Am Tour: With ailing dad on bag, Campbell reels in a title

By Brandon TuckerSeptember 17, 2016, 2:09 am

PALM HARBOR, Fla. -- When the competition heats up on the golf course, Cory Campbell and his father/caddie Kevin get into a mindset.

"Grind every shot, every hole," said Kevin.

"Reel 'em in."

So when Cory, 14, playing in the final group in the final round of the Snead flight in the Golf Channel Amateur Tour, made birdie on the 10th hole, he looked to his father and made the motion with his hands of a fisherman reeling in line.

A back-nine 38 on the North Course at Innisbrook Resort in front of his cheering family, including his mother, Mindy, vaulted Cory from as many as eight shots down on the front nine into a national champion.

For the Campbells, from Westminster, Maryland, the Am Tour National Championship was the backdrop for a family reunion. It was a chance not just to watch Cory, but to also be with Kevin, who was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, sometimes known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, in June. Kevin, who lost his mother to the disease, continued to compete on the Am Tour this summer, and is a multiple major champion on the tour himself. But he put the clubs down in order walk all four rounds as Cory's caddie. Down the stretch, Kevin looked on as Cory hit clutch shot after clutch shot on the narrow finishing holes.

Cory was in position thanks to what he describes as "the round of my life," a third-round 84 on Fox Hollow Golf Club, following opening rounds of 103 and 91. The 84 vaulted him up the standings into the final group with Po Lehman and Ralph Justiz. The secret for the low round may have been a seed planted by his father the night before.

When looking at the course details, they realized it was designed by the same architect, Robert Trent Jones Jr., who designed a course on which Cory had won a local event earlier in the year by a large margin. They brimmed with confidence as they plotted a game plan.

"We stuck to the script and he was on," said Kevin. "Good putting and everything."

Entering the final round, Cory was trailing Justiz by three shots. He trailed by as much as eight shots through the eighth hole. But Justiz struggled on the ninth, and Cory's birdie on the 10th put him squarely in the mix, and he ultimately prevailed by five shots.

Cory's resilience doesn't seem all that surprising considering his father's current display of courage and the fact his own health has had its ups and downs as well in 2016: a broken wrist playing football kept him in a cast and out of golf until early June.

But he stayed on the grind, managing a third-place finish at New York's Turning Stone Resort major championship in late July. Kevin, a former area director for the tour in Baltimore and multiple major champion, including last year's Tour Championship at Landsdowne Resort, credits the "reel 'em in" phrase he and his son use to good friend and past Am Tour national champion Jeff Couch.

Cory picked up the game swinging sawed-down clubs in his grandfather's yard and playing with the family on vacations. After a few years on an area Baltimore junior tour, Kevin decided Cory was ready to join Dad on the Golf Channel Am Tour. The Snead flight, handicaps 20 and above, is normally a stomping ground for middle-agers getting a late start in the game, but the 2016 Nationals brought a handful of teenagers with a growing itch for competition into the mix.

This summer, Kevin admits Cory, who made the high school golf team this fall as a freshman, has beaten him two out of their last three outings. He proudly declared Cory's nationals win as "a passing of the torch."

The Campbells are rolling deep this week at Innsibrook, with extended family coming down from Pennsylvania and Kentucky, as well as the Tampa area for a family reunion of sorts. They're all staying close by and will stay through the weekend to celebrate Cory and Kevin's breakthrough win.

"I wanted to play well when they were watching," said Cory. "I was a little nervous, hoping I wouldn't blow it."

But with help from his father's game plan and an insistence that Cory continue to play aggressively with the mindset they were still reeling 'em in, a jubilant family cheered them on, and on the 18th green, with little doubt Cory had put the field away, his father gave him a big hug.

"I couldn't have done it without him," Cory said. 

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Landry turns close calls into maiden win at Valero

By Will GrayApril 22, 2018, 11:15 pm

After years of close calls and near-misses, Andrew Landry now has a signature victory.

Sharing the lead with Zach Johnson through 54 holes, the 30-year-old was hardly considered a favorite heading into the final round of the Valero Texas Open. He certainly lacked the pedigree of a two-time major champion, and the other player in the day's final group, Trey Mullinax, had just set a new course record at TPC San Antonio the day prior.

But thanks in part to the lessons he learned from close-but-not-quite finishes in the past, Landry got over the finish line in convincing fashion.

"I was playing some good golf, and I knew that I was going to be in good shape this week," Landry told reporters. "We just came out and had some fun, and that was kind of the strategy this week is just have some fun and be patient, because this golf course can bite you in a hurry."

Landry didn't grow up at a country club like many of his PGA Tour peers. He described the rugged nine-hole course where he learned the game in Port Groves, Texas, affectionately known as the "Pea Patch," as a "goat ranch." But he displayed plenty of game there, and was a three-time All-American at Arkansas.

It was during his time in Fayetteville that Landry had his first brush with near-greatness. Pitted against Texas A&M's Bronson Burgoon in a match that would decide the 2009 NCAA title, Landry rallied back from a 4-down deficit to square the match heading to the final hole. But he could only watch as Burgoon stuffed his final approach, sealing a memorable win for the Aggies.

The feelings were similar in January, when Landry believed he had played well enough to earn his maiden victory at the CareerBuilder Challenge. But that week in Palm Springs he ran into a buzzsaw named Jon Rahm, who finally ended things with a birdie on the fourth extra hole to break Landry's heart as darkness crept over the Coachella Valley.

"We're all here for reasons, because we worked really hard and we're really good at what we do," Landry said. "I think that all of those kinds of things really help every player, whenever you get in a situation and you fail and you continue to fail, you're learning every single time that you do something."

Then there was the 2016 U.S. Open, which to date remains Landry's only start in a major. His opening-round 66 at Oakmont sent reporters shuffling through their media guides to learn more about the unheralded leader. He earned a spot in Sunday's final pairing alongside Shane Lowry, but tied for 15th after a final-round 78. Another lesson.

Full-field scores from the Valero Texas Open

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According to Landry, his brush with major glory taught him to focus on pace: with his swing, with his stride and with his breathing. Faced with another opportunity Sunday, this time in his home state with plenty of family support, Landry didn't blink.

He birdied the opening hole, then the next, and the next. Birdies on four of his first six holes proved to be all the margin he needed, as he played the remaining holes in even par but still finished two shots clear of Trey Mullinax and Sean O'Hair.

"I mean, whenever I play good golf, I think I can win out here," Landry said. "Obviously I just showed that, so it's fun that I'm in this situation right now."

Following his playoff loss to Rahm, Landry missed four straight cuts. He then took a break as his wife gave birth to the couple's first child, Brooks, last month. He didn't get back to work until last week at the RBC Heritage, where he tied for 42nd after playing his final nine holes in 4 over to tumble out of contention.

This time around, his wife and newborn son were both on hand to watch as he finished the job, making only one bogey over his final 36 holes while playing in the final group both days.

"Andrew played great, specifically the start, and yesterday was obviously very solid, too," Johnson said. "You have a worthy champion, clearly."

Despite his stunning performance at Oakmont, Landry wasn't able to keep his card in 2016 and spent last year back on the Tour. He quickly earned a promotion back to the big leagues and after a breakthrough performance in San Antonio, he's exempt through 2020.

That stat of one career major start will soon triple, as he's exempt into both the 2018 PGA Championship and 2019 Masters. He's also got spots in The Players, WGC-Bridgestone Invitational and Sentry Tournament of Champions. It's an impressive haul for a player who can now point to a trophy instead of a string of close calls.

"It just shows that it doesn't really matter where you come from, it just matters the determination and hard work," Landry said. "Anything that you put your mind to, you can accomplish."

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Niemann finishes sixth at Valero in pro debut

By Will GrayApril 22, 2018, 10:40 pm

Joaquin Niemann wasted little time in making his mark as a professional.

Having turned pro this week at the Valero Texas Open, the former top-ranked amateur made the most of a sponsor invite by closing with rounds of 67-67 over the weekend at TPC San Antonio, including birdies on each of his final three holes during the final round. At 12 under, he finished the week alone in sixth place, five shots behind Andrew Landry, and took home a check of $223,200 in his pro debut.

"I mean, I was playing good. I never thought I was going to finish how I played this week, but I can't be more happy than this," Niemann told reporters. "Just try to keep it up and hope to play well for the next weeks."

The 19-year-old Chilean had plans to turn pro earlier this year, but then he won the Latin American Amateur which brought with it a spot in the Masters as long as he remained an amateur. But now he's off to a fast start on the play-for-pay scene, having finished the week ahead of noted veterans like Ryan Moore, Billy Horschel and Brandt Snedeker.

Only days into a blossoming pro career, Niemann is hardly short on confidence.

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"I feel like a veteran right now, I feel like a Tour player now," Niemann said. "I know I can beat these guys, and just going to wait for my week and try to win."

In addition to the six-figure check, Niemann also earned 100 non-member FedExCup points which will help in his quest to earn status for the 2018-19 season. He needs at least 269 non-member points to unlock special temporary membership, which would allow him to accept unlimited sponsor invites for the rest of the season.

At worst, his current point total likely guarantees him a spot in the Tour Finals this fall where he can vie for a PGA Tour card. Niemann has sponsor invites lined up for the Wells Fargo Championship, AT&T Byron Nelson and Memorial Tournament, but thanks to his top-10 finish in San Antonio he won't have to use the second of his allotted seven invites at Quail Hollow in two weeks.

"I think this is going to give me a lot of confidence to try to do my card for this year," Niemann said. "Thing is I've got a couple more tournaments coming, and I just can't wait for it."

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Landry prevails in Texas for first Tour win

By Associated PressApril 22, 2018, 10:39 pm

SAN ANTONIO - Andrew Landry won the Valero Texas Open on Sunday for his first PGA Tour victory, pulling away with early birdies and holding on with par saves.

The 30-year-old Texan parred the final seven holes for a 4-under 68 and a two-stroke victory over Trey Mullinax and Sean O'Hair. Landry finished at 17-under 271 at TPC San Antonio.

Landry took a two-stroke lead to the par-5 18th after Mullinax chunked a flop shot and bogeyed the short par-4 17th. Landry hit a 55-foot putt over a ridge to 3 feet for par on 17 and made an 8-footer on 18 after running a 50-foot downhill birdie try past.

Full-field scores from the Valero Texas Open

Valero Texas Open: Articles, photos and videos

Mullinax closed with a 69 a day after breaking the AT&T Oaks Course record with a 62. O'Hair shot 66.

Tied for the third-round lead with Zach Johnson, Landry birdied the first three holes and added two more on Nos. 6 and 10. He bogeyed the par-4 11th before the closing par run.

Landry won in his 32nd PGA Tour start. He earned his Tour card last year on the Tour, and lost a playoff to Jon Rahm in January in the CareerBuilder Challenge.

Landry played at Arkansas after starring at Port Neches-Groves High School east of Houston. He now lives in the Austin area.

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Watch: 'Statue' hilariously scares celebs at Jeter's event

By Grill Room TeamApril 22, 2018, 10:05 pm

The Derek Jeter Celebrity Invitational usually provides the golf world a highlight or two; it's no surprise with that much star power gathered in Las Vegas.

But this year's best moment came at the expense of the celebrities themselves, courtesy of a “statue.”

The Players Tribune captured the living statue scaring everyone who decided to pose for a picture near it, including former pro athletes Ray Allen and Ed Reed, news anchor Leeann Tweeden, anti-bullying advocate Paige Spiranac and even Jeter himself.

The DJCI benefits the Miami Marlins CEO's Turn 2 Foundation, which works to help young people reach their full potential by creating and supporting initiatives that promote leadership development, academic achievement, positive behavior, healthy lifestyles and social change.