Golfer Higgins hits the heights, home and away

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And in the men’s section Gavin O’Neill reached the semi-final but just failed on the last hole to overcome the handicap of giving away 17 shots.

His opponent, Scott Swalwell went on to win the title.

The two golfers qualified for the prestigious event by virtue of winning their respective HSBC Jersey Matchplay Championships.

They were joined by the top 15 men and women scorers from 200 or so clubs who were supported by HSBC in their monthly medal competitions earlier in the summer.

The 32 spent a luxury weekend at Stapleford Park, Leicestershire, where they played a matchplay knock-out tournament under the same format as the HSBC World Match Play Championship at Wentworth.

The website reported the final as follows: ‘The hugely talented 17-year-old from Royal Jersey Golf Club gave away a massive 27 shots to her final opponent Laura Wasdall (Havehill GC) but it mattered little.

Higgins, off four, eased to a 4 and 3 victory which earned a standing ovation from onlookers and beaten opponents who, like everyone else, knew they had witnessed a player with a bright future.

‘Higgins’ hot blade did all the damage in the final, sinking some long bombs at crucial stages.

She also admitted the length of the course played into her hands because she could “”just go for it””.’ Afterwards Higgins said: ‘I can’t describe the way I feel right now .



I’m just speechless.’ But when it came to stating her ambitions, she was not short of words.

‘I want to turn pro but I have to work out how to get there at the moment.

Whether I go to America or stay here.’ Higgins, who is supported by Price Waterhouse Coopers, reached the championship match by overcoming an 18-shot deficit to beat Nevill Golf Club’s 22-handicapper Amber Du Toit 3 and 2 in their semi-final earlier on Sunday.

On the Saturday the 17-year-old knocked out Hornsea’s Jean Prout 7 and 6 and Flackwell Heath’s Janet Beal 6 and 5.

Royal Jersey Golf Club’s Gavin O’Neill, the tournament’s lowest handicapped entrant at two, eliminated Bruce Porter (Clyne, four handicap) 4 and 2 and Steve Netherton (Reading, 16 HC) 5 and 3, to set up a last-four showdown with Huntswood’s Scott Swalwell (15 HC).

That last-four clash, played in warm temperatures, was only decided at the 18th hole with Swalwell getting through two-up.

Swalwell went on to win the tournament.

Said O’Neill: ‘Giving away 17 shots was just too much in the end.

‘But it was a great weekend and a real pleasure to play in the event.

The course was out of this world and the hotel and accommodation were fantastic.

We were treated like kings.’ And there is a double celebration in store for Higgins – although she does not know it yet – as she has been named as the Standard Bank Junior Golfer of the Year, a decision that was taken without knowledge of her success at the weekend.

It was based on her achievements in Hampshire and her victories in the Jersey and the Channel Islands ladies matchplay championships in a memorable season.

The other contender was Seb Brown who got his handicap down from five to two and won the La Moye Salver.

He would have been in contention for the Island senior men’s team at the age of 17 but he left at the beginning of August to take up a golf scholarship in America.

Said chairman of the Junior Golf Committee Peter Crenan: ‘Olivia deserves everything that comes to her.

When she was 13, she was the only girl playing and would turn up every Sunday afternoon and play alongside the 30 or 40 boys in the junior Open events.

She puts so much time into her game and she is getting her just rewards.

She is also a delightful young lady and a credit to her sport.’ Crenan learned of her HSBC Matchplay success when he phoned her mother, Maureen, on Monday night to tell her of the Junior Golfer of the Year award.

A very proud Mrs Higgins said this morning: ‘Winning the HSBC competition was fantastic.

Olivia went as a no-hoper because of the handicap system – so to win was phenomenal.

I think she was a bit overcome by it.

The news about the Junior Player of the year is just the icing on the cake.’ Although she added that she had not told her daughter that particular news yet: ‘Olivia is playing for Hampshire in the final of the inter-counties tournament in Newcastle.

She is playing 36 holes a day and it is very intense so we are keeping in touch by text.

‘Anyway, after the weekend, if I was to tell her I don’t think she would believe me!’

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