Higgo targets Sanlam SA Amateur

Boland junior Garrick Higgo believes that the time has come to end the foreign dominance in the Sanlam South African Amateur Championship.

When Craig Ross won last year, his was the second successive victory by a Scottish golfer and the fourth win for Scotland in the last six editions of the South African Golf Association’s flagship event, but Higgo believes South Africa has the depth of talent to win the premier international championship, which tees off at Humewood Golf Club on Sunday.

“We have so many talented players and we beat the foreigners in our local tournament, but for some reason they gain the upper-hand in our flagship events,” said the 17-year-old.

“Winning the Sanlam South African Amateur Championship is the crowning glory in any South African amateur’s career and it hurts like anything every time the trophy leaves our shores. We’ve already lost the South African Stroke Play Championship to France this year, so we need to step up.

“We have to make sure the Sanlam South African Amateur Championship trophy stays home this year and I definitely back our players, because we have the talent, the skills and the experience to take on the foreigners. We just need to see it through to the final putt.”

Higgo arrived in Port Elizabeth brimming with confidence after his Sanlam Cape Province Open victory on Thursday.

Rounds of 74, 67, 69 and 68 handed the Boland golfer a share of the lead on 10-under-par 278 with SA Stroke Play runner-up Robin Dawson from Ireland and Brandon Cloete from Southern Cape at the end of regulation play. The trio played three holes in the sudden-death play-off before Higgo chipped in for par to seal the victory.

Just a day later, the Boland junior was given an even bigger incentive to join the exceptional league of past Sanlam SA Amateur champions.

Higgo and fellow GolfRSA National Squad member Luca Filippi learned that they are both in the running to compete in the first Junior Presidents Cup in September. The top 11 juniors in the official World Amateur Golf Rankings on August 3rd will qualify for the International Team that will face a team from the United States. Higgo is currently third in the rankings and Filippi eighth and success at Humewood would certainly strengthen his chances.

“I try not to think about it, but it would be the most incredible experience to play in the first-ever Junior Presidents Cup, so every shot I hit from now to the end of July matters,” Higgo said.

“I play to win every time I tee it up. I don’t think there is any other way to play this game. The Sanlam Cape Province Open victory was a great way to start the season and winning the SA Amateur would be huge. This is the most prestigious event on the amateur schedule and it carries a lot of world ranking points. Coming into the this week on the back of a win has given me a lot of positive energy and a strong performance at Humewood would go a long way to keep me in the number three spot on the International Team standings.

“But I am not going to put myself under too much pressure, because there are too many factors I can’t control. I can’t afford to make the Junior Presidents Cup the focus of the week. I am hoping for good weather, a good finish in the qualifier and great matches. I’ll take it match for match to get myself into the final first. Only then will I take aim at the title.”

Higgo had a good look at the links layout during the official practice round on Saturday.

“The wind blew a gale and it’s the wind we expect to blow this week, so it helped to plan my strategy for the course,” he said.

“A couple of the par fours that played into the wind were really long, so I will treat them as par fives. The four par fives played with the wind, so my goal would be to birdie all of them. The greens are slower than the greens at Kingswood and George Golf Club we played over the last two weeks, but for the wind they are at the perfect speed and they are in great condition.

“I haven’t played here for four years and it’s a great layout. I’m feeling very positive to start and hopefully I can put myself in a good position for the match play on Tuesday.”

The South African challenge is further strengthened by 2016 semi-finalist Marco Steyn and quarter-finalists Matt Saulez and David McIntyre, while Luke Jerling, Naldo Claassen, Kyle de Beer and Alan Lones leads the 10-strong local charge.

Scotland’s Ross is back in title defence, Loris Schuepbach from Switzerland – also a semi-final last year – is ready to take another stab at the title while SA Stroke Play champion Edgar Catherine from France will be gunning for the double.

Written and released by Lali Stander on behalf of Golf RSA, a SAGA and WGSA Not-For-Profit company.

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