Gary Player: Lefty Higgo shows way for Springboks

IT WAS WONDERFUL to talk to fellow South African Garrick Higgo on the eve of his victory at the Gran Canaria Lopesan Open at Las Palmas, Spain, in spectacular style last month. What a likeable, unassuming young man Garrick is and he’s got as nice a swing as I’ve seen anywhere.

He’s a rare talent and I’m sure he’s going to make a name for himself in world golf. There were very few left-handers in the game in my day but he has the ability to match the likes of 1963 Open winner Bob Charles and five-times Major champion Phil Mickelson. Lefties were almost always encouraged to play as right-handers and as a result left-handers golfers were few and far between.

Garrick was sitting pretty on the Saturday night with a two-shot lead after shooting 65-64-63 but was apprehensive about what could happen on Sunday and that he might relinquish his advantage. He said he knew anything could happen. So I told him that there was no such thing as ‘a lead’ and that he should play as if he is two shots behind.

Garrick replied to me, saying: ‘You’ve given me that advice so many times but I’ve never really had a lead to worry about it.’ He went on to finish convincingly with another outstanding round of 63 for a three-shot victory over the in-form Maximillian Keiffer and a second European Tour title, and was naturally delighted with his performance.

‘It’s unreal,’ said the 21-year-old. ‘Jeez, I can’t put it into words, it feels amazing. It’s quite a relief finishing now. It wasn’t over until the last hole really and I knew anything could still happen, especially with the wind coming up. It was a bit stressful.

“I am just going to keep on going forward. I am playing next week, the week after and see where my game goes. It feels good, I have worked really hard with my coach and everyone back at home, so it feels amazing.”

Higgo has only been a professional since 2019 and first shot to prominence last year with victory in just his seventh European Tour start at the Open de Portugal. His second career win in Spain last month has moved him inside the top 70 in the World Rankings, and clearly this is a young man with a bright future.

Higgo’s win coincided with Brandon Stone winning his fourth Sunshine Tour event at the Limpopo Championship, and there was almost a rare hat-trick of South African wins across the professional tours with Louis Oosthuizen and Charl Schwartzel narrowly missing out in a play-off to Marc Leishman and Cameron Smith at the Zurich Classic of New Orleans on the PGA Tour.

There are currently nine South Africans inside the top 100 in the World Ranking in the men’s game, which showcases the strength of talent that the country continues to produce.

IT’S ALSO GOOD to see the progress of golf in Saudi Arabia and to be honoured as a Golf Saudi International Ambassador. I’m looking forward to playing a part in developing the Kingdom’s infrastructure and introducing golf to the younger generation. Since my first visit to Saudi in 2020 I’ve been excited to support the work that is being carried out to provide access to golf at all levels, particularly the youthful population. I have long admired the vision of Golf Saudi, but more importantly the work that is being done on the ground to provide access to the sport throughout the Kingdom.

I was pleased to see the big names turn out in force for the third edition of the Saudi International Powered by SoftBank Investment Advisors – and to see Dustin Johnson triumph for the second time in the event – carrying off nearly half a million dollars – leaving Justin Rose and Tony Finau sharing second place.