The rise of 22-year-old South African Garrick Higgo has been both impressive and meteoric, writes CARL LEWIS.
When the southpaw won the Palmetto Championship this past Sunday, he became the first player to win in one of his first two career PGA Tour starts – Jim Benepe did it on debut in 1988. His win also secured a PGA Tour membership card until 2023.
Speaking to Sport24, his longtime coach Cliff Barnard stated he believed Higgo will be the best player in the world one day.
‘The goal was to become world No 1 SA amateur and we achieved that. The next is to be world No 1 and we will achieve that. It’s something I don’t believe you teach. It’s the person’s understanding and believing it. Many understand, but don’t believe. That’s where he is different, he knows what is important.’
Barnard and Higgo have a long history and their relationship transcends the traditional coach-athlete bond.
‘Garrick and I go way back over 13 years now. We met in Plettenberg Bay and I’ve been coaching him since he was nine. We did a lot more than coaching, he has become like family to me. After losing his dad in an accident, there was always a special bond between us. I’ve been his only coach, his caddie, and I also help on the mental side of things.’
Barnard says that from the age of 13, he knew Higgo would go on to much bigger things.
‘We flew to Malaysia to take part in the World Juniors. It was monsoon month, we finished the final hole in the dark and he lipped out to almost win the tournament in his category. That’s when I realised this little guy is special.’
Higgo made his Major debut at last month’s PGA Championship at Kiawah Island, the former Paul Roos student finishing T64 after he made the cut.
‘He had a phenomenal PGA [Championship] in my mind, just for making the cut, which was the first tick in the box. His main objective was to go over and experience the States and his first Major. I got a feeling that it helped him in terms of getting through this past week; he just moved on from there.’
He is already a three-time winner on the European Tour, so the PGA victory means that he has three wins in his last five tournaments heading into the US Open this week.