David Higgins has cited ‘getting physical’ during lockdown as a major factor in him experiencing his most successful season to date on The PGA in Ireland tournament circuit.
The former European Tour player finished at the top of The PGA in Ireland’s Order of Merit for the first time and, for good measure, won the Irish PGA Championship for the second time.
In addition, the 48-year-old who is attached to Waterville Golf Links finished third in the Association’s most prestigious tournament, the PGA Professional Championship at Blairgowrie, Scotland.
All of which was the perfect antidote to the doom, gloom and frustrations caused by lockdown.
“I found lockdown very hard,” he admits. “I know it was hard for everyone but not being able to play golf or compete in tournaments was especially difficult.”
Rather than wallow in negativity, however, Higgins put the enforced and unwelcome incarceration to good use.
“I did a lot of work on my fitness during lockdown and I tried to hit balls when I could,” he explains. “I engaged a personal trainer, David Fitzgerald, who, like me, lives in County Kerry. He helped me a lot.
“A lot of hard work went into the season and I took advantage of the opportunities offered by the PGA in Ireland schedule, so I’m very happy with the way things have turned out.
“As for the fitness aspect, to be honest it’s not something I’ve been into during my career but I’m working hard on it and trying to get a bit longer off the tee like my dad, Liam. He was a very long hitter in his day.”
Combating the distances younger rivals coveting his Order of Merit and tournament crowns can despatch golf balls is not the sole reason Higgins has been working on his fitness, however.
Advancing years mean the body is less capable of recovering from yomping round 7,000 yard-plus courses than it once was. And, with an eye on the future, he is fine-tuning his frame to be able to go toe to toe with not just the young Turks but also his elders.
“My long-term plan is to try for the seniors when I hit 50 in a year and a half’s time,” he says. “That’s what I’m working towards.”
Aside from having another annus mirabilis on The PGA in Ireland circuit in 2022, Higgins has a similarly closer target in his sights – representing Great Britain and Ireland for a second time in next year’s PGA Cup at Foxhills Resort in England.
“I really enjoyed being in the team in 2017 when we beat the Americans at Foxhills,” he recalls. “I hadn’t played team golf for a long time, so it was very rewarding getting to know the other lads.
“I’d definitely like to play in the PGA Cup again, so I’m going to keep doing what I’m doing and try and play as well as I can. If I get in the team again it will be a bonus.”
Performances in the 2021 and 2022 PGA Professional Championship will determine the selection of DJ Russell’s team to take on the USA next September and, having finished third in the former, Higgins has made a good start.
There is, however, more to his golfing life than participating in tournaments, either individually or as a team member.
“It’s not all about me playing in tournament golf,” he says. “I coach at Waterville Golf Links and do a lot of corporate work. The MAC Group has helped me out a lot this year, so I do work for their customers and wear their logo on my shirt.
“I really enjoy the corporate side – I like seeing players improve and having a smile of their face when they hit good shots. The corporate side and teaching are very rewarding.”
The onset of autumn and end of the tournament season allows Higgins to coach as well as wind down before he heads for warmer climes to prepare for the forthcoming campaign and supplement his income.
“When January comes round, I’ll head off overseas to play in pro-ams,” he says. “The first stop is Barbados – I’ve been going there for the last five or six years. Then I head for Portugal and there’s one or two other ones on the cards.
“In the meantime, I’ll take it easy for a while golf-wise and recharge the batteries. It will also be good to spend some time with my five-year-old son and I’m going to keep working on the fitness side of things.”
New habits, it seems, die hard.
- Article via the Irish PGA