In 1968 he won the All-Ireland and Northern Ireland amateur snooker championships. He turned professional at the age of 22. He won the World Professional Snooker Championship at his first attempt, in 1972, aged 23. He won again in 1982 after beating Ray Reardon. He was runner up in 1976 and 1980.
His flamboyant method earned him the nickname Hurricane Higgins and made him a popular and high profile player. He drank and smoked during tournaments helping sponsored tobacco advertising. He is now retired suffering from throat cancer.
His unorthodox brilliance is best encapsulated in his clearance break against Jimmy White in the World Professional Snooker Championship in 1982. Experts and players have continue to cite it as one of the greatest ever breaks under pressure.