Zoe Campos modestly describes her golf game as “boring.”
While she comes off as quiet, even reticent, there are plenty of others from the Santa Clarita Valley who’ve seen her play over the years and are willing to sing her praises.
And when she steps up to the tee at a driving range, or lines up an iron shot from the fairway, the crack of her club speaks volumes.
“When she was 12 and we were playing against 18-year-olds, she was already driving it past them,” said Jeff Holen, who coached Campos briefly at West Ranch High School. “And so that part was real fun.”
Now at 18 years old, Zoe Campos already has signed a letter of intent in November to play for UCLA, and is in the final stages of preparation for her second National Women’s Amateur tournament, which is being held March 31-April 3 at the famous Agusta National Golf Course in Georgia.
From a young age
Zoe Campos’ rising star status is actually something that’s been in the works for about 10 years. While Holen could recall Campos out-driving teens as a 12-year-old, her lessons began years prior.
Before she jumped onto the world rankings stage, she was an 8-year-old golfer working with her coach Ken Lewis.
Also a Tae Kwon Do instructor, Lewis’ style as a golf coach is in some ways influenced by some of the principles from his martial arts teachings, including a tiered belt system for students, with red being the highest rank because of Tiger Woods.
It didn’t take long to spot Campos’ potential.
“She made three swings and I looked at her dad and said, ‘I’ll take her,’” Lewis recalled. “She just had his natural instinct for movement for golf, so right away I expected this.”
Having received coaching since age 8, Campos arrived on West Ranch’s campus with buzz around her abilities — and she quickly proved herself worthy.
At age 14, she earned a CIF State Title as a freshman, beating the next competitor by four strokes.
She completed her school work through an at-home program, which didn’t impact her ability to be recruited by some of the biggest names.
“Zoe has been one of the very best players in her class for many years,” said UCLA head women’s golf coach Carrie Forsyth, in a statement announcing Campos’ signing on UCLABruins.com. “She has had an exceptional junior golf career … We are thrilled to have her join our roster and know that she will make an immediate impact.”
What stood out to Holen during their time together, he said, was her poise, which no doubt came from her dedication and practice, and her long drive.
“For her, there really is no ceiling,” Holen said. “That girl can play the game.”
As her former coach, Hollen said he’s stayed in contact with her through the years, not at all surprised as she continues to improve with a maturity beyond her years and a long drive to match.
“As long as she stays true to herself, and by that I mean don’t get caught up in the hype and glam of everything — just play the game for the love of it,” said Holen. “I see her definitely having a very lucrative career in the future.”
Campos’ training regimen changes from day to day depending on what she’s working on.
“Usually, the least amount of hours I practice (a day) is three and then the most I’ll do is six,” said Campos. “I know I can hit it far, but I’m pretty much a fairway hitter … I guess you would say ‘boring.’”
Whether it’s a predilection for shyness or just a humble nature, Campos’ opponents are unlikely to share that description for a game that’s been as successful as hers.
Campos was named to the Rolex Junior All-America First Team, and she had earned the ranking of sixth nationally in the Amateur Junior Golf Association rankings when the team was announced in October.
She also earned second at the Under Armour®/Alison Lee Championship, which happens to be named after another young, talented golfer who starred at the Valencia Country Club before going on to success at UCLA.
Coming back to win
In her first appearance at the national amateur tournament two years ago, she entered the competition ranked No. 102 in the World Amateur Golf Rankings. She would go on to win fifth place at the tournament and, at one point, she was atop the leaderboard.
The future Bruin is currently ranked 175 in the World Amateur Golf Ranking (out of 3,350 women currently ranked by WAGR from around the world), has had 11 top-10 finishes.
At her highest worldwide ranking, she reached No. 53, but after taking home first place at last January’s Major Champions Invitational in Phoenix — which split 72 junior golfers into teams of four, matching them up with one of 18 past Majors champions — Campos received the kind of boost in confidence needed to compete with some of the world’s best.
“Obviously, two years ago, I wasn’t expecting much (for the National Women’s Amateur tournament), I didn’t even think about winning,” said Campos, while working on her swing in an hourslong workout at Valencia Country Club. “But obviously this year, the expectations are higher, and I think I learned that I am one of the best.”