South African Garrick Higgo makes major debut at PGA after two wins
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KIAWAH ISLAND – Mentored by legend Gary Player and aided by South Africa's recent major winners, 22-year-old Garrick Higgo makes his major debut at the PGA Championship after back-to-back European Tour triumphs.
Higgo comes to Kiawah Island after victories in Spain at last month's Gran Canaria Open and the Canary Islands Championship two weeks ago, jumping to 51st in the world rankings.
"It was awesome to just keep my foot down. It something that you need to learn, how to do that," Higgo said.
"I didn't expect it this quickly, but we all believe in ourselves and you have to if you're going to do it this quickly."
Higgo will be tested by the longest layout in major golf history at 7,876 yards and an Ocean Course where winds hammer the holes along the shoreline, but he grew up playing in similar conditions in Cape Town.
"The wind blows every day so I'm used to that," Higgo said. "I love a good test and I love when it's challenging.
"I don't know what to expect. My game is in good shape. I think I'm just going to learn a lot.
"If my game is as good as it has been, I think I could do pretty well, but there's no expectations."
Higgo was only nine when he played nine holes with nine-time major champion Player, who had a vacation home near where his family lived.
"My dad passed away when I was nine, and his mom passed away when he was a similar age, so we kind of have that connection," Higgo said.
"He always sent me letters when I was young, just encouraging me to keep going. Through all my wins, he has been there and has been a tremendous mentor to have."
Higgo, whose clutch putting and calm demeanor have become trademarks, won his first European Tour event eight months ago in Portugal, gaining a full exemption.
"I learned a lot from those events and that's how I grew so quickly and got confident enough to win again this year," Higgo said.
He found himself practicing with defending champion Collin Morikawa on Tuesday and alongside two compatriots on Monday -- 2011 Masters champion Charl Schwartzel and 2010 British Open winner Louis Oosthuizen.
"Charl gave me a lot of good tips, how to play shots around the greens here," Higgo said. "I just love learning from those guys."
Internationals captain Trevor Immelman is looking at Higgo for next year's Presidents Cup after guiding him in a Junior Presidents Cup event.
"It would be awesome to play for Trevor," Higgo said. "That would be amazing."
For now, Higgo is happy at whatever opportunities come his way, maybe one day on the US PGA Tour.
"I'm just looking forward to playing each week," he said. "I'm focused on Europe, but if my game keeps going the way it is, we'll see where I get to play."