A few months ago, Queenstown pro golfer Ben Campbell seriously considered chucking in the towel.
Just as well he didn’t.
On Sunday, the 32-year-old netted his first major tournament win, becoming just the third Kiwi in history — and the first in 26 years — to win the Hong Kong Open.
Hitting a four-under par 66 to finish 19-under, Campbell joined the likes of Rory McIlroy and Greg Norman when he took the title, beating British Open champ Cameron Smith, of Australia.
Speaking exclusively to Mountain Scene from Jakarta, Indonesia, yesterday, where he’ll tee off in the $1.5 million BNI Indonesian Masters today, Campbell confirms he will ‘‘definitely’’ play in next year’s New Zealand Open at Millbrook Resort, his home course, where he tied for second in the 102nd Open earlier this year.
He says his massive win’s only just starting to sink in, and he’s stoked he was able to get the job done for his sponsors, family and friends who’ve stuck by him through an incredibly tough few years.
Dogged by injuries since 2018, including a tear in one of the discs in his spine and problems with his left hip, Campbell had surgery the following year, then spent another 12 months in rehab.
Subsequently, he reckons his ‘‘biggest battle’’ has been changing his golf swing to minimise the pressure he was putting on his back, something he was still struggling with a few months ago, noting retiring was ‘‘definitely on the cards’’.
‘‘I’d just come back from the UK and the body was pretty grumpy, everything was feeling pretty horrible.’’
But a ‘‘lightbulb moment’’ late one night in the physio clinic made all the difference, giving him the confidence to keep playing — and it’s paying off.
‘‘If I didn’t think I could win on the world stage, I wouldn’t be playing golf, but it’s good just to prove to yourself that you can do it and there are a lot of people, like the Davies and the Bramwells, that have sponsored me and always been there through the tough times.
‘‘Obviously, my family’s been amazing and I’ve got a great group of mates in Queenstown that when those injuries have hit, everyone’s been amazing and kept [me] positive.
‘‘It’s just amazing to win for those guys, as well.’’
One of his sponsors is Milford Track Guided Walks, part of the Davies family’s Trojan Holdings. Mike Davies tells Scene Campbell’s win’s something pretty special for Queenstown.
‘‘It’s not easy travelling the world and living in Queenstown, as he does, to get to tournaments and get back here — we’re at the arse-end of the world down here, it’s a big challenge for him.’’
Davies, who considers Camp bell ‘‘part of our family’’, believes the Hong Kong Open crown is ‘‘probably career-changing’’.
‘‘I think there’ll be more to come.’’
The Open win guarantees Campbell another two years on the Asian Tour, and means he’s now fourth in the Order of Merit, putting him in contention for one of three spots up for grabs in a LIV playoff series next month, to earn a LIV card for next year.
‘‘That’s the next goal, to try and peak that week, definitely,’’ he says.
NZ Open tournament director Michael Glading says he ‘‘couldn’t be happier’’ for Campbell.
‘‘He is a credit to the game, and a credit to NZ — such a well-liked and hard-working professional, so that all makes it so much the better.’’
Glading’s also chuffed to see fellow Kiwi golfers Steve Alker win on the PGA Champions Tour, and Kerry Mountcastle win on the PGA Tour of Australasia for the first time.
He confirms the NZ Open team’s talking to Alker and Mountcastle as well.
‘‘Once their schedules are finalised, [we’ll] be doing our best to lock them in for the 2024 NZ Open at Millbrook,’’ Glading says.