Ben Campbell is a man with a purpose this week; back to full fitness after a year plagued by injury he is driven by the desire to lift the Brodie Breeze trophy at the ISPS HANDA New Zealand Open.
Campbell will come full circle at the ISPS HANDA New Zealand Open this year after a mysterious injury sidelined him in 2016.
“This time last year I didn’t think I would play golf again; I was getting cut open with operations,” said Campbell.
“There is still no idea what was wrong. Neki Patel and Rebecca White from Queenstown Health were the two people who got on top of the injury. I had a lot of scar tissue through my chest and ribs.
“I went on antibiotics for four months and after a month I was feeling a lot better. I had some sort of disease or infection, whether I got bitten by a spider or a tic. I don’t think I will ever know what the actual cause was but it is nice to feel back to 100% now.”
While he couldn’t play the tournament, Campbell couldn’t stay away from his National Open, taking on a very different role in the 2016 edition.
“It wasn’t easy last year, I actually came out to the New Zealand Open and caddied for the Prime Minister (former PM John Key), so it’s a turnaround from then,” said Campbell.
“I am pretty luck, from where I have been until where I am now, with all the people I have around me, it’s all about the team, it’s been small steps.
“At the end of last year I knew my game was good and I was starting to play the way I wanted to again. I have just kept working hard.”
Now based fulltime in Queenstown, Campbell will enjoy a home game when he tees it up at Millbrook Resort and The Hills for the ISPS HANDA New Zealand Open.
“I am very lucky; I have some amazing people around me, that is why I am down in Queenstown now. I am sponsored by Millford Track and I have another guy who helps me out here a lot as well. Then my physios and I am working with a coach down here, John Griffin and he has been amazing,” added Campbell.
“I play around here a lot, so I am just looking forward to playing these courses; I obviously know them both very well because I am living down here now.
“I play out of Millbrook so I know this course very well, I play at The Hills a little bit too so it will be nice having a home game and staying in my own bed.”
It has been 14 years since a local has one their National Open, a fact not lost on the New Zealand contingent.
2017 presents a strong opportunity for a Kiwi champion, the field is stacked with their best players including European Tour player and Olympian Ryan Fox and Michael Hendry fresh from taking on the world’s best at the WGC – Mexico Championship. They are joined by a host of local talent including; Mark Brown, David Smail, Brad Shilton, Nick Gillespie and rookie professional Luke Toomey.
However all eyes will be on Ben Campbell who is perhaps the most inform New Zealand player right now.
He finished runner-up, in a playoff, to West Australian Jarryd Felton at the Lawnmaster Horizon Golf NZ PGA Championship last week.
“My game felt good but I still felt like there was quite a bit of room for improvement. I spent this morning with my coach; I have a few things I want to work on,” continued Campbell.
“I need to make sure I fully commit to my shots. I was doing that with my full swing but struggled a little with my pitching.
“My putter was a little hot and cold, I did putt very well at points but missed a couple of key points. All, in all, I feel like my game is heading in the right direction.
“But you can’t think about last week too much, it has been and done. I am more thinking about the old cliché, shot by shot,” added Campbell.
“It’s great knowing that I can compete out there again. I was very happy that when I was under the pump I pulled off some great shots, it’s nice to have that build up to this week.”
The ISPS HANDA New Zealand Open is always a tough week for the New Zealand players, all eyes are on them as they try to break the drought.
“A win would be great but to be honest I haven’t thought about it (the pressure). Maybe coming down the stretch I might think about it but at the moment there is still a lot of golf to be played,” added Campbell.
“A few of the boys have been playing very well; (Josh) Geary played solid last week too, and it would definitely be good to see one of us lift the trophy. There has been enough Aussies, especially after last week, winning.”
The ISPS HANDA New Zealand Open will be played from 9-12 March at Millbrook Resort and The Hills in Queenstown with a field of 150 players vying for a prize purse of NZ$1million.
The winner will receive Official World Golf Ranking Points and become fully exempt on to the ISPS HANDA PGA Tour of Australasia for the remainder of this season plus a further two seasons.
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