Cameron Champ's grandfather, who inspired Tour pro to play golf, dies at 78

Eric Risberg/Associated Press

Cameron Champ's grandfather, who inspired Tour pro to play golf, dies at 78

PGA Tour

Cameron Champ's grandfather, who inspired Tour pro to play golf, dies at 78

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Mack Champ didn’t live long enough to see his grandson, Cameron, compete in the Masters. But he was around to see him earn the invitation.

“That was my last gift to him,” said Cameron after winning the Safeway Open last month, his second PGA Tour title.

Mack was in hospice care at the family home in Sacramento when Cameron won roughly 60 miles down the road. The PGA Tour reported that Mack “Pops” Champ has died from stomach cancer at the age of 78.

Cameron’s story will forever be intertwined with his grandfather, who bought him his first set of plastic clubs at age 2 ½.

It was Mack who first brought golf into the Champ family, having caddied as a kid at a nine-hole course about 75 miles west of Houston. Blacks couldn’t play back then, so Mack didn’t take up the game himself until he served overseas in Germany, England and France.

Cameron Champ’s shoes show an inscription for his grandfather, Mack, during the final round of the 2019 Safeway Open in Napa, California. (Photo by Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images)

He met his wife Lulu in Germany and they had son Jeff while stationed in London. The biracial couple moved to California when they returned because it was too dangerous to stay in Texas. Jeff grew up to play professional baseball but never golf. That was Mack’s love.

When Cameron was in college at Texas A&M, he found himself two shots off the lead heading into the weekend at the 2017 U.S. Open at Erin Hills.

“He did what?” an emotional Mack told Golfweek in disbelief. “I’ve got to call my brother in Texas.”

Mack had been hooked to a dialysis machine in suburban Sacramento while Cameron played and hadn’t seen the scores. He couldn’t wait to get home to watch his DVR.

The fact that Cameron went to A&M to begin with held meaning to Mack. On the way back from basic training in 1961, a 19-year-old Mack got off the bus in College Station and tried to buy a hamburger but the whites-only counter wouldn’t serve him.

Cameron Champ hugs his father, Jeff, while on the phone with his grandfather Mack after winning the 2019 Safeway Open in Napa, California. (Photo by Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images)

Mack didn’t share that story with the family until after Cameron signed with A&M, telling his grandson “it’s not just where you come from. … it’s where you’re going.”

Words that will never be forgotten.

“The story is pretty amazing,” Jeff told Golfweek in 2017. “I always teach him it’s not about you. It’s about your grandfather who got you into this game, who sacrificed things for you.”

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