Cameron Champ has had a club in his hands since he was just 18 months old.
Still, the high school junior has been missing out on an entire aspect of the game.
Champ, a Sacramento, Calif., native ranked No. 21 in Golfweek‘s Junior Rankings, will represent the United States at the upcoming Junior Ryder Cup on Sept. 24-25. He qualified for one of the six available spots courtesy of his runner-up finish at the 37th Junior PGA Championship earlier this month.
While kids his age are on high school golf teams and competing against other schools in team matches, Champ is going at it alone. That’s because he just started his junior year of home school. He has never played on a golf team or in any team type of format. He is looking forward to changing things up as he partners with some of the best juniors in the country at the upcoming event.
“It’s going to be different,” Champ said. “There’s probably a little added pressure because you don’t want to let your partner down, but there’s also going to be a little more comfort because you have someone there in case you kind of mess up.”
He’s felt that pressure before, however. And he performed.
Champ was in contention during the final round of the Junior PGA, going toe-to-toe with eventual winner Robby Shelton of Wilmer, Ala., heading to the par-5 15th. He hadn’t made higher than a bogey all week, but Champ stumbled at the most inopportune time. He made a triple-bogey eight there and his chances of winning disappeared. Aside from a great finish in a prestigious tournament, he had something else to play for.
He walked up to the 18th green knowing that he needed to get up-and-down to tie for second-place and get into a playoff. This was important because it meant he was still alive to make the Ryder Cup team. The top two finishers at the Junior PGA earn spots.
He didn’t get up-and-down.
He did one better and chipped in instead.
“Well, at first I was kind of stunned,” Champ said. “I didn’t really know what happened. And then I kind of realized that the ball went in the hole.
“I knew if I didn’t do that and I would’ve lost in a playoff, I would’ve never gotten picked because my ranking isn’t high enough. So for me to do that, in that situation, I can’t ask for much more.”
Champ, who has verbally committed to Texas A&M, has been playing well this summer, but he knows there are areas of his game that need to improve.
“I think my game is pretty good right now, but I just have to mature more and work on my mental part (of the game),” said Champ.
As his junior career has progressed, Champ has had trouble with controlling his emotions and expectations on the golf course. At times, one bad hole can affect the rest of his round in a negative way. He is improving in that area and knows that it is an important part of playing well.
“Before, I would be frustrated for three holes and go bogey, bogey, double or something like that,” he said. ”Now it’s starting to get a lot better, and it could definitely get even better. So that’s definitely what I’m working on.”
But as he heads to Olympia Fields (Ill.) Country Club’s South course in about a month, he brings a lot more strengths than weaknesses, something that should make his teammates very happy.
“My true strength is my length,” said Champ. “I have a lot of lag in my swing…and that helps me generate all the ball speed.”