Garrick Higgo’s rapid rise to success was not unexpected
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By Michael Sherman
JOHANNESBURG - The rapid rise to the highest level of world golf for South Africa’s Garrick Higgo has been nothing short of phenomenal, but not something that was unexpected for those who know the 22-year-old prodigy.
Higgo turned professional in 2019 after a glittering amateur career, and has since won three times on the European Tour and tasted victory in just his second event on the premier world golf stage - the PGA Tour - with his win at the Palmetto Championship on Sunday.
His win on the PGA Tour means he gains automatic membership on the tour until the end of the 2023 season. To go with his breakthrough performance, he collected a winner’s cheque of $1.3m US dollars or roughly R18m. Higgo also became just the second player in 33 years to win a PGA Tour event in one of his first two starts.
The left-handed Higgo won seven times as an amateur in South Africa in 2016 and 2017, and a bright future was already predicted for the youngster.
Someone who was there to witness his incredible play on the amateur circuit was GolfRSA media manager Lali Stander. From the moment she first met Higgo, Stander said she knew he was a huge talent.
“I was immediately impressed with Garrick at our very first encounter in 2015 – not just by his undeniable talent, but by his ability to recover from adversity,” Stander told African News Agency.
“In 22 years in this game, I have rarely seen a golfer that turns every bad shot into opportunity, and I believe that is Garrick’s secret weapon.”
Higgo joined the GolfRSA National Squad in 2016 and began dominating the national amateur circuit.
“That extraordinary ability to stay in the moment after an errant drive, a three-putt bogey or a bad approach or chip was the strongest weapon in his arsenal and within a year he held the number one position on the open and junior rankings.”
Stander also points out, that Higgo may have risen to the top even faster had it not been for Covid-19.
“I believe his fast rise on the Sunshine Tour and European Tour would have happened even sooner if it were not for the Covid-19 interruptions, and the PGA Tour win was not surprising, either.
“It was always the end-goal to play in the USA. And what we saw on Sunday at Congaree was ‘vintage’ Garrick. Don’t over-think things. Don’t mourn missed opportunities. Just finds the ball and then find the best route to get to the hole.”
Higgo is just one of a host of young players coming through the SA ranks, and his big-hitting countryman Wilco Nienaber has also made headlines for his length of the tee.
“What really excites me is that Garrick Higgo and Wilco Nienaber (who tied for 14th) have become the new idols.
“Their achievements in the last few months will have a massive knock-on effect on the talent waiting in the wings. And the younger generation will do very well in adopting their strongest traits – push forward, create opportunities and don’t look back – as they prepare for the big stage.”
Seeing @garrick_higgo win his first PGA Tour event in only his second start has been one of the most enjoyable things for me to witness in my career. He is without a doubt the most humble, well mannered young man that you could wish to meet. Watch this space, big things to come! pic.twitter.com/US5Qho6bL3— GARY PLAYER (@garyplayer) June 13, 2021
To go with his rapidly expanding bank balance, Higgo now finds himself ranked 39th in the world.
Having won his first European Tour event at the Open De Portugal in September last year, Higgo at the age of 21 became the fastest South African to win three tournaments on the tour. He also matched the record of Tiger Woods for the fewest number of events needed to claim three European/PGA Tour wins since 1990.
Higgo took just 26 tournaments to win three times on the European Tour. The next fastest SA player was Ernie Els, achieving the feat in 55 events. For comparison, Louis Oosthuizen - took 170 events to win three times.
Though Higgo has achieved the sort of success many professionals can only dream of in an entire career, it’s clear to see that he’s only just getting started.
African News Agency (ANA)