Wiser Higgins bids to end seven-year itch

DAVID HIGGINS believes his vast experience will stand to him as he bids to end his seven-year itch and clinch his return to the European Tour at the “dreaded” Qualifying School Finals at PGA Golf de Catalunya.

The 39-year old Waterville man is one of 156 players who will tee it up at the Tour and Stadium courses at Denis O’Brien’s Catalan resort battling to finish in the top 30 and ties after six rounds.

Bill Shankly would feel right at home in the foothills of the Pyrenees where many of the youngsters in the field believe coming through the Q-School is even more important than life or death. But Higgins is making his eighth appearance at the final stage and while he’d dearly love another shot at tour life, he’s been around long enough to know that he must keep as calm and relaxed as possible.

Joined in Spain by 25-year old first-timer Cian McNamara of Limerick and Ulstermen Jonny Caldwell and Chris Devlin, the Kerryman comes into the event with his confidence on the rise.

“The years are flying by,” Higgins said yesterday. “You look at the young guys here and remember when you were that player. It’s true that sometimes experience isn’t a good thing, when you have been to Q-School too many times but I am experienced at this stage and I know I just have to play my own game. The courses are wet and playing very long, so the ball is not travelling. Some guys might panic a little bit because of that but I’ll just get on with it.

“It would be fantastic and give me another shot on tour and it is just about me trying to be relaxed, which is the hardest thing to do because you want it so badly. If I can do that I will be fine. My game is as good as anyone’s here and it is up to me now.”

The field features former Ryder Cup players Paul Broadhurst and Jarmo Sandelin and three-time tour winner Nick Dougherty, who made just one cut all season

Back at the school a decade after breezing through it as a 19-year old in 2001, Dougherty said: “Last time I was at Qualifying School wasn’t stressful at all, and I loved every minute of it – just being there was a bonus for me at that stage in my career. The emotions are obviously a bit different coming back here ten years later, but it’s still only a golf tournament.

“It’s often referred to as the dreaded Tour School, but we’re only here to play golf – it’s like we’re expected to find a cure for cancer this week!”

McNamara will qualify as a PGA professional next spring but while that has relieved some of the pressure on his shoulders, he’s still determined to go all the way after nerveless displays at the first two stages.

“I might as well keep going and try to get as much as I can out of this,” said the Ballyclough man, who knows that making the 72-hole cut would give him a strong Challenge Tour card. “My goal this week is to try and get a tour card, I don’t see why not. ”

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