At the U.S. Women’s Amateur qualifier in Brentwood last month, Zoe Campos focused on the experience. The 14-year-old Valencia resident wanted to compete against older athletes in preparation for the future.
But … while she was there, she figured she might as well do her best. Being a competitor, she didn’t want to make mistakes.
One well-placed shot led to another, and, well, she qualified. Now what?
Campos had planned to defend her title at the Alison Lee Championship at Valencia Country Club next week, the same time frame of the Women’s Amateur.
Her dad, Noel, and coach Ken Lewis, however, hoped to convince her to play in the most prestigious women’s amateur event in the world.
So Noel retrieved his phone and typed out a message to Lee, a Valencia High graduate turned LPGA golfer who he knew from VCC.
Within 10 minutes, Lee called, “Is Zoe with you?”
Campos took the call outside a restaurant and soon was all in on the Women’s Amateur, which starts Monday at San Diego Country Club in Chula Vista.
“She told me that playing the U.S. Amateur is the better experience and higher level,” Campos, who will golf for West Ranch High this fall as a freshman, recalled, “and you get to see what older kids do and how they play, and if you win it, you have more chances of being on the LPGA Tour.”
That, after all, is Campos’ long-term dream. Lewis, who has coached her for roughly six years, believes she has the talent.
“She’s one of the most talented golfers in the world at her age,” he said. “To go along with that, she has the work ethic that she needs to pursue a career.”
Campos began playing golf shortly after her eighth birthday.
Back then, Noel didn’t even play. But that was before a business trip to his native Philippines.
A cousin there offered to take him to the range.
“What range?” Noel asked. “Firing range?”
A few drives and chips later, the game clung to its latest victim, and Noel brought the bug back to the U.S. He soon took his son to a golf store to buy two sets of clubs.
“We have a new hobby,” Noel told him.
Then Noel felt a tug at the back of his shirt.
“What about me, daddy?” Zoe said.
Make that three sets.
“For five to six months, we were at Vista Valencia (Golf Course) hitting balls and hitting balls,” Noel said. “My son gave up after two or three months.”
Zoe never stopped.
Now, she practices six days a week. And, no, she never tires of it, she said. She likes putting best.
“I like the feeling of the ball going in the hole,” Campos said.
After two failed attempts, she qualified for the U.S. Girls’ Junior Championship last year. She said the qualifier was as pressure packed a moment as she’s experienced in the sport.
She sunk a 30-foot putt, she said, on the second hole of a playoff to claim the final qualifying spot at Mesa Country Club in Mesa, Arizona.
That poise made what happened last month at the 2017 Girls’ Junior less surprising.
After advancing to the Round of 64 match play, Campos found herself trailing Taylor Roberts every time she blinked.
Campos dropped the first hole, but came back to win the fifth.
Campos dropped the sixth hole, but came back to win the seventh.
Finally, she found herself behind by two holes with four to play.
“Just never give up,” she told herself.
Campos won holes 15 and 16 to draw even, but Roberts won the match on the sudden-death 22nd hole.
Still, Campos was proud of her comeback.
Now, it’s on to the Women’s Amateur, another chance to continue making a name for herself.