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SA’s Higgo faces Gupta in US Junior Amateur quarters

21 Jul 2017

Garrick Higgo; credit Ernest Blignault.

South Africa’ Garrick Higgo defeated top American junior Cole Hammer 2 & 1 to reach the quarter-finals of the 70th U.S. Junior Amateur Championship in Andover, Kansas on Thursday.

The GolfRSA National Squad was outside the projected cut-line after he posted a first round 76 in the 36-hole stroke play qualifier, but the 17-year-old Boland junior racked up five birdies over the back nine of the par-71 Flint Hills National Golf Club for a 67 to make the match play field with ease.

A tie for 29thearned him a first round match with Wil Gibson from Arkansas.

Higgo was 4-up through seven holes after birdies on two, four, five and seven and reeled in three birdies from in a row 13 to 15 to close out a 5 & 3 victory over the American.

The left-hander from De Zalze Golf Club was just as impressive in his second round match against Angelo Giantsopoulos, of Canada. He drew first blood with back-to-back birdies at the first two holes and went 3-up with a birdie at the sixth. The Canadian won 10 and 11, but Higgo hit another purple patch on the back nine and racked up a trio of birdies from 14 to 16 to win 4 & 3.

Making the most of his distance in the top 16 match against Hammer, Higgo took advantage of the par fives and never relinquish his early lead.

He won the second hole with par to go 1-up, but Hammer squared the match with a birdie at the third. A great drive down the middle at the par-five fifth left Higgo 270 metres out and he opted for the driver again. He hit it to 40 feet and sunk a 15-footer for birdie to go 1-up.

At the par-five 11th Higgo hit a three-iron from 210 metres into the green and lagged his first putt to tap-in distance. Hammer conceded, but missed his own birdie effort, handing Higgo a 2-up lead.

During his top 32 match, Hammer rallied twice from 2-down against Frankie Capan. He parked his approach at 14 just three feet below the hole and holed the putt for birdie to trail 1-down, but couldn’t catch the South African left-hander, who wrapped up the match with a solid par at 17.

“We halved 15 and 16 and came up the short hole,” said Higgo.

“I just had to hit the green at 17, because it would have been a struggle mentally to play the 18th. It’s a long par five with water left and thick rough on the right and anything could happen. The wind was off the right, and I pitched on the front edge of the green. I had a long putt left, up and over the rise. It turned right and finished about three feet from the hole. Cole had a 10 footer left for birdie, but he raced it about two feet past the hole. I knocked the par putt in to win the match.

“I can't even explain how happy I am to make the quarter-finals. It’s still a couple of weeks before they choose the international field for the Junior Presidents Cup, and I feel really proud to put the South African flag up there on the leaderboard.

“I’m 222 in the World Amateur Golf Ranking, so my chances are good. I’ve worked hard all year to try to make the team, so hopefully I can cross another hurdle tomorrow and get into the semi-finals.”

Aman Gupta, an 18-year-old junior from Charlotte in North Carolina who is ranked 2811, earned the 12th spot in the top 63 with rounds of 70 and 68 in stroke play seeding qualifier. He beat fellow American Jackson Solem 2 & 1 to make the top 16 and dispatched another compatriot Trent Phillips 2 & 1 to reach the quarter-finals.

Higgo will also be competing in the Western Amateur and the Junior Players Championship at the TPC Sawgrass. As the second alternate from the U.S. Amateur qualifier at Texas Star Golf Course, Higgo will have to wait and see if he will join fellow South African Ian Snyman in the field at Oakland Hills Country Club from 15-21 August.

The Ernie Els and Fancourt Foundation graduate is currently in his season on a golf scholarship at the University of North Texas. Snyman opened with a five-under-par 67 at the Lantana Golf Club in Texas and carded 68 in the final round to claim the second qualifying spot on nine-under 135.

Written and released by Lali Stander on behalf of GolfRSA, a SAGA and WGSA Not-For-Profit company. 

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