PLAYA DE CARMEN, MEXICO | It’s hard to think of a 21-year-old being a veteran of anything. But when it comes to the Latin America Amateur Championship, Walker Campbell is certainly seasoned. The Bermuda native is competing in this championship for the fifth year in a row, this time at the El Camaleon Golf Club at the Mayakoba Resort south of Cancun, Mexico. And while he has neither won this tournament nor ever made the cut, he nonetheless glows as he talks about how much he has enjoyed being a part of the LAAC – and how much he has learned about himself through those experiences.
“I was a high school senior when I played my first Latin America Amateur and I had never competed in anything like it,” Campbell recalls. “I was definitely humbled when I saw how good the other golfers were and that made me respect even more what golf at such a high level was all about as it pushed me to work harder on my own game.”
Then, there was the honor of representing his country in what has become one of the biggest international amateur golf events on the planet thanks to the support of its founding partners at the Augusta National Golf Club, the R&A and the USGA. “I love putting on the Bermuda shorts for the different dinners and receptions each year,” he says. “And I love meeting so many people from so many different countries.”
It’s just the sort of experience tournament organizers hoped participants would enjoy, even if they did not come out on top.
Tall, reed-thin and unfailingly polite, Campbell started swinging a club when he was 8 years old. His father introduced him to the game and after playing for a few years and taking lessons from a golf professional at the Belmont Hills course in the parish of Warwick, Campbell the younger began competing in junior tournaments, both in the U.S. and also in Bermuda, which is a British Overseas Territory with a rich golf history and one of the best golf courses in the world at the Mid Ocean Club.
After spending his freshman year of high school in Bermuda, he transferred to Hilton Head Prep in South Carolina. “There is a general feeling at home that no one will ever play college golf if he or she stays in Bermuda,” Campbell says. “So, I moved to Hilton Head, where I finished high school as I worked extensively with golf professionals Tim and Simon Cooke.”
Campbell says he was a 5 or 6 handicap when he left Bermuda for Hilton Head, and then a scratch player when he graduated from high school there. “I played in my first Latin America Amateur that year, in 2016, and I will never forget it,” he says. “It was by far the biggest tournament I had ever entered, and it was quickly clear to me that I was not good enough or long enough to compete on that level.”
“I do know that I want to keep playing competitive golf, and that I can continue to do so as an amateur.” – Walker Campbell
But he was good enough to receive an offer to attend William & Mary, which was chartered in 1693 and is the second-oldest university in the United States after Harvard. “I liked that it was on the East Coast and I liked its academics and its athletics,” he says. “Their offer was the first one I received, and I jumped on it.”
Campbell, who expects to graduate from William & Mary in May with a degree in economics, has been a part of his school’s golf team all four years. And he has taken time off each January to play in the LAAC, first in the Dominican Republic in 2016 on the Teeth of the Dog course at Casa de Campo, then in Panama, Chile, the DR again and Mayakoba. He says he worked hard on his game through the years and felt particularly good about his golf when he returned to Casa de Campo for the 2019 tourney.
“But then I got off to a terrible start,” says Campbell. “I had back-to-back quintuple bogeys on the front nine of my first round and lost so many balls that I had to run back to my room at the turn to get another sleeve or two. I finished the day with an 84, which was 12-over par, and I was so discouraged.”
But not so discouraged that he gave up, as the 68 that he shot the following day demonstrated. It was not enough to take Campbell to weekend play, as he missed the cut by three strokes. But the performance said a lot about his character and his ability to bounce back. It also showed that he could indeed go low.
Campbell shot 87-79 this week, missing the cut at Mayakoba, and as he contemplates life after college he wonders if he is able to go low enough often enough to make competitive golf a career. “I have wrestled with the idea of doing that ever since I started playing tournaments,” he says. “But I am not sure that I am good enough, and not at all sure that I want the lifestyle that comes with being on the road all the time. I do know that I want to keep playing competitive golf, and that I can continue to do so as an amateur.”
That would certainly be a veteran move.
Walker Campbell swings away during the first round of the 2020 Latin America Amateur Championship, his fifth consecutive year playing the event. Photo: Enrique Berardi, LAAC
We are sorry that this post was not useful for you!
Tell us how we can improve this post?