Date: November 25, 2012
Author: Dean Wedlake, Omnisport

Emotional victory for Higginbottom

His mother wept, his father was just pleased he didn&apost botch his acceptance speech and for Australian amateur Jake Higginbottom, it was a quiet satisfaction at becoming a New Zealand Open champion. There were no extravagant fist pumps or over-the-top outbursts of emotion as the 19-year-old knocked in a one-and-a-half foot putt on the 72nd hole to beat fellow Aussies Jason Norris and Peter Wilson by a single stroke. But that doesn&apost suggest his stomach wasn&apost churning as he hit it. “I think I was the most nervous I&aposve ever been on the short putt on the last,” the softly-spoken Higginbottom admitted. “I don&apost think it&aposs sunk in yet. It&aposs a great feeling and it meant a lot to me.” As it did to Mr and Mrs Higginbottom, who 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&aposs an idiot,” Higginbottom junior joked. The New South Welshman turned up for his early Sunday afternoon tee time three shots behind Mark Brown, who was in a commanding position to become the first Kiwi winner since Mahal Pearce in 2003. But Brown bombed out with a one-over 73 and the local drought lives on. “I thought I&aposd probably have to shoot a little bit lower to beat Mark,” Higginbottom said. “But he didn&apost hole many putts and only hit it okay, it just wasn&apost his day I think.” It was Higginbottom&aposs, however, thanks to a final round five-under 67 of which his eight birdies owed to a magnificent effort of 26 putts. “I played really well. I was a bit shaky to start with then I started to play really well on the back nine and hit a couple of nice shots in there,” he said. He &aposdefinitely&apos plans to return to defend his title, which hasn&apost been the case for a New Zealand Open winner since fellow Aussie Terry Price turned up the year after his 2004 triumph. But Higginbottom is a very good chance of doing so, although it may be as a professional next time around. He broke a 56-year amateur hiatus at the New Zealand Open, which stretches back to his countryman Harry Berwick in 1956. When told of joining Berwick in the record books, Higginbottom said:”Oh really? No, I didn&apost know that. Perfect. I actually haven&apost heard of him.” The 19-year-old revealed his victory celebrations would see him &aposprobably go out with the boys and have a good time&apos. By next week he will be back in action at the New South Wales PGA Championship, followed by the jewel in the PGA Tour of Australasia&aposs crown the Australian Open at The Lakes in Sydney. “I feel like I&aposm playing pretty good. I like The Lakes which is good, I&aposve played there a few times. I&aposm pretty confident,” Higginbottam said. “It&aposs good to come over here and play against all the professionals and see that you&aposre just as good.”