Waterville’s David Higgins refused to shy away from the thoughts of victory ahead of the Irish PGA Championship’s return to Carne from August 18-20.
Higgins came through 54-holes amongst the Wild Atlantic Dunes in pole position last year, making birdie at the final hole in brutal conditions to capture his second Irish PGA title. With his dad also an Irish PGA winner, Higgins is now hunting his third title at an event that’s always held a special place in his heart.
“Of course,” Higgins answered when asked if he thinks about his hat-trick bid.
“That’s the main reason we’re going down there and I’m sure the other hundred odd players are thinking the same thing, and if you’re not, you shouldn’t be going.
“I’d love to win it again. Time is not waiting for any man. I’ve a few left in me I feel so I have to go down there and give it my best.”
In 2021, Higgins produced his best when he needed it most, dissecting the final fairway before making birdie to deny Mark Staunton in 35mph winds.
“Carne has always been a very special place for me,” Higgins admits.
“It’s designed by Eddie Hackett who designed the original Waterville layout so there’s a lot of similarities there. I’m at home in that type of golf, it’s what I grew up playing. The windier the better for me!”
Like a fine wine, Higgins only seems to be getting better with age. During lockdown, he found himself in the gym, chasing gains like never before. Now, with the big 5-0 approaching this December, he’s eyeing a tilt at the Senior circuit knowing victory at Carne would go a long way towards injecting him with timely self-belief.
“I’m working towards the senior tour, doing a lot with my swing and trying to gain a few yards, working on my putting too. This season’s going decent,” he says.
“Seniors has been the long-term plan for a few years now but winning that PGA would be extra special and it would be a confidence builder to show that things are on the right track and what I’m doing are the right things.”
Higgins did meet a rare stumbling block when he teed up at the Irish Open at Mount Juliet before missing the cut with rounds of 78 and 80.
“I didn’t feel very comfortable at the Irish Open because I hadn’t been in a tournament like that for a long time,” Higgins says having also competed at the Cazoo Classic, again missing the cut but with much-improved scores of 72 and 75.
“I didn’t play well, I struggled, and I’d be the first man to admit it. I was out of my comfort zone but Hillside was much better and if I had two or three more, I’d be more comfortable again.
“All these things will stand to me when I hit 50 and I’m playing the British Seniors or whatever the case may be.”
As well as a title defence at Carne to look forward to, Higgins also earned a return to the PGA Cup fold to compete for GB&I in September at Foxhills. Yet as much and all as the fiery competitor still burns within him, the veteran has also found rich rewards in his role as a coach at Waterville; something he’s convinced will serve him well in his playing too.
“We can’t be hitting balls all day long and of course it’s to earn an income as well but I enjoy it,” Higgins says.
“Only last week I had a young lad just beginning. Wasn’t enjoying it that much and next thing he absolutely flushes one. His face lit up and I said to myself, ‘here’s another lad with the bug. He’s going to be playing golf forever chasing that shot for the rest of his life’.
“I get a lot out of things like that. The game’s been great to me so it’s nice to give back. If I can help a few lads or girls along the way, then that will be good for me too.”
The Irish PGA Championship is played across 54-holes at Carne Golf Links from August 18-20. Once again it will be sponsored by Columbia Sportswear and preceded by a pro-am on August 17.