David Higgins held on to win the Slieve Russell Masters Pro-Am after a level-par 72 was enough to secure a one-shot victory on Tuesday.
Final round tee times were pushed back more than an hour after a deluge of overnight rain drenched the fairways at PGA National but once play did commence, it was very tight at the top.
After an opening 70, Higgins teed off in a share of the lead with Richard O’Donovan and despite two late bogeys, his 72 proved just enough to edge out serial winner Richard Kilpatrick by the minimum on two-under.
“I’m delighted to have won,” said Higgins. “I had played Mount Juliet a few weeks back and last week so I knew going in that Slieve Russell would be good preparation of the Irish Open so it was great to perform well up there and especially to go and win. I think this is my fourth win up there so I like it there, it’s a great place to play.
“It was the toughest I saw it play with the wind and rain, it was just very long but it was in great condition. What the grounds staff did was unbelievable they had the course in great condition, but it played very difficult.”
There’s no time to rest with the Waterville professional now facing a quick turnaround before teeing it up in Thursday’s Horizon Irish Open,
“I have been planning this run for a while and have been practicing quite a lot,” he added. “I think I have won up in Mount Juliet three times so the energy levels are good, it was a good plan coming in. I will play the pro-am this afternoon, nine holes and be ready for action tomorrow morning.
“I just have to treat it like a normal event and not get distracted and everything should be fine. My game is good so there’s no reason I can’t have a good week. Goal number one is to play four rounds and we will take it from there after that.”
At Slieve Russell, Higgins began his final round on the back nine and eased to the turn with eight pars and a birdie on the par-5 13th.
Conditions proved to be challenging all day with the course playing long with the soft fairways and the Cork native looked to be on course for a routine victory after a birdie on the first.
However, the PGA Cup player bogeyed the fifth and the par-5 9th hole to leave the door ajar but he would not be caught.
Kilpatrick and O’Donovan finished in a share of second on one-under after rounds of 70 and 73 respectively.
Banbridge’s Kilpatrick was searching for a remarkable fourth win in five events in what has been a terrific season but he was left to rue a slow start to his final round despite an enthralling back nine charge.
Four birdies in five holes from the 12th to the 16th forced the issue but he would have to settle for a runner-up finish.
Kilpatrick has finished outside the top-7 just once in nine events, a T-21 finish at the Vermilion Energy Pro-Am in Carne.
Liam Grehan of the K Club and James Quinlivan of Mullingar shared fourth on level-par while Headfort’s Brendan McGovern was a shot further back.
Higgins will tee off alongside Andrea Pavan and Jaochim B. Hansen in Mount Juliet on Thursday
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