David Higgins ended six long years of toil when he won the NCC Open at Soderasen in Sweden, his first Tour win as a professional. A closing round of 71 for a 10-under-par tally of 274 left him three strokes clear of nearest rival, Martin Erlandsson of Sweden, who returned 68, and four ahead of another Swede, Marten Olander, who had 72.
“I’m thrilled to bits,” said Higgins before going away to telephone his father Liam, who plays on the Seniors Tour. “It’s been a long time coming but all the hard work I put in over the winter in America is beginning to pay off.”
The 27-year-old from Waterville began the day three in front on 10 under, but a poor start in which he bogeyed two of the opening three holes left him under pressure from Erlandsson.
The Swede, who started six strokes behind Higgins, went out in 31 to the Irishman’s 36 and when Erlandsson rolled in his fifth birdie at the 10th, they were tied on eight under.
But that was the end of the Swede’s run and when Higgins secured birdie-twos at the 13th and 15th he was two clear again.
“I hit a six-iron to eight feet on 13 and a seven-iron to four feet at 15,” added Higgins. “I was delighted with those two shots. But I felt good all day and when I parred 16 I caught a glimpse that I was two ahead. Then I knew I only had to keep standing to win it.”
Coming to the last, which Erlandsson bogeyed, Higgins was three clear and a safe par four gave him his first title.
“This shows I can win and if I can do so again I can finish in the top 15 at the end of the year to regain my card for the main Tour. That is my main aim but winning here feels good.”
It was another high finish from Olander, his fourth top-10 this year, but a win continues to elude his grasp, while Kalle Brink closed with a 65 for 279, the best score of the day, to share fourth place with fellow Swedes, Peter Gustafsson (73) and Bjorn Pettersson (70).
But Gordon Sherry was disappointed again. The big Scot damaged his back warming up on the range and was forced to withdraw from the tournament before the final round.
Yet this was Higgins’ day. With no Tour event in the coming week, he can take time off to rest and to celebrate what could prove to be the turning point of his career. It could also be a long week in Waterville.