HARTFORD, WI – Sacramento’s Cameron Champ celebrated his 22nd birthday in style as the talented golfer teed off in his first ever U.S. Open golf tournament Thursday.
Champ is competing in the 2017 U.S. Open at Erin Hills in Wisconsin. A senior for the Texas A&M Aggies’ golf team, this is Champ’s first major tournament.
“It’s everything I’ve worked for,” Champ told The OBSERVER during a telephone interview before teeing off from Wisconsin. “But still, I have no expectations. I’m just going to play my game and at the end the score will be what it will be.”
Champ performed well in the first round as he shot a 2-under-par 70 to put him in a tie for 18th place after the first day. He ended the day with the second-lowest score among all amateurs.
At one point, Champ was 4-under-par, however a couple bogies on his second nine derailed him.
The powerful young golfer led all 156 competitors in average driving distance after round one by averaging 349.4 yards off of the tee. The field average was 304.5 yards.
Champ had an opportunity to play practice rounds with major championship winners Rory McIlroy and Louis Oosthuizen.
McIlroy, currently the second ranked player in the world, is considered a favorite to win the tournament. He has won four major tournaments. Oosthuizen is the 21st ranked player in the world. The South African won the Open Championship in 2010.
“People in the golf world knows he’s one of the highest caliber players,” Champ said of Oosthuizen. “Just playing with him, at first I was kind of in awe because I pretty much looked up to guys like him my whole life. But after that I just calmed down. Playing with him just gave me more confidence.”
Champ said he is listening closely to his coach Sean Foley as he prepares for golf’s national championship. Foley previously was the coach for Tiger Woods. He admits he’s on a big stage with the best, be he feels he can show them and himself why he has made it this far.
“It just opened my eyes to how good I actually am, how good I could be, and how well this course fits me,” Champ said of the practice rounds with Oosthuizen and McIlroy. “To me that was big playing with them.”
Depending on his performance, the U.S. Open could open more doors for Champ who has battled injuries early in his college career. As long as he stays healthy the sky’s the limit, but his father Jeff Champ wants him to handle the task at hand.
“All that hard work is paying off,” Jeff Champ said. “To see him out here with the best in the world is pretty amazing. This will open up more doors but at the same time I just want him to go out, have fun, and play in the moment. Don’t worry about tomorrow or next week. Just play in the moment.”
By Antonio R. Harvey
OBSERVER STAFF WRITER