After South Africa’s 22-year-old golfing sensation Garrick Higgo pulled off his first PGA Tour win in the Palmetto Championship at Congaree Golf Club in Ridgeland, South Carolina on Sunday he got a call from the legendary 85-year-old Gary Player.
“Talent and hard work can turn you into a really good golfer but you need plenty of self-belief as well to become a great champion and you’ve got that self-belief, Garrick,” an elated Player, who has mentored Garrick, told his young compatriot.
The left-hander from De Zalze Golf Club in Stellenbosch has in under a year taken the world of golf by storm and the Palmetto victory was his fourth title in that time frame. On Sunday he closed with a three-under-par 68 for an 11-under-par 273 aggregate to edge out faltering American Chesson Hadley and five others by one and earn $1,31-million which equates to a hefty R18-million.
“It’s amazing,” said Higgo. “I just stayed patient all week. I’ve worked so hard with my coach on my short game and my putting, and I guess all that has paid off.”
Add the R18-million to the R9-million Garrick has earned on the European Tour this year – in the space of two weeks at the end of May and in early April he took the Gran Canaria Lopesan Open and the Canary Islands Championship – and his earnings so far in 2021 amount to around R27-million. That’s huge money but he’s a huge talent and, as the great Player says, he has huge self-belief.
Higgo has a super-sharp short game but he also hits the ball for miles and at Congaree’s par-5 12th hole on Sunday he unleashed a massive 364-yard drive (40 yards more than the average there for the tournament) plus an approach to nine feet from the cup to make an eagle-3 which helped set him up on the path to victory.
Higgo’s breakthrough win came in the Open de Portugal on the European Tour in September last year, and now he heads – as, form-wise, one of the game’s hottest players – to an even bigger stage in the US Open at Torrey Pines in La Jolla, California starting on Thursday.
This latest win opens up many doors for Higgo, as he now becomes a full member of the PGA Tour with exemption until the end of the 2023 season. It also gets him inside the world’s top 50 to 39th, taking him past Christiaan Bezuidenhout and making him likely one of South Africa’s two representatives in the Olympic Games together with Louis Oosthuizen.
He is one of nine South Africans in the US Open line-up – including Erik van Rooyen, who finished tie 10th in the Palmetto on Sunday, and big-hitting Wilco Nienaber who closed with a fine 67 to share 14th place. They will join Bezuidenhout, Oosthuizen, Branden Grace (also a winner on the PGA Tour this year), Charl Schwartzel , Dylan Frittelli and Thomas Aiken at Torrey Pines.
Written by Randpark member Grant Winter.