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BOB WEST ON GOLF: Former Aggie Champ looms as next big PGA story

Only the most rabid golf fans, or those with an interest in a certain player, pay much attention to the fall portion of the PGA Tour season which ended this past weekend. If you are one of those with only cursory fall interest, perhaps you are not in tune with the name Cameron Champ.

This, then, will stand as your primer on the former Texas A&M player who appears destined to be the next young upstart to generate serious waves on the PGA Tour. Champ quickly made other players sit up and take notice three weeks ago when he won the Sanderson Farms Championship in only his second start.

To prove that was no fluke, he was in contention the final day before finishing tied for 10th at the OHL Mayakoba Championship and outright sixth in the RSM Classic. Through five tournaments he’s earned $1.2 million and stands sixth in FedEx Cup points.

Those numbers aren’t the real eye opener on the 6-foot, 175-pounder from Sacramento, however. What is even more startling is the fact that his clubhead speed is 129.79 mph, his ball speed is 190 and he led the Web.com Tour last year with an average drive of 343 yards.

By comparison, Rory McIlroy was the PGA Tour leader at 317.

Clearly, he is the prototype of the modern bomb-and-gouge player personified by Dustin Johnson, Brooks Kopeka, Bubba Watson, Justin Thomas and McIlroy.

Beyond that, he is rapidly refining his total game under the direction of Tiger Woods’ most recent teacher, Sean Foley.

Not only does Champ have the perfect name for a winning golfer, he’s got a back story straight out of Hollywood Central Casting. His dad, who played minor league baseball, wasn’t into golf.

Consequently, Cameron was taught by his 87-year black grandfather, who was never allowed to do anything but caddie on the course near where he grew up in Columbus, Texas.

Grandpa Mack Champ taught himself the game, and met his white wife while stationed in Europe during World War II. They lived for a while in Texas but moved to Sacramento because of a better racial climate. From reading golf books, Mack learned enough to teach Cameron the basics.

From there, extraordinary athletic ability, an excellent temperament and an ever-expanding golf IQ helped create what looks to be a brewing perfect storm.

While Champ won once in three years at Texas A&M, and once in his lone season on the Web.com Tour, he understands it takes more than being long of the tee to win at the highest level.

And that is starting to pay off with serious success. From nowhere, he’s soared to No. 97 in the Official World Golf Ranking. In 20 PGA Tour rounds thus far, he’s been in the 60s 15 times. There have been seven rounds of 66 or better, including a 62, a 63 and a 64.

Still, the mere mention of his name inspires stories of booming drives.

After qualifying for the 2017 U.S. Open as an amateur, he got to play a Monday practice round with McIlroy, outdrove him on every hole and went on to finish 32nd. On a warm, still day, he flies the ball 360 yards.

Oh, yes, and the average distance for his 2-iron is 270. His typical 8-iron travels 180.

With the PGA Tour not resuming official events until the second week in January, it will be a while before there’s an opportunity to watch the Champ legend grow. Rest assured, though, he’ll get plenty of air time on all the networks carrying golf.

After all, it’s not only chicks who dig the long ball.
CHIP SHOTS

Dr. Gene Jones of Groves gave himself a belated 80th birthday present on Saturday when he scored a hole-in-one on the 15th hole at Babe Zaharias. Jones used a 9 iron from 110 yards for what was his second ace. Witnesses included Dewayne Benoit, Randy Monk and Craig Castille …

The Super Saturday 2-ball at Zaharias saw a tie at minus-3 on the front between the team of Harrell Guidry, Gary Fontenot, Larry Foster and their ghost player and Jones’ hole-in-one foursome. The team of Bim Morrow, Cap Hollier, Dan Flood and Jim Schexnider won the back with minus-2.

None of the other regular games were played, due to dismal weather . . .

Port Neches-Groves ex Andrew Landry, after making his second cut of the fall season, closed with rounds of 68-67 in the RSM Classic. His 275 total tied for 59th and was worth $13,388.

Next official PGA Tour event for Landry will be the Tournament of Champions Jan. 3-6 in Maui. Landry, however, will be playing as Luke Donald’s partner in
Greg Norman’s QBE Shootout Dec. 6-9 in Naples, Florida …

Despite all the knocks on the Tiger Woods-Phil Mickelson $9 million winner-take-all shootout Friday afternoon in Las Vegas, I wouldn’t miss it. To me, it will be worth the $19.95 pay-per-view fee just to check out spectacular Shadow Creek.

On top of that, I think it’s going to be highly entertaining, what with all the side bets and humorous jabs. Tiger and Phil are certainly not the top two players in the world these days, but they will put on a good show.

Lots of folks seem to begrudge them because of all the money involved, but what athlete wouldn’t jump at such a lucrative opportunity? Besides, both players have promised they will give a chunk of the money to charity.

Golf news should be emailed to rdwest@usa.net