When Mike Campana was just 9 years old, he began golfing with his dad, Mike Sr. He couldn’t get enough of the sport.
“I kind of started young and my dad kept me in it and I got good, so I just started to like the game,” the Amherst senior said. “I just always was kind of attracted to it. I like that it’s more of an individual sport, and an individual sport means more than a team sport because it’s on you and you alone to make it happen.”
Campana wants to make a lot of things happen this season. He wants to repeat as the champion of the Southwestern Conference, he wants to make his fourth straight trip to districts and he wants to make it to state for the first time.
Amherst coach Aaron Millet wouldn’t bet against Campana doing any of those things. Millet, after all, knew Campana was something special the first day he showed up for tryouts as a freshman.
“I knew that from the first minute I saw him swing a club,” Millet said. “Here’s this kid, going up in front of these older kids at the tee, and he rips it right down the middle of the fairway. He’s good because he works his butt off at it.
“This is my seventh year at Amherst, and he’s, hands down, the best golfer I’ve had since I’ve been coach. Not knowing about the records in the past, but I can’t think of too many guys at Amherst that have been better than him. From winning conference championships and other tournaments and coming just two shots away from state, he’s been exceptional.”
Campana made it to districts that freshman season, qualifying as a member of the Comets team. His 81 wouldn’t have been low enough to make it on his own, but it was low enough to be the best score on a team that made it out.
The last two seasons, Campana qualified for districts as an individual. Last season’s berth capped off a huge year in which he won four tournaments, shot a 74 to win the SWC championship over a lot of talented Avon Lake golfers and missed making the cut to state by just two strokes.
“Missing by an eyelash was heartbreaking,” Campana said. “I hit 300 balls a day for six months, and to miss by one or two strokes, it’s tough. It definitely motivated me for this year.
“I’ve basically kept the same practice schedule, but with the experience of going to districts three straight years, it will help. The districts will be held at Red Hawk Run this year, and I think I’ll have a better chance because of my past experience and because I’m familiar with the course.”
Another reason Campana is aiming for state is because he wants to catch the eye of a college coach. He has one offer from a school in northern Miami, Johnson & Wales, but is hoping for more options.
“That’s where they all look and that’s where you need to be if you want to get noticed,” he said. “But just to say I was a high school state golfer my senior year and that I worked four years to get my scores low enough to do it would mean a lot to get that accreditation.”
Millet would also like to see Campana achieve another goal.
“He’s never been the conference MVP before, but the bottom line is, there’s really only one kid in the conference that’s in the same class as him,” Millet said. “I think Mike is clearly the best player in the conference and should be the MVP. I expect him to be the conference champion again and, most importantly, I know he wants to go to Columbus and play, and we want that for him as well.
“It would be a great way for him to cap off a fantastic career. It would be the pinnacle. That’s where you want to go. To take a kid to state and for Mike to personally accomplish that would be tremendous. From a program standpoint, it shows we’re not just rolling the balls out and hitting them.”
Last year Campana averaged 37 for nine holes and 75 for 18. He’s had a 35 and a 33 this year, plus 18-hole scores of 72, 75, 75 and 76, plus a 71 he shot at Eagle Creek to win the SWC Preview.
Campana has some solid numbers in the classroom, as well, sporting a 3.66 grade-point average. He credits time management as the key.
“I go to school in the morning, and get out at 12:30 because I only have three classes,” he said. “After that, I hit balls on my own before playing and practicing with the team. And, if I don’t have homework, I’ll go out and hit with my dad after that. That’s pretty much my day-to-day routine.”
Campana also credits his personal coach, Buddy Goodwin, the director of golf at FoxCreek Golf & Racquet Club.
“He’s brought my game to next level and to where I am today,” he said. “I’ve been learning how to shape shots and about course management. That’s really gotten me to where I am today.”
Millet would like nothing better than for Campana’s goals to come to fruition.
“The thing about Mike is he’s genuinely a good kid,” he said. “He’s just the type of kid that you root for. Whether you’re his coach or not, you root for him because he’s such a good kid. I don’t feel like I have to coach him a whole heck of a lot. He knows how to win. He’s been around long enough and knows what he’s doing. Not a whole lot rattles him out there, and that’s something you can’t teach.”
Contact Dan Gilles at 329-7135 or firstname.lastname@example.org.