Queenstown pro golfer Ben Campbell heads to Japan next Saturday as a reward for his stellar finish at March’s New Zealand Open.
The former world no.6 amateur turned heads at the Open when he shot an opening-round course record 61 at Arrowtown’s Millbrook Resort.
He then made the playoff before losing to Kiwi Michael Hendry.
As the highest-placed non-Japan Tour player, Campbell won three starts on the tour.
He’s teeing off for the first, the Kansai Open Championship, in Kyoto, on May 18. He’ll then play the next two consecutive weeks.
The second event doubles as a British Open qualifier.
To freshen up, the 25-year-old’s deliberately put in very little preparation.
The week after the NZ Open he travelled to Toowoomba for the Queensland PGA but pulled out early in the second round after catching a bug on the plane over.
“I then didn’t pick up a club for about three weeks and got out in the hills and did a bit of hunting.
“It was a really good break.”
He resumed playing at the Charles Tour Carrus Open in Tauranga two weeks ago, tying for 15th.
“I knew I was going to be very rusty.
“I just didn’t make any birdies – I actually struggled a bit with the putter.
“When you have a break like that for a long time, you kind of go back to your tendencies, and I’ve got a couple of things, swing-wise, that I’ll probably have to work on for the rest of my life.”
Last Friday, however, he hit some balls at Queenstown’s Jack’s Point, where his coach John Griffin is based, and was happy with how he struck them.
“I definitely wouldn’t be where I am without Griff – he’s pretty old-school and whips me back into line.”
His regular caddy’s unavailable for Japan so he’s flying over Millbrook greenkeeper and mate Dan ‘Pup’ Eyles.
Also supporting him will be great mate Kris Gemmell, an ex-pro triathlete who heads up the World Triathlon Series.
Campbell first met Gemmell after the latter heard that the golfer’s caddy had pulled out just before an NZ Open.
Out of the blue, Gemmell, who’d just won a World Cup race in Auckland, rang him, offering to carry his bag.
After Japan, Campbell says he’ll go to the United States to try to qualify for some Web.com Tour events, which are one level below the US PGA.
He’ll then play the Fiji International, which is co-sanctioned by the European and Asian Tours, in August.
He played the same tournament last year in his comeback from a mystery illness that almost derailed his career.
Campbell will then aim for a solid season on the Australasian Tour.
If he finishes high up the tour’s Order of Merit he’ll get into the final stage of qualifying for the Web.com Tour.
His ultimate aim is to make the lucrative PGA Tour, ideally within five years.
“I’d love to get back to America, just to go over in stints, and then come back here.”
Beyond local supporters like Griffin and businessman Mike Davies, he says Queenstown’s championship courses are invaluable training grounds.
“Your training’s actually tougher than most of the courses you play on.
“You miss a drive on Jack’s Point, it’s a lost ball.”