Mission accomplished as Higgins takes second in Turkey

Richard Wallis with the Titleist PGA Play-Offs Trophy. Picture: Matthew Lewis at Getty ImagesDavid Higgins might have suffered a late collapse but he still declared it “Mission Accomplished” as he secured precious European Tour starts and a place in the PGA Cup side after finishing second to Richard Wallis in the Titleist PGA Play-Offs in Turkey.

Fresh from his successful tour card bid at the Q-School, the 40 year old from Waterville went into the weather-delayed, third and final round tied for the lead with Wallis with 12 holes to be completed. {Final scores}

But while he racked up five bogeys in his last nine holes in a closing 73 to finish four shots behind the winner on four under par, his runner-up finish ensured him places in the Scottish and Welsh Opens as well as the BMW PGA at Wentworth.

It was also a good week for Barrie Trainor, who will also be returning to Wentworth after finishing seventh on level par while Cahir Park’s David Ryan finished 23rd on 11 over.

“I wanted to win but all I wanted was to hang on for the top two places and the tour starts that gets you,” Higgins said. “I know it’s an awful way to be thinking but I just couldn’t get it out of my head.

“Mentally I was bad and just hit bad shots. That’s not good enough but I’m delighted to get second and it would also be an honour to play in PGA Cup.”

Wallis overcame some mid-round swing gremlins to successfully defend his title and realise his goal of qualifying for the Great Britain & Ireland PGA Cup team.

The Walmer & Kingsdown ace triumphed after an exciting battle with Higgins which was made all the more intriguing as both struggled with their games over Antalya Golf Club’s PGA Sultan Course.

Scotland’s Greig Hutcheon, who had been targeting one of the three PGA Cup spots, double-bogeyed the last to tie third with fellow Tartan Tour regulars Scott Henderson (Kings Links) and Gareth Wright (West Linton).

Henderson had surged through the field in weather-affected tournament with a four-under-par 67 and in the play-off for the final PGA Cup spot sustained his form with a brilliant wedge to four feet for a birdie at the first extra  hole with GB&I captain and fellow Scot Russell Weir looking on.

Lighting storms had wiped out play yesterday afternoon reducing the £15,000 event to 54-holes, and leaving the leading group of Wallis, Higgins and Hutcheon to resume their interrupted third round on the seventh tee but the leading two fought to find rhythm, particularly Higgins who trailed by two strokes standing on the par five 16th.

Wallis handed Higgins a glimmer of hope when he found water off the tee but a pitch to two feet enabled him to salvage par while Higgins missed his birdie putt from the same distance.

A hooked drive off the last cost Higgins a bogey on the last with Wallis sealing victory in style by chipping in off the green for a round of 70 to add to rounds of 67 and 68 for an eight-under total.

“I’m absolutely over the moon,” said Wallis. “I came here hoping to finish in the top three and get a PGA Cup spot so I’m really pleased to have achieved that especially after the collapse of my swing on the back nine.

“The thing that made it a little bit of anti-climax was David chipping to two feet on 16 and missing his birdie. Had he holed that there would have been one shot in it playing the last two which would have made things a little different.”

Looming fatherhood is highest on Wallis’s immediate priorities but his longer term focus remains proving himself on tour so earning starts to the BMW PGA Championship among others is an opportunity he is eager to exploit.

“I’m looking forward to the playing opportunities next year but I’ll have to work hard at my game and hopefully I can make a few changes with my coach Paul Page,” he added.

“I hit some poor shots today but I got away with it but you are not going to be able to do that on tour courses and my aspiration is to play tour so I have got to make changes.”

Also celebrating his place in the PGA Cup team o play the United States at Slaley Hall next September was Henderson, a former European Tour rookie of the year, whose painstaking hours on the range in search of a swing thought finally paid off with a brilliant 67.

“I was playing so bad coming in this week. Three days before I came here I was down at the range trying to find some sort of swing and the first day I must have tried six or seven different techniques,” he said.

“The first day I was still hitting it poorly but then just stuck with something simple and it seems to have worked and I haven’t dropped a shot since the first hole of the second round.

“After leaving myself so far back after the first round, the main objective was to get a Wentworth spot, and I had resigned myself that that was all I was going to get but the wind was tricky and some of the boys flagged a bit coming in so one man’s loss is another’s gain and it’s an honour to be able to play in the PGA Cup.”