David Higgins matched the best finish by a modern PGA regional professional at the BMW PGA Championship and credited new-found mental strength for his return to the big time.
Five years since the Waterville pro last played on the European Tour, the €78,300 cheque he earned at Wentworth for a tie for 10th gives him a wonderful foundation to earn top flight status for 2013.
Higgins, 39, had theforesight to pay his €2,500 Tour dues for 2012 and his final round two under 70 to finish four under sent him into the Race To Dubai standings.
Already into next month’s Irish Open, Higgins took a sizeable chunk out of the €130,000 total that is usually enough to earn a card for the following season and the kudos of a top-10 in the Tour’s flagship event should get him valuable invitations into more tournaments.
“I knew I needed to birdie one of the last two and I got one on 17 so I’m proud ofmyself,”Higgins said.
It was some birdie, too. Having driven into trees, Higgins kept his driver in hand and blasted out through a gap before sending a wedge shot to 15 feet.
“I knew I had to take a chance and it paid off,” he added. “It’s a stepping stone. I’ve got Portrush and hopefully a couple more opportunities. I’m playing well, so who knows where I’m going.”
That Higgins is going anywhere is down to renewed mental resilience.
“I’m proud of the way I hung in there when I could have let it go a few times. My mind was great this week. I knew my game was good enough but I never proved it before because my mind wasn’t strong enough and today it was.”
Higgins declined to go into details about the source of his mental turnaround but credited wife Elizabeth for sending him down the right track.
“My wife knows about it but we did something last week which was great. We had four days in London, so thanks to her as well. We went to a thing to do with your mind which I’ve never done before in my life and it’s paid off.”
Of the other Irish, Paul McGinley (72) closed at one over in a tie for 33rd, with Damien McGrane (72) and Gareth Maybin (74) a shot behind.
Shane Lowry, fourth here last year, closed with a 74 to finish 10 over. He, Maybin, Peter Lawrie and Gary Murphy will contest today’s 36-hole US Open qualifier at nearby Walton Heath.
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