Higgins challenging for Titleist FootJoy PGA Professional Championship

 Paul Hendriksen. Picture: Julian Herbert (Getty Images)

Waterville's David Higgins is just one stroke off the lead as exciting shootout looms in the final round of the Titleist & FootJoy PGA Professional Championship at Burnham & Berrow.

West Country duo Paul Hendriksen and Michael Watson will fight it out with Scotland’s Gareth Wright to lift the coveted title but a posse of 13 players. including Higgins, lie within four shots threatening to gatecrash the party.

With places in Great Britain & Ireland’s PGA Cup team also on the line, it promises to be an enthralling last day in the £78,000 tournament – and one Dinnaton Golf Club’s Hendriksen is relishing.

The Devon ace surged into the reckoning after a brilliant third round 68 (-3) to finish at three over for the event following earlier rounds of 77 and 71.

It also earns him a chance at redemption having blown up in this event last year.

“Last year I was in the second to last group going into the last day, a couple of shots off the lead, and had a chance but had a bad final round and ended up finishing tenth,” he said.

Another incentive is securing a spot in the PGA Cup team under captain Jon Bevan – a former West Region regular.

“I know Jon Bevan pretty well and would love to be involved in his team but I need to concentrate on trying to win this event.

“The course is really tough, it’s not long by any stretch but trying to hit greens is hard, even keeping it on the green with a wedge is a challenge.”

Sharing the lead are Wright (West Linton) and Watson (Wessex Golf Centre) who had rounds of 71 and 72 respectively while overnight leader Alex Belt (Snainton Golf Centre) is one behind tied fourth alongside Waterville Link’s David Higgins, who shot a level par 71, and Beeston Field’s Lee Clarke.

David Higgins

Watson, who for years worked alongside Bevan at the Wessex Golf Centre, is gunning for a place in the PGA Cup team in California in September having missed out on qualifying in 2011 in a play-off.

“I really want to get in the team. Last time when the match was in America I missed out in a play-off so hopefully I can go one better this time. It would be a big tick on the golfing CV but there are plenty of guys chasing spots so it should be a good shootout.”

Wright, winner of this title in 2012, admitted he will have to draw on his experience during what promises to be a tense final day.

“On this type of golf course you can’t think about PGA Cup, you can’t think about the lead, all you can think about is that next shot,” he explained.

“I’m really going to try and draw on my past experiences tomorrow. Things like making the cut at the Open and winning this a few years ago, they’re the sort of things that can really help you when things get tough out there.

“Those experiences help you to keep you head, you know nobody is going to run away with it because the conditions are the same for everyone. And to be honest with you, if someone does shoot a six or seven-under then they’ll fully deserve it."

Damian Mooney is tied 20th on 10 over after a 72 with Liam Bowler tied 36th. 

Padraig Dooley, Cian McNamara and Shaun Donnelly missed the cut while David Mortimer withdrew

Titleist & FootJoy PGA Professional Championship

Burnham & Berrow, Par 71   Detailed scores)

After 54
216 Paul Hendriksen (Dinnaton) 77, 71, 68;  Gareth Wright (West Linton) 73, 72, 71; Michael Watson (Wessex Golf Centre) 73, 71, 72

217 Lee Clarke (Beeston Fields) 73, 74, 70; David Higgins (Waterville Links) 74, 72, 7; Alex Belt        (Snainton Golf Centre) 75, 67, 75.