NINETEEN year old Australian amateur golfer Jake Higginbottom has surprised even himself by winning the 2012 New Zealand Open.
Across the ditch, mum was crying and dad was just pleased he didn’t botch his acceptance speech, as the young New South Welshman became the first amateur to win the title in 56 years.
A somewhat shaky Higginbottom knocked in a one-and-a-half foot putt on the 72nd hole at the Clearwater Golf Resort in Christchurch to beat fellow Aussies Jason Norris and Peter Wilson by a single stroke.
“I think I was the most nervous I’ve ever been on the short putt on the last,” Higginbottom admitted later.
“I don’t think it’s sunk in yet. It’s a great feeling and it meant a lot to me.”
His parents were watching on proudly back across the Tasman and fielded a phone call from their triumphant son after he walked off the 18th green.
“Mum was crying. Dad said he was just happy that I said a good speech – he’s an idiot,” Higginbottom joked.
The young Aussie started the day three shots behind leader Mark Brown, who was in a commanding position to become the first Kiwi winner of the open since Mahal Pearce in 2003.
“I was a bit shaky to start with but it’s actually good to be a couple behind after the front nine, I knew I had to go out there and make a few birdies and that’s what I did,” Higginbottom said.
Brown blew out with a 1-over 73 to finish alone in fourth place on 4-under.
Higginbottom vowed to return to defend his title next year – by which time he hopes to have turned pro.
He will be back in action this week when the PGA Tour of Australasia heads to the Mt Broughton Golf Course in the NSW Southern Highlands for the NSW PGA Championship.
Then it will be on to The Lakes in Sydney to join the likes of Adam Scott and Tom Watson at the 2012 Australian Open.
“I feel like I’m playing pretty good. I like The Lakes which is good, I’ve played there a few times. I’m pretty confident,” Higginbottam said.2012 BMW New Zealand Open Final Results