HUTCHINSON, Kan. — Texas A&M senior Cameron Champ shot a brilliant 5-under-par 65 on Wednesday and leads the 114th Trans-Mississippi Amateur Championship by one shot at Prairie Dunes Country Club.
The good news-bad news scenario for the rest of the field is Champ’s margin could’ve been three shots wider.
“I really played the same way today as I played yesterday,” said Champ, one of only two amateurs to make the cut at the U.S. Open in June. “Yesterday I just made a triple (bogey). Today I kept it in the fairway, only missed two greens. My only bogey was a three-putt.”
(For complete scores, click here.)
The 22-year-old from Sacramento, Calif., has been working with noted swing instructor Sean Foley for about seven years. Champ finished T32 at Erin Hills and led the field in driving distance in the first round at a staggering 349.5 yards. His ball speed has been tracked at 198 mph. To put that into perspective, Brandon Hagy leads the PGA Tour in that category this season at 186.31 mph. Dustin Johnson’s ball speed averages 181.4 mph.
“He absolutely crushes it,” said Texas A&M Men’s Golf Coach T.J. Higgins. “He has such a rare combination of incredible power and accuracy. He hits it straighter than any big hitter I’ve ever seen. He not only hits it long, but straight which gives him a lot of opportunities to score well. He is really developing both physically and emotionally as a player. It’s really fun to see him come into his own this year.”
A Third-Team All-American selection last season with one win and five top-5s, Champ opened the Trans-Miss Amateur with an even-par 70. Wednesday brought another steamy Kansas day with near-triple-digit temperatures and sustained high winds. Champ, however, was unaffected. He blasted driver at every opportunity and complemented his power game by rolling in six birdies on the 1937 Perry Maxwell-designed course.
Halfway through the 72-hole championship, Champ sits at 5-under 135. He said he’s ready for Thursday’s 36-hole grind.
“It’s going to be a long day,” he said. “I’m going to hit some bad shots. But if I stick with my game plan, I think I’ll be just fine. ”
A shot behind the big-hitting Champ are Stoney Crouch, a recent graduate from Nashville’s Lipscomb University who lead after the first round, and Franklin Huang, a senior at Stanford. They’re tied for second place at 4-under 136. Born and raised in Mount Juliet, Tenn., Crouch answered his 3-under 67 in the opening round with a 1-under 69 on Wednesday. Huang, who hails from Poway, Calif., matched Champ’s low score of the second round with a 5-under 65.
Lurking in fourth place is the 112th Trans-Miss Amateur winner Collin Morikawa from La Cañada Flintridge, Calif. The Cal-Berkeley junior was a First-Team All-American in 2016-17 and won this championship in 2015 at nearby Flint Hills National. Through two rounds, Morikawa has posted 70-68 for 2-under 138.
After back-to-back 70s, Oklahoma State junior Hayden Wood from Edmond, Okla., holds fifth place at even-par 170. A total of 15 players are within seven shots of Champ on the eve of the Trans Miss Amateur’s 36-hole finale.
Sixty-five players made the 36-hole cut at 8-over 148 or better.
EYE ON MID-AMS: Amateurs aged 25 years and older play in the Mid-Amateur category. They’re an important component of the amateur game, as most of them balance some kind of business career with their passion for competitive golf. With busy lives and often families at home, mid-ams play for the love of the game.
Each year the Trans-Miss Amateur recognizes the Low Mid-Am finisher at the completion of 72 holes. At this year’s 114th playing of the championship, there were 15 mid-ams in the field, including 2017 U.S. Senior Open Low Amateur Robert Funk (who also won the 2006 Trans-Miss), 2016 U.S. Mid-Amateur champion Stewart Hagestad and 2013 U.S. Mid-Am winner Mike McCoy, who won the 2000 and ’08 Trans-Miss titles.
Hagestad, who also earned Low Am honors at this year’s Masters, and Draegan Majors from Tulsa, Okla., were the lone mid-ams to survive the 36-hole cut. Hagestad, from Newport Beach, Calif., has posted 74-70 for 4-over 144. He’s T25 overall. Majors recorded rounds of 76-71 (7-over 147). He’s T46 for the championship.
WALKER CUP WATCH: A handful of Walker Cup hopefuls have been working hard this week to impress U.S. Captain John “Spider” Miller and the Walker Cup selection committee. Once the U.S. Amateur concludes in mid-August, the committee will announce the 10-man team that will represent America in the Sept. 9-10 Walker Cup Match against Great Britain & Ireland at Los Angeles Country Club.
Champ, the Trans-Miss Amateur 36-hole leader, surely has played his way into the conversation. Others in the mix include Will Zalatoris, the two-time Trans-Miss Amateur champion and First-Team All-American from Wake Forest. He shot a 1-under 70 on Wednesday. Zalatoris is currently at 3-over 143 overall, good for a share of 17th place. He’s tied with Texas senior Scottie Scheffler, the recent U.S. Open Low Am. Scheffler also shot a 1-under 70 in the second round.
Hagestad is a likely Walker Cup selection after his U.S. Mid-Amateur victory last year and Low Am performance at the Masters. He’s T25 at Prairie Dunes. Texas senior Doug Ghim had a nice bounce-back round on Wednesday. After Tuesday’s 77, Ghim shot a 4-under 66 that included eight birdies. He punctuated the day with a 70-foot chip-in for birdie on his final hole.
HIGH PRAISE: Just about everyone lucky enough to take divots from the firm turf at Prairie Dunes leaves duly impressed. That goes for some of the all-time greatest names in the sport, too.
Count five-time British Open champion Tom Watson among the many admirers of the club, which ranks 12th by Golfweek for Top 100 Classic U.S. Courses. GOLF magazine has Prairie Dunes ranked 18th overall in its Top 100 U.S. Courses. Watson has said any list of the great links courses in the world is incomplete without Prairie Dunes on it.
“(It’s) a little bit of Scotland in the Land of Oz,” said Watson, who grew up in Kansas City. “Sunflowers instead of heather, oceans of grain instead of the sea. But, like Scotland, be prepared. The wind always blows.”
Jack Nicklaus won the 1958 Trans-Miss Amateur at Prairie Dunes. The Golden Bear readily agreed with his longtime friend and rival’s assessment. “I still remember it as a fine challenging golf course,” Nicklaus said. “It’s about as close as anything we have to a British links. How tough is it? Very!”
Ben Crenshaw, the two-time Masters champion from Austin, Texas, was even more succinct.
“This is golf on the first order,” Gentle Ben said of Maxwell-designed gem that has hosted six Trans-Miss Amateurs, three U.S. Women’s Amateurs, the 1986 Curtis Cup Match and four other USGA national championships.
A STRONG TEST: Through two rounds of play, the par-70 Prairie Dunes course has produced a stroke average of 74.65. Wednesday’s second round registered 74.1, about one stroke less than the opening round (75.19).
The 477-yard, par-4 fifth hole remains the stiffest examination. The straightaway uphill hole that plays into the teeth of the south wind has averaged 4.79 for the championship. Its counterpart in the opposite direction is the par-5 seventh. Ten of 12 eagles recorded this week have come on the 512-yard hole.
The front and back nine have played at almost identical stroke averages. The outward nine has played to 37.43; the final nine has an average of 37.23.
PD THE DOG: The unofficial mascot of Prairie Dunes is “PD” (not Petey), course superintendent Jim Campbell’s lovable 8½-year-old British Black Lab.
“He’s been coming to work with me since he was 7 months old,” Campbell said. “He’s my companion, and he loves to greet everyone that comes to Prairie Dunes. He thinks everyone comes to see him, not play golf.”
When he’s not attentively watching Campbell from a golf cart or rolling on his back in the first cut, PD tends to stick close to his master’s side. Personifying the “Man’s Best Friend” moniker, PD appreciates scratches behind his ears and is friendly as they come.
On command, PD can sit, shake, lie down and heel. But those aren’t his best skills.
“PD likes the back nine best, especially when there are wild turkeys to chase,” Campbell said. “He’s chased off most of them, but there’s at least one still out there.”
WHAT’S NEXT: The third and fourth rounds of the 114th Trans-Miss Amateur will be played successively on Thursday. The third round begins 7:30 a.m., and the final round is scheduled to begin around 1 p.m.
About the Trans-Mississippi Golf Association
The Trans-Mississippi Golf Association is one of the oldest and most prestigious golf organizations in the United States. Established in 1901, the Trans-Mississippi is composed of over 200 member clubs located throughout the country. The Association is governed by a board of independent directors and is headquartered in Dallas, TX.
13760 Noel Road, Suite #327
Dallas, TX 75240