November 9, 2017
Sacramento’s Cameron Champ Makes Pro Debut
Cameron Champ ready for Pro Game
By Garrett Johnston
NCGA native Cameron Champ makes his pro debut this week at the OHL Classic in Mexico.
The 22-year-old announced his decision to turn pro Monday on his Instagram account, though his intention is to still complete his education online for Texas A&M.
Champ said there were a couple events where he discovered he was ready.
“Obviously breaking out and qualifying for the US Open and playing well for one (tie for 32nd), that was a huge plus,” Champ told the NCGA by phone on Wednesday. “Then to play like I did during the summertime…I made the Walker Cup team and that told me I’m ready, I’ve done everything I can possibly do in amateur golf. I haven’t won a million tournaments but I’ve played really well in the majority of them and it was time to move on to something new.”
Champ’s swing coach Sean Foley, who’s been working with him for seven years, said during the U.S. Open that the Sacramento native played a practice round with Rory McIlroy on Monday and outdrove him by 30 yards.
“There’s something that he learned in those nine holes (with Rory) that I could never teach him,” Foley told PGA Tour Radio this Monday. “He figured out ‘I can do this’.”
So what does this mean for his game? Does he have all the elements needed to succeed?
“I feel like my game is ready in most aspects. Obviously there’s a few parts of my game I’ve still gotta work on,” Champ said. “But I feel like if I can just get comfortable playing as a pro and getting acclimated to preparing for events and getting comfortable with playing on the PGA Tour, I think I can definitely succeed.”
In Foley’s eyes, Champ has no peers as far as driving distance, yet Champ doesn’t boast about his biggest strength.
“Cameron never talks about his distance, when he does he says ‘Look, it’s a great weapon but if I three-putt and hit bad chips then it doesn’t matter’,” Foley told NCGA this summer. “And actually it can be even more infuriating because you can get it all the way down there but walk off a hole with a bogey.”
Foley is still impressed by his own pupil’s raw talent, even though he was introduced to this young star more than seven years ago by Sacramento resident and PGA Tour caddie John Wood.
“When you have someone who has the ability to be 10 mph faster in ball-speed than the fastest that’s already on Tour, that’s like wow, and he’s 22 so biologically if he never touches a weight, he will strengthen until 26. It’s crazy.
I think too that he can get faster.”
Champ says the biggest thing he remembers from playing in NCGA events was “growing” and learning to not put so much pressure on himself and the results.
“Probably what held me back is I wanted to do so good, so badly that it honestly hurt me because I was so hard on myself,” Champ said. “As I got older and through NCGA events I got gradually better and better as the years went along which I think helped me in the end.”
Those who took him to NCGA events, his family, now get to share in the joy his professional debut.
Champ’s father Jeff, mother Lisa, and sister Madison made the trip to this week’s event at El Camaleon Golf Club. For Jeff, this week represents a great moment after a long journey.
“It’s pretty special time right now for us, but especially for him,” Jeff Champ said. “As a father I’m excited and I’m proud of him after all the hard work and sacrifice he’s put in. We didn’t go on a lot of vacations (over the years). Yes, we traveled to a lot of places but that’s not vacation, that’s going to a golf tournament.”
Lisa and Madison did however get to go to the beaches this week, and why not?
Champ figures he’s put more than 10,000 hours practicing for this career.
“I’ve been going hard at it from age nine, five or six days a week for four or five hours. I would need a calculator for that one,” Champ smiled.
What he would like to dial up is a defined spot on one of the major Tours. When asked about his goals for his first year as a pro Champ said he is aiming to earn his Web card through Q-School Finals next week and his hope is to play in some West Coast Swing events on sponsor’s exemptions.
“First, I want to establish myself on a Tour…whether that’s Web or PGA Tour,” Champ told the NCGA. “Obviously the PGA Tour is the ultimate route. If I can take advantage of the exemptions that I can possibly get, that would be great. It depends also on where I finish with final stage, if I finish high enough hopefully I can get full status.”
Final stage qualifying is December 7-10.
In the meantime, this will be a big opportunity for Champ in his debut.
–Garrett Johnston is a writer and video producer. You can follow him on Twitter @johnstongarrett