Waterville’s David Higgins carded a second consecutive 71 in the final round at Romford Golf Club to finish in T5 place in the Senior PGA Professional Championship as an emotional Rob Edwards dedicated his victory to his wife and family following her ongoing battle with leukaemia.
Higgins had been T2 after day one following an opening 67 but a tough inward nine holes on day two where he dropped four shots in his last five holes scuppered his chances and he was five behind heading to the final round.
Edwards meanwhile, who is based at Romsey Golf Club, chased down overnight leader Graeme Bell with a final round score of 66, the second best of the day, to win the event on eight-under-par as the top 62 players who made the cut had to unpack their waterproofs to take on the Romford course on the final day.
Bell, who lead the tournament on days one and two, Liam Bond (TRS) and Edwards teed off together in the final group, but it wasn’t plain sailing for the leaders as the chasing pack came in with some strong scores.
Having finished day one in 98th position, Richard O’Hanlon (St Kew Golf Club) managed to make the cut, then scored the best round of the week on the final day with a six-under-par 64, leaving him in T5 on two-under-par for the tournament.
David Copsey (Betchworth Park Golf Club) played steady all week and was challenging the top of the leaderboard during the final round thanks to four birdies and an eagle during his round. However, bogies on 15 and 18 left him a couple short with a final score of 67 (-6 for the tournament).
Lough Erne’s Damien Mooney shot his best round of the week (70) to move up to T14 while Greenore’s Robert Giles returning a 72 for T20 and Brendan McGovern of Headfort in T22.
Bell started the day in pole position but it all came down to a swing at the 18th when he missed the green to the left and ended up making bogey, finishing on -7, whilst Edwards holed a long putt from just off the green to make birdie, finishing one ahead on -8.
A clearly emotional Edwards explained just how much this win meant to him after a number of years outside of the winners’ circle: “It’s hard to put into words to be fair, because as a senior player, this is our biggest championship and it’s a bit surreal at the moment – I was in with a shout, I felt really good all week, but until I was 100 yards from the last green, I didn’t actually have this in my mindset, I just wanted to do as well as I could. Then the realisation that I actually had a chance coming into the last green… It’s all happened so quick!”
“This means everything to be honest, it’s huge for me. Onward and upwards as far as I’m concerned! My playing career came to an end a few years back and I was doubtful I’d properly play again, but I’ve managed to get my game back and I’m competitive again which is hugely important to me – I’m quite a proud person when it comes to how I perform. I really haven’t got the words to tell you how much this means – this is a huge achievement for me, and there are a lot of names on this trophy, to have your name on a trophy with some of the names on here – Ryder Cup players and stalwarts of The PGA, it’s huge. As a 34-year-old Member of The PGA, I’m very proud.”
This win wasn’t just for Edwards, but his whole family. He added: “Twenty-eight years ago I won the Danish Open and I’ve lived off that for a long time – I get ribbed about it all the time, but this has to usurp that – to win your own national championship is just incredible, absolutely incredible. I’m very proud, and it’ll mean a lot to my wife as well, as sadly she’s not very well – she has leukaemia, so this is for her, for all the family.”
Edwards hasn’t just had success on the course, the tournament has provided an enjoyable social opportunity for all the players, many of whom have known each other for a long time:
“One of the great things about this championship is to meet up with all your old pals, some people you’ve known for 35 years or more. I had a lot of hugs yesterday, and a fantastic reception tonight from my friends and all the club members – they’ve been really generous.”
The top 15 players also qualify for the 2023 Staysure PGA Seniors Championship, which takes place 23rd-27th August at Trump International Golf Links.
CLICK HERE to view a final leaderboard from the 2023 Senior PGA Championship.
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