JAKE Higginbottom’s coach Gary Barter was never concerned by his protege’s uncharacteristically flat performances overseas, as this year was always about preparing the 19-year-old for life as a professional.
The Charlestown golfer ended his quiet spell with an impressive finish of 10th on Sunday in his maiden appearance at the Australian Masters at Melbourne’s Kingston Heath.
Higginbottom was the leading amateur with a card of 287 (68-75-70-74), one under par.
It was a welcome return to form after he missed the cut at the British and US Amateurs during the winter.
‘‘The reality is I’ve seen this year as more of a developmental phase,’’ Barter said.
‘‘He’s gotten a lot fitter and stronger and he’s had to learn how to travel and learn how to manage himself being away from home.
‘‘He’s only 19 and although he’s a mature kid, he’s basically spent this year away from home in different countries and travelling and managing his time away from the golf course.
‘‘He’s matured a lot and developed a lot.’’
Barter is the director of coaching at the Australian Golf Club and boasts US-based professionals Matt Jones and Aron Price as students.
In the lead-up to the Australian Masters, Higginbottom spent a month of hard training with Barter ironing out his short game.
Putting and chipping were the main source of the former NSW and Queensland Amateur champion’s frustration in the UK and US.
‘‘He did move out of that junior level and this year he had more expectation,’’ Barter said. ‘‘He had to battle with more expectations on himself and others.
‘‘Unfortunately for him he hit a flat spot when he got to those big events overseas, which you measure yourself against the other best amateurs in the world.
‘‘For me, I never thought it was panic stations. I just thought he definitely had to look at the travel, the way he handled himself off the course and the way he managed his time.’’
Higginbottom flew to Christchurch yesterday to begin preparations for the New Zealand Open starting on Thursday at the Clearwater Resort.
The NSW PGA Championships at the Mt Broughton Golf and Country Club near Moss Vale will follow, starting on November 29.
‘‘I told him, ‘See how fresh you feel mentally after New Zealand,’ because the field isn’t that strong and it would be a good chance to knock that one off,’’ Barter said.