from O’Brien and Beck about getting in the business, he tries to instill those lessons into those who work for him at the club. 

“The job is about serving your members, teaching people the game, mechanizing and making sure your staff is doing well,” Hillman said. “Two of my assistants become Class A PGA members, one an LPGA Class A member. Growing your staff, I’m very proud of that with those three assistants.”

Winning the NENY Golf Professional of the Year award is just one of many honors Hillman has been presented with. He was also named the NENY PGA Rolland Stafford Award in 2011 for sportsmanship as well as being named Merchandiser of the Year. 

Being heavily involved, he has brought multiple tournaments to Taconic that he’s proud of. 

“I love being part of Taconic,” Hillman said. “Hosted the Mass State Amateur tournament and we’re slated to host the State Open this June. It’s stuff like that, being involved with regional stuff, spending time on the board of directors. Lucky enough to win those other awards.”

The Greenfield native is awaiting word on when the Taconic course will open this year. Traditionally opening on April 15, the board is meeting to decide when the club will open up due to concerns over COVID-19. 

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