Higgins Captures New England Amateur

NEW HAVEN, CT (July 22, 2010)--He was playing against competitors many years his junior but experience and poise won out on Thursday afternoon as Brian Higgins (Franklin CC) captured his first New England Amateur Championship title at The Course at Yale.

"I am extremely excited," said Higgins, who got up-and-down from the right bunker to save par on the 18th hole. "I didn't have a number in mind. I wanted to be aggressive for most of the day. I figured that if I could putt today then I would be ok."

Higgins, a 35 year old from Bellingham, entered the third and final round three strokes back of the leaders but emerged – thanks to a final-round score of 3-under par 67 – in first place overall with a three-round total of 6-under par 204.

From the first hole, Higgins' putting came through especially at critical points in the round. Following a bad drive off the 410-yard, par 4 1st tee, Higgins landed his third shot on the green and drained an eight-foot par putt to set the tone for the rest of the round. In total, he made four birdies – three of which came on the back nine – and one bogey on Thursday.

For Higgins – the 2008 Richard D. Haskell MGA Player of the Year and two-time Massachusetts Mid-Amateur Champion – the victory is especially sweet since it marks his first major New England victory since he was reinstated as an amateur back in 1998.

"It was the biggest win of my golf career," said Higgins, who becomes the second Bay State golfer to win this title in as many years. "I am still excited."

With the wind picking up and players getting worn down by the conditions and the 54-hole march to the finish, Higgins appeared to gain strength with each passing hole.

After making the turn at even par 34, Higgins took a brief break on the 9th tee and proceeded to make his second birdie of the day on a challenging par-3 hole. He then made his move up the leaderboard by making back-to-back birdies on the 190-yard, par 3 15th and 553-yard, par 5 16th holes.

Interestingly, it was those two holes which marred what had been a near perfect tournament one day earlier. Heading into the 15th hole on Wednesday, Higgins was 3-under par for his round. He went on to make a double bogey on the 15th and then he made an incredible save from the right woods on the 16th hole for bogey.

"I had a horrible time on those two holes yesterday so I tried to forget everything I did yesterday," said Higgins.

What he ended up doing was nothing short of incredible. He hit a cut 6 iron shot to 10 feet and rolled in an aggressive birdie putt (it bounced off the back of the hole). On the 16th hole, a good drive was followed by an approach that landed in the left bunker. Almost identical to the bunker shot he would go on to make on the 18th hole, Higgins hit his third shot to eight feet and made that putt to go 6-under par and take his first lead of the tournament.

"It was nice to make birdie, birdie there and I felt good heading into 17," said Higgins.

Although he had never led before today, it seemed as if the stars were aligned for Higgins. After all, he was one of only two competitors in the 150-player field to score a hole in one this week. He made that incredible shot on Wednesday on the 213-yard, par 3 9th hole.

Despite the fact that it came midway through a round that was riddled with stoppages (the players were pulled off the course due to lightening in the area on three different occasions), the shot kept him in a round that could have spelled certain doom for his title chances.

"I was shocked to see it go in," said Higgins, who has made five holes in one over the course of his career. "It's always great to make those shots, but to do it in a stroke play event is special."

Making things interesting down the stretch were a handful of young guns – many of whom are some of the top collegiate stars in the country. Finishing in a tie for second place overall was Michael Ballo (Woodway CC), a Connecticut native who recently graduated from St. John's University.

With Higgins in the clubhouse with a score of 6-under par for the tournament, Ballo had a chance to draw even on the 18th hole. His 20-foot birdie putt lipped out and ended Ballo's last chance to win a New England Amateur Championship title. He plans to turn pro later this fall.

"I knew that it was good and when it came within a few inches of the hole I thought that it was going in," said Ballo. "It was the worst lip out I have ever had in a tournament."

Minutes earlier Higgins had stood on that same green except that he watched his key par putt roll 360 degrees and fall into the hole.

Results For New England Amateur Championship
1MABrian HigginsBellingham, MA30067-70-67--204
T2VTJoshua BriereNewport, VT20069-70-66--205
T2MAColin BrennanAndover, MA20067-70-68--205
T2CTMichael BalloStamford, CT20068-68-69--205
5TXGarrett MedeirosDallas, TX10066-70-70--206

View full results for New England Amateur Championship

ABOUT THE New England Amateur

Held since 1926, the New England Amateur brings together players from six New England area states — Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire, and Rhode Island. The event host rotates between each of the six represented states. The tournament has been won by notable PGA Tour players such as JJ Henry (1998), Tim Petrovic (1986), Billy Andrade (1983), and Brad Faxon (1980, 1981).

Entries are open to amateur golfers who hold membership in a club belonging to one of the six New England State Golf Associations and have an up-to-date USGA/GHIN Handicap Index not exceeding 6.4

View Complete Tournament Information

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