A Star Himself

Jorge Campillo was the Big Ten Golfer of the Year last year.

Jorge Campillo was the Big Ten Golfer of the Year last year.

Nov. 6, 2008

By Larry Watts
Contributor, BigTen.org

Jorge Campillo had to take a moment to think when he heard the question. Both of his options happened at the final round of this fall's Windon Memorial, a top-tier men's collegiate golf event hosted each fall by Northwestern University.

Which was his biggest thrill, shooting a 63 or meeting Luke Donald?

"I don't know, they were both pretty exciting moments," the Indiana University senior said. "But if you're going to push me on it, I am more proud of that 63."

Maybe the Caceres, Spain native knows chances are he will run into Donald, a Northwestern golfing legend and current member of the PGA Tour, again, like real soon. But a round of 63 doesn't come around every day, especially at the prestigious North Shore Country Club, which is nestled in Chicago's northern suburb of Glenview. The course hosted the 1933 U.S. Open and 1939 U.S. Amateur and the likes of Gene Sarazen, Walter Hagen, Tommy Armour and Bobby Jones have strolled the fairways.

But when Campillo stepped up to the tee box for the final round, the last thing on his mind was the tradition of the course. Locked in a tie for ninth and trailing the leader by seven strokes, the defending NCAA runner-up was fighting for survival.

What followed next was a "special round," according to Indiana head coach Mike Mayer. "He hit a great approach to the first green and got a birdie. He missed a short putt for par on the second hole, but then he was off."

Nine birdies later, including back-to-back-to-back birdies on holes 12 through 14, Campillo not only erased the seven-stroke deficit but also had secured medalist honors by two strokes over Kent State's John Hahn. For the tournament, Campillo's three-round total of 205 included 18 birdies, five more than anyone else.

"That was like the third time Hahn has finished second to me," Campillo says. "He came up to me afterward and said, 'I just can't beat you!"'

"I was with him every step of the way (on the third round)," Mayer says. "As a coach, he's easy to gravitate to. There was no grinding at all, everything just flowed for him."

 

 

"I was like 5 or 6-under through the first nine, but I usually have trouble finishing," Campillo added. "I played very well over the next nine; I wasn't even thinking about my score."

But the 63 and individual title didn't end Campillo's thrills for the day. Donald, still an avid supporter of the Northwestern golf program, was out on the putting green. He has been one of Campillo's golfing idols for a few years.

"Jorge was just star-struck when he saw Luke and his mouth dropped wide open," Mayer says with a laugh. "I literally had to take him by the hand and drag him over to meet Luke. He was too embarrassed, but I told him, 'You have nothing to be embarrassed about, you just shot a 63!"'

"I was pretty shy about meeting Luke," says Campillo, who remembers once getting a cap autographed by Donald back in 2004. "We talked for a couple of minutes. He's a very nice guy and he's a bit shy also."

Like Donald, Campillo won the Big Ten's "triple crown" last spring. He was the Big Ten golfer of the year, winner of the Les Bolstad Award (lowest Big Ten average) and the medalist at the conference tournament.

Next spring, Campillo, a three-time All-Big Ten first team honoree, could match Jeff Overton, who is currently on the PGA Tour, as the only Indiana University golfers to twice be named Big Ten player of the year. Campillo's career average of 72.41 is second only to Overton's 71.71 in Hoosier history.

"I hope to see them both out there representing Indiana University and making millions," Mayer says. "Overton shot lower numbers, but as an overall golfer, I'd have to go with Jorge. I told Jeff when he came back here he'd be our No. 2 golfer now. I don't think he liked that, but he understood the humor."

Following his big comeback at North Shore Country Club, there hasn't been much time for Campillo, who is majoring in business management, to catch up to his studies. He spent 15 days in Australia representing Spain in the World Amateur Team Championship and, three days after returning to Bloomington, it was off to Windermere, Fla. for the Isleworth UCF Collegiate, where he tied teammate Alex Martin for runner-up honors.

"I think I'm a little behind in one or two of my classes right now, but it's not too bad," he says. "I'll be 11 credits short of graduation next spring, so I'll be back during the summer to finish up and probably go to Q-School at the same time. I promised my parents I would get that degree, but I am anxious to try a professional career."

Campillo, who started playing golf at the age of 3, came to the United States because "my parents told me if I wanted to have a good life, this was the best place for me. And it's also given me a chance to play with the best players possible."

"I think Jorge will follow in the footsteps of Seve Ballesteros and Sergio Garcia and become the next great Spanish golfer," Mayer says. "He has all the tools, both mentally and physically. What he does better than anything else is he doesn't make big mistakes. He's going to be great!"

Should Campillo eventually make it to the point where he is walking down that 18th fairway at Augusta National, whom would he like to have in his foursome?

"Seve Ballesteros, Sergio Garcia and Tiger Woods, but I wouldn't mind having Luke Donald there as well," he says with a laugh. "Seve was my idol as a youngster. Sergio is the best golfer in Spain now and Tiger is the best there is."

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