Physio clinic moment makes the difference

A few months ago, Queenstown professional golfer Ben Campbell seriously considered chucking in the towel.

Just as well he had a change of heart.

On Sunday, the 32-year-old netted his first major tournament win, becoming just the third New Zealander — and the first in 26 years — to win the Hong Kong Open.

Hitting a four-under par 66 to finish 19-under, Campbell joined the likes of Rory McIlroy and Greg Norman when he took the title, beating British Open champion Cameron Smith, of Australia.

Speaking from Jakarta, yesterday, where he will tee off in the $1.5 million Indonesian Masters today, Campbell confirmed he would "definitely" play in next year’s New Zealand Open at Millbrook Resort, his home course, where he tied for second in the 102nd Open earlier this year.

He said his massive win was only just starting to sink in, and he was pleased to get the job done for his sponsors, family and friends who had stuck by him through a tough few years.

Dogged by injuries since 2018, including a tear in one of the discs in his spine and problems with his left hip, Campbell had surgery the following year, then spent another 12 months in rehab.

Subsequently, his "biggest battle" had been changing his golf swing to minimise the pressure he was putting on his back, something he was still struggling with a few months ago, noting retiring was "definitely on the cards".

"I’d just come back from the UK and the body was pretty grumpy. Everything was feeling pretty horrible."

But a "lightbulb moment" late one night in the physio clinic made all the difference, giving him the confidence to keep playing.

After about two hours of trying different things he worked out — about 9pm — how to go from backswing to impact with the ball without crunching his spine and aggravating his hip.

That eureka moment has more than paid off.

"If I didn’t think I could win on the world stage, I wouldn’t be playing golf, but it’s good just to prove to yourself that you can do it and there are a lot of people, like the Davies and the Bramwells, that have sponsored me and always been there through the tough times.

"Obviously, my family’s been amazing and I’ve got a great group of mates in Queenstown that when those injuries have hit, everyone’s been amazing and kept [me] positive.

"It’s just amazing to win for those guys, as well."

The Open win guarantees Campbell another two years on the Asian Tour, and meant he was now fourth in the order of merit, putting him in contention for one of three spots up for grabs in a LIV playoff series next month, to get a LIV card for next year.

"That’s the next goal, to try and peak that week, definitely," he said.

NZ Open tournament director Michael Glading says he "couldn’t be happier" for Campbell.

"He is a credit to the game, and a credit to New Zealand; such a well-liked and hard-working professional, so that all makes it so much the better."

Glading was also happy to see fellow New Zealand golfers Steve Alker win on the PGA Champions Tour, and Kerry Mountcastle win on the PGA Tour of Australasia for the first time.

He confirmed the NZ Open organisers were talking to Alker and Mountcastle as well.

"Once their schedules are finalised, [we’ll] be doing our best to lock them in for ... Millbrook," Glading said.