Golf: Higgins' rehabilitation continues apace

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LIAM HIGGINS, who lost his enthusiasm for golf after a car crash robbed him of a probable place in the 1977 Ryder Cup, showed his old appetite as he stormed through wind and rain to lead the British Seniors' Open here yesterday.

His 71 gives him a total of 141 and a three-stroke lead over the American amateur Joel Hirsch.

Higgins, formerly famous for long hitting, drove amazing distances yesterday. At the 445-yard 14th, he needed to hit a sand-wedge only 78 yards to within two feet of the hole. This was one of his three birdies.

Excess power actually cost him a stroke at the 393-yard fourth when, after taking an iron from the tee, his seven-iron second shot landed him in deep rough behind the green.

In 1977 Higgins was thrown through the windscreen of his car after hitting stray horses on a road near Mullingar. He was too badly injured to play golf at all for nine months and says: 'It is not until now that I want to go and win again.'

Last month he became the new Irish Senior champion. He has played by invitation in one event on the American Seniors tour and is keen to win the right to compete regularly.

Hirsch, 52, from Chicago, owns an insurance business, has interests in real estate, and plays about a dozen tournaments a year. He was runner- up in the 1981 Amateur Championship at St Andrews.

Starting with six pars yesterday, he dropped two shots at the seventh but hit back immediately, sinking putts of 30 and 33 feet for birdies at the eighth and ninth. He described his two-iron to the 485-yard 11th as 'the best shot I've hit in two years'. It led to a birdie four.

He took the wrong line and drove into a bunker at the 13th, making a bogie five, but at a time when many were finding the closing holes desperately difficult, he was able to make pars at all the remainder.

BRITISH SENIORS' OPEN (Royal Lytham and St Annes) Leading second-round scores (GB or Irl unless stated): 141 L Higgins 70 71. 144 * J Hirsch (US) 73 71. 145 T Horton 73 72; B Huggett 72 73. 146 L Laoretti (US) 75 71; B Charles (NZ) 73 73; N Drew 73 73; B Dunk (Aus) 74 72; B Zimmerman (US) 69 77. 147 G Player (SA) 73 74; J-M Roca (Sp) 75 72; P Blaze 73 74; F Boobyer 74 73. 148 H Muscroft 72 76; J Allred (US) 73 75. 149 H Inggs (SA) 72 77; C O'Connor 72 77, * J Stahl (US) 74 75; * G Murray 74 75; * M Sanger (US) 71 78; J Dolan III (US) 74 75; A Proctor (US) 73 76; A Palmer (US) 73 76; J Fourie (SA) 72 77.* denotes amateur.