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The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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Champion of the course

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Photo by Courtesy of Clyde Click

Senior Cameron Champ was one of two amateurs to compete at the 2017 US Open this past summer. He began golfing at the age of two and is well on his way to going professional. 

Since the age of two, Cameron Champ has had a golf club in his hands. Champ, the son of a professional baseball player, was introduced to the game by his grandfather while growing up in Sacramento, California He never looked back and is now the ninth ranked amateur golfer in the world.
“My grandfather was from Texas and was African-American so he couldn’t play,” Champ said. “He got into the military and learned to play golf overseas. As soon as my dad had me, my grandpa put clubs in my hands. It was mine and his little thing, but then it ended up growing on me and I liked it more than every sport I played.”
At Heritage Peak Charter School, where Champ attended high school, his name was always among the nationally ranked. He was selected to compete on the 2012 PGA Junior Ryder Cup and 2013 Toyota Junior World Cup teams. This earned Champ Rolex All-American honors in both years and he finished runner-up at the Junior PGA Championship in 2012. Ultimately though, he had one destination in mind.
“College was my main goal,” Champ said. “It was just to get a scholarship to play somewhere. I knew what I was capable of and I knew I could play at a top D1 school.”
Champ caught the eye of head coach J.T. Higgins at a tournament in Houston, even though Higgins was there to watch another player. Texas A&M coaches kept an look out on him for the rest of the year, and when Champ returned to Houston for another tournament, they suggested he come and tour the school.
“J.T. noticed how far I hit the ball, and he just kind of watched me the rest of the round,” Champ said. “They asked if I wanted to come and check out the school knowing that I probably never would come and check it out again, which was probably the honest truth. Through the recruiting process I never even thought of coming to Texas.”
Champ accepted the invitation, not realizing that College Station would become his home for the next four years.
“I loved it here,” Champ said “It’s different. It’s a smaller town compared to where I’m from, but one of the big things for me was the grass and environment. I had never played on Bermuda grass and had never played in wind.”
Unfortunately, Champ did not have a smooth start to his time at Texas A&M. He suffered an early back injury that effectively ended his freshman season.
“We weren’t even two weeks into school,” Champ said. “I was hitting a shot in a qualifying round and my back just fused and set shock waves down my body, so I knew it probably wasn’t good. I ended up having a small hairline fracture and two bulging disks. I had to sit out pretty much my whole freshman year, which was tough.”
The effects of the back injury carried into the start of his sophomore year. Champ said there was constant worry of a recurring injury every time he swung. It took until the spring season for him to start swinging freely again, and the results showed, ending the year with four top-10 finishes.
“I played pretty well in the spring sophomore year,” Champ said. “I made it to the NCAA Championships by myself. It was after that year and that summer where it all went away and I wasn’t thinking about it anymore. I could just play my own game.”
Champ’s talent was finally showcased last season, his junior year, when every part of his game
seemed to come together. He ended the season with five top-five finishes and was the top team finisher in four events. Most importantly, Champ got his first collegiate win at the Fighting Illini Invitational in September.
“It is very difficult to win out here, especially on the courses we play,” Champ said. “To win there at our first event of the year was big because it was probably our second best tournament of the year. It gave me some confidence for the rest of the season.”
Coming off an outstanding campaign last year, Champ said he has set some higher aspirations for his senior year. Feeling fully healthy gives him confidence that he can be one of the best, if not the best, players in the country.
“Last year my goals were very low, I just wanted to reach each one and go from there because it was my first full year back from injury,” Champ said. “This year I want to be First Team All-American and player of the year and just go out on a good note since it’s my senior year.”
This past summer Champ competed in the U.S. Open at Erin Hills, an experience many amateurs can only dream of. Champ was one of only two amateurs to make the cut, and missed out on the low-amateur title by one shot, but he understands that the experience taught him some invaluable lessons.
“My main goal was to become low-amateur that week,” Champ said. “It’s one of the biggest honors you can have as an amateur, to finish low in a major. Obviously I came up one shot short, but it was a great learning curve for me. Just dealing with it all, especially on a course where you can’t make any mistakes or it bites you quick.”
In his rare time away from the course, Champ describes himself as an outdoorsman. When he gets the chance, he also like to play other sports.
“I’m definitely an outdoors guy and I played other sports growing up,” Champ said. “I love basketball. I played it as much as I possibly could at the Rec. Now I don’t play as much just because I’m so busy. I also like hunting and fishing.”
However, Champ said he spends most of his time with a club in his hands on the golf course, and there is no question what Champ sees in his future plans. He is currently trying his hand at qualifying school, or Q-school, the annual qualifying tournaments for the PGA Tour.
“Going pro is definitely the goal,” he said. “I’m going to play out the year, and I’m actually in Q-school now. I’ll do all that then go from there.”
The journey is far from over for Champ. He has left an undeniable wake of success behind him, but these are all steps towards the ultimate goal.
“They are things you need to achieve to realize that you can make it,” Champ said. “Those are huge stepping stones in confidence for me. I think that’s where I lack most is confidence. But when I get that going I feel like no one can keep up with me.”

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