WATERVILLE'S David Higgins wrote his name into the history books last Sunday at Mount Juliet becoming the first Kerry man to become Irish Professional Champion.
Further history was made as having lifted the trophy after an exciting three-way play-off, David followed in the footsteps of his father Liam, who won this tournament in 1983, thus becoming the first father and son combination to hold the most prestigious title in domestic professional golf.
David, who has been enjoying a magnificent season on the Irish circuit, was the runaway leader of the Irish PGA Order of Merit coming into this event, and following his win in Kilkenny, he can now claim that title as well for the third time in four years as well as the €10,000 bonus that goes with it.
A four under par round of 68 for a joint third place finish in the pro-am preceding the event at Mount Juliet saw Higgins get the week off to a confidence-boosting start, and an opening round of 70 saw him wellplaced behind the first round leader Peter Martin from Belfast who had a 67.
All was going well in round two as he holed his seven iron tee shot at the par three third for the 12th "Ace" of his career and he stood on the 18th tee requiring a par 4 for a round of 69, but trouble was just around the corner.
"I pushed my tee shot ever so slightly and found myself behind a tree but wasn't unduly worried about that" he told the Kerryman. "I must admit I hit a bad second shot which found the water and I chipped on but knocked the first putt four feet past and missed the one back to rack up a seven" he added.
His second round 72 saw him in seventh spot and four shots off the pace which was still being set by his playing partner Peter Martin who had carded a 71, to put him just one clear of second-placed Eamon Brady and former European Tour player Gary Murphy.
Higgins confidence was high however and early on Sunday morning I sent him a "Good Luck" text to which he replied "Pity about the finish yesterday but its nothing that a hatful of birdies won't sort out". He duly produced a flawless final round of 67 that included five birdies and no bogeys, but found himself tied with Murphy (who fired a 70) and Masserene's Noel Murray who came out of the pack with a 69, as overnight leader Peter Martin faded with a 72 to finish fourth.
So, a three way playoff was underway and Gary Murphy fell by the wayside at the very first hole (the par 5 17th) following a bogey as Murray and Higgins both parred.
They shared the 18th hole in par also and so it was back to the 17th again where
Higgins second shot clipped the trees on the right and he found himself some ninety yards from the flag, but a magnificent pitch to just two feet set up a winning birdie and the title was heading to Kerry.
"It's great, I'm over the moon" he told me on Monday morning. "I've been trying to win it for the best part of twenty years and I'm delighted. "I used to look at the trophy at home when my father won it in 1983 and think that one day I'd like to win that and now I have".
I commented that his game had been consistently good all season and asked what was different from last year. "My game has been good all year and the difference is that mentally I'm much better than I used to be. If I had taken a seven at the last hole in round two last year, I proba b ly wouldn't have been as confident going into the final round as I was this year.
"I now have a better approach and a better attitude and I try not to be putting myself under pressure by thinking about things too much" he said.
"My Dad is over the moon as well that I have won this title and that's very important to me" he added.
Higgins picked up €3,500 for winning the title as well as the €10,000 bonus for winning the Order of Merit, so not a bad week's work at all.
As the domestic season is now over, he has just three weeks to prepare for StageTwo of the European Tour School in Spain and will no doubt head there with his confidence high, but for the moment, he can bask in the glory of becoming a member of that elite club of Irish champions that boas ts among its membership Bradshaw, O' Connor, Smyth, Darcy, Walton, Clarke, Harrington, McGinley and Liam Higgins.