Education Ongoing for Amateur Standout Campbell
By Bill Fields
UNIVERSITY PLACE, Wash. – Brian Campbell graduated from the University of Illinois this spring, but he is still learning.
The golf education for the 22-year-old amateur continued Thursday in the first round of the 115th U.S. Open, at Chambers Bay. Campbell offset a couple of late mistakes with birdies to avoid sabotaging his outward 31, shooting a 3-under 67 to gain a share of fourth place, two shots behind co-leaders Dustin Johnson and Henrik Stenson.
“I believed in myself,” said Campbell of how he got through a six-hole stretch on his second nine that resulted in two bogeys and a double bogey. “I did hit some good shots and got some bad breaks. You have to realize that nothing has changed, you’re still playing well.”
It was the lowest score by an amateur in an opening round of the U.S. Open since Mike Reid’s 67 at Atlanta Athletic Club in 1976. “I couldn’t ask for a better day,” said Campbell, an Irvine, Calif., native who played in his first U.S. Open last year at Pinehurst No. 2, where he shot 76-70 to miss the cut by one stroke.
That, too, was a lesson learned. “I made an effort to get off to a good start this week,” said Campbell, No. 12 in the World Amateur Golf Ranking™. “I maybe shook the nerves out the first round [in 2014] and barely missed the cut. It kind of showed I do belong out here and can shoot some good scores.”
Campbell had his game well under control on Thursday, hitting 13 of 14 fairways and 13 of 18 greens, and requiring only 27 putts. “I was able to put it in play off the tee,” said Campbell, who had an average driving distance of 268 yards. “It wasn’t spectacular, but I made it easy on myself.”
The fact that another graduating college senior, Cheng-Tsung Pan of the University of Washington, was in Campbell’s grouping contributed to his comfortable attitude. Pan shot 1-over 71 in his professional debut. “It kind of had that college tournament feel to it,” Campbell said. “I wanted to treat it like any other tournament.”
It isn’t, of course, a reality that has been reinforced often this week.
“It’s definitely weird walking around the practice range with all these guys you’ve watched your whole life,” he said. “The transition is definitely a tough feat, but I’m getting used to it.”
The last time an amateur won the U.S. Open was Johnny Goodman in 1933. Campbell was asked if it is something that could ever happen again.
“After today’s round, I think so,” Campbell said. “I’m up there [on the leader board] and definitely have the game to do what needs to be done.”
Bill Fields is a Connecticut-based freelance writer.