New Zealand Open champion Jake Higginbottom has fast-tracked his progression to golf's professional ranks, confirming the amateur phase of his career is over two days after he was unable to accept the $A80,000 winner's cheque at Clearwater.
After firing a final round 67 to secure a one-stroke victory on Sunday, Higginbottom, the first amateur since fellow Australian Harry Berwick won the title in 1956, said he had no plans to turn pro until the end of next year.
However, the 19-year-old revised his plans as he reflected on his biggest success to date - a victory that also earned him a two-year exemption on OneAsia and the PGA Tour of Australasia plus automatic entry into the second round of 2013 US PGA and European Tour qualification schools.
"I've discussed this with my team and we're all very comfortable with the move. I feel that the time is right as I now have playing opportunities in the professional ranks. It's exciting and I'm looking forward to starting my pro career," Higginbottom said.
Golf Australia high performance director Brad James wished Higginbottom well.
"This is great news for Jake and exactly what Golf Australia and the State Associations strive to achieve in taking players to the next level. Jake has worked hard over the last 12 months and we're pleased to see him make the next step in his career."
Higginbottom's first event as a professional will be the NSW PGA Championship this week at Mt Broughton Golf and Country Club in the Southern Highlands of New South Wales.
He will then play the Australian Open at The Lakes Golf Club in Sydney and the Australian PGA Championship at Coolum on the Sunshine Coast.
- © Fairfax NZ News