Turkish delight as Higgins leads PGA Play-Offs
David Higgins. Picture by Matthew Lewis/Getty Images

David Higgins. Picture by Matthew Lewis/Getty Images

David Higgins continues to ride the crest of a golfing wave after shooting a 66 to lead the Titleist PGA Play-Offs in Turkey, writes the PGA.

Fresh from his recent success in securing his tour card, the 40-year-old is firmly in the hunt for further starts in some of the European Tour’s most lucrative events which a win at Antalya Golf Club’s PGA Sultan Course will guarantee. Scoreboard

Among the prizes at stake include entry to the BMW PGA Championship plus a place for the top three in the Great Britain & Ireland PGA Cup team to play the United States next year.

However breathing down the neck of the Waterville Links man is defending champion Richard Wallis (Walmer & Kingsdown) who beat Higgins into second place last year and is a stroke behind following an opening round of four-under-par 67.

Three shots further back six players are tied third including Barrie Trainor, 2007 winner Paul Streeter (Lincoln Golf Centre) and the 2012 Glenmuir PGA Professional champion Gareth Wright (West Linton).

With lightning and thunderstorms wiping out the first day’s play yesterday, the 24-strong field reconvened today amidst glorious warm sunshine as they prepare to complete 72 holes in three days.

Both Higgins and Wallis had putters to match the hot sun as they each carded five birdies though the latter’s round was not without its tribulations not least his lazar measuring device which packed up halfway down the first fairway.

But, using yardages paced out from the ball of his playing partner Matt Cort (Rothley Park), he showed few ill effects with a flying start that yielded three birdies in his opening five holes.

Closing gains on 15 and 17 offset a solitary bogey on seven.

Higgins meanwhile returned a flawless card although it wasn’t until the eighth that he registered his first birdie. Further birdies came at 11, 15, 16 and 17 to leave him in pole position in the £15,000 tournament.

“I played solid, didn’t really miss many shots and putted nicely and if you do that you usually have a good score,” said Higgins.

“Getting my tour card has taken a lot of pressure off. It doesn’t make this week easier as I’m trying my hardest to win but having been through what I did at Tour School the pressure here is not quite as intense.

“It would mean a lot to me to win the PGA Play-Offs. These are the best PGA players in Britain and Ireland and it would be a great achievement so I will be giving it everything I’ve got.”

Wallis declared himself happy with his round, bar his equipment failure on the first, but freely conceded there was one outright favourite.

“We all know that we are chasing David Higgins this week. He’s had a fantastic year topped off by getting his tour card, so we are just trying to hang on to his coat tails,” said Wallis - winner of three successive PGA South Region Order of Merits.

“I’m happy with four under and would have taken that this morning because it was quite blowy out there.

“I’m happy here because it’s a course that suits me and I just aim to play steady and try and hang on to David but the field is very strong and the course is set up quite tricky.”

Cahir Park’s David Ryan was tied for 22nd after a seven over 78.

The top three eligible finishers at Antalya will qualify for the Great Britain & Ireland PGA Cup team to face the United States at De Vere Slaley Hall, September 20-22, 2013.

The top 10 qualify for the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth, May 23-26, 2013.

Places in the European and Challenge Tour events will be confirmed once the respective tours have finalised their 2013 schedules.

Titleist PGA Play-Offs, (Par 71)

Round One

66 David Higgins (Waterville Golf Links)

67 Richard Wallis (Walmer & Kingsdown)

70 James Whatley (East Mids Academy, Morley Hayes), Barrie Trainor, Andrew Butterfield(Sundridge Park), Paul Streeter (Lincoln Golf Centre), Matthew Dearden(Vale Hotel), Gareth Wright (West Linton)

71Mark Hooper (Rayleigh Golf Range), Tom Fleming (Frilford Heath), Greig Hutcheon (Banchory), Matthew Cort (Rothley Park)

72 Craig Shave (Whetstone)

73 Jason Levermore(Clacton), Adrian Ambler (Low Laithes)

78 David Ryan (Cahir Park)