Cameron Champ playing with a heavy heart at Safeway Open

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Cameron Champ playing with a heavy heart at Safeway Open

PGA Tour

Cameron Champ playing with a heavy heart at Safeway Open

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NAPA, Calif. – Cameron Champ is in the hunt at the Safeway Open, but his focus is elsewhere.

Champ’s grandfather, Mack, who introduced him to the game at Foothill Golf Course in Sacramento, is in hospice and battling Stage 4 stomach cancer. As a result, Champ has been commuting from his childhood hometown to the Safeway Open between rounds.

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“I showed up to my tee time about an hour before and I’ve been going,” Champ said. “Pops is holding in there, but like I said, there’s always a lot of other things behind the scenes.”

Champ’s grandfather, Mack, fell hard for the game as a caddie in Texas in the 1950s. But he was barred from playing because of the color of his skin. He didn’t play his first round until 1965 in England, where he was stationed at an Air Force base. He passed the game on to his son, Jeff, and then to Cameron and his sister, Madison. Mack was a regular at Junior Tour of Northern California golf events throughout the region and at Sacramento driving ranges and courses where he taught Cameron the game.

Champ is tied for third after opening with a 67 and following it up with a 68 and trails 36-hole leader Bryson DeChambeau by three strokes. Champ ranks first in Strokes Gained: Tee to Green through 36 holes and has dominated the par 5s, making birdie on seven of the eight holes.

“I feel like I have to birdie those with my length,” he said.

But birdies and bogeys are secondary at the moment for Champ, who hasn’t had a top-10 finish since the Mayakoba Classic in November.

“It’s freed me up, realizing there’s a lot more to life than golf. It’s just golf,” he said.

Champ is trying to put one of Mack’s maxims to good use this week: “It’s not where you start that matters, it’s where you finish.”

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