NEWLY tuned pro Jake Higginbottom has continued the momentum from his BMW NZ Open win at the weekend to lead the NSW PGA Championship following the first round of play at Mt. Broughton Golf and Country Club on Thursday.
The 19-year-old birdied his final hole of the day to take a one stroke lead into the second round over fellow New South Welshman Brendan Smith.
Carding nine birdies and two bogeys for a 7-under 65 total, Higginbottom also claimed the Mt. Broughton course record, previously set at 2-under 70.
“I don’t hit it super long, but the fairways are firm and the course doesn’t play as long as it actually is, but it’s a good course and it suits my game,” said Higginbottom who played alongside Matt Griffin and Nick Cullen, both winners on OneAsia during 2012.
“It’s good to play with guys like that because you challenge yourself and it pushes you along a little bit and makes you play better.”
Despite a turbulent week, Higginbottom seems to be taking the new-found attention all in his stride.
In the last five days he has won his first PGA Tour of Australasia tournament and made the big decision to turn Professional, now eligible to take home his first pay cheque this week.
“It’s been pretty busy, I’ve had a lot of phone calls, but it’s good,” laughed Higginbottom, who is now exempt on the PGA Tour of Australasia and OneAsia for the next two years and has automatic entry into the second round of the US PGA and European Tour Q schools.
“It was a decision I made after winning the tournament. With all the exemptions I received it would have been stupid not to turn Professional.”
In second position on this week’s leaderboard, Brendan Smith posted the best round of his 2012 PGA Tour of Australasia season, shooting a 6-under 66.
“My swing was in all sorts at the start of the year, and I’ve put a lot of hard work in to get it back. And now it’s in a position where I feel like I can start playing well…I just feel good again,” Smith said.
Smith was joined at 6-under by Adam Stephens, who shot the round of the afternoon field.
New Zealand’s Ryan Fox, Sweden’s Thomas Petersson and New South Welshman Matthew Stieger currently share fourth position at 5-under par.