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Campbell sets sights on comeback

Ben Campbell playing in last year’s NZ Open. PHOTO/GETTY IMAGES

Putting needs work: Campbell
Ben Campbell is preparing to return to golf after a long injury lay-off. Times-Age sportswriter CHRIS COGDALE caught up with the former top amateur on a visit home.

GOLF

Masterton golfer Ben Campbell is aiming to be back playing tournament golf early next year after overcoming a debilitating back injury.

Campbell, who is now based in Queenstown, said he was cleared to resume training a couple of weeks ago after an operation in December.

The 28-year-old said the tear in his lower back related to a congenital disability in his left hip.

“Just the way I was born I didn’t have enough internal hip rotation, and it was fine if I was playing golf just once or twice a week,” he said.

“But with wear and tear over time my whole left hip just seized up. I only had 10 degrees internal hip rotation, and for golf, you ideally want 40 degrees, so my body would try and find that range of motion somewhere else. That’s what caused all the trouble in my back.”

The injury could not have come at a worse time for Campbell, who was close to earning his European Tour card in 2018 when he over-stretched after getting off a plane in Bangladesh. He finished second in the tournament, before the problems set in.

“For the first couple of months, I thought I had just tweaked my back and it would be fine and I kept playing and it was a bit iffy. When I got home, I had a bit of treatment but it never came right and over six months it just got worse and worse.

“Then in 2019 I tried to do everything to avoid getting the operation, but the tear didn’t come right, so in October, I decided to have the operation.”

Campbell has a full medical exemption for the Asian and Australian Tours, and has good status on both tours, which would allow him to slip back in where he left off.

However, he said this year is realistically a write-off after the covid-19 lockdown hampered his rehabilitation.

“That sort of set me back, because I was meant to be in the gym and seeing the physio, and covid was right at the time when I was meant to be getting my treatment and that slowed things down a bit.

“I’ll be very surprised if I play anything this year. My aim would probably be playing good tournament golf by March.”

The 2021 New Zealand Open could be a realistic target for Campbell, and it’s a tournament he would love to win after coming close in 2017, losing in a playoff to fellow Kiwi Michael Hendry.

In the long term, the former world number four ranked amateur, still holds ambitions of making the European Tour in the next two to three years.

“I think my style of game is really suited to Europe. I’ve played a lot in America, and have played on the Web.com tour, now the Korn Ferry Tour, and I think the style of golf they’re playing in the States doesn’t really suit my game,” Campbell said.

“I’m a much better ball striker and my iron play is my real strength. Europe is much better suited to my long iron play.”

One area of the game Campbell said he must improve is his putting, with most tournaments won by the player with the best putting stats.

“Off the tee and ball striking, I am easily good enough.

“The number of times you miss the cut by one or two shots, and you look back and there are five or six putts, and if you holed them, you might only be two shots off the lead.”

In his downtime, Campbell has looked to the future and started his coaching accreditation, which will take him about a year to complete.

Campbell was also positive about the playing future of former women’s world No1 Lydia Ko now that she is coached by the highly respected Canadian Sean Foley, who has previously coached Tiger Woods and Englishman Justin Rose.

“People don’t realise the training that she’s doing. She’s playing 30 weeks a year in a different place every week and just the pressure and the time that she has to give for the media and sponsors.

“The amount of time she was number one was a very long time and she’s too good a player not to come back.”

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