BUFFALO GAP — When fellow golfers step to the tee box, it’s safe to assume not many are intimidated when they get their first look at Buffalo Gap’s Campbell Thompson.
The 5-foot-5, 108-pound sophomore may be imposing to, say, a third-grader, but many of Thompson’s high-school competitors tower over her.
But let her rip the ball 250 yards down the fairway and those same boys that weren’t intimidated before she hit probably change their minds.
On the other side, ask Thompson if she’s intimidated playing against mostly boys and she just laughs.
“No,” she said. “When I was younger I played baseball with all the boys. I was probably one of two girls in the league. I probably struck out most of the boys that play on my dad’s team now.”
Her dad, Chris Thompson, is both the baseball and golf coach at Gap.
H.S. Golf: Girls going toe-to-toe on links with boys
“Trust me,” he said. “She made lots of boys cry when she struck them out.”
It was dad who got Thompson started playing golf. He took her to the course when she was 3, starting her 100 yards from the green and gradually backing her up until she was hitting from the women’s tees.
Early on, he didn’t worry about her grip or many of the other fundamentals. As long as his daughter was having fun, he figured that was enough.
In the years since, Thompson has given up playing baseball — her dad said that broke his heart — but has kept playing golf.
Now, as a 15-year-old, Thompson is the top golfer on the Buffalo Gap team and finished third in the Shenandoah District, behind East Rockingham’s Jacob Laughlin and Riverheads’ Weston Snyder. Thompson was 15½ strokes ahead of the fourth-place finisher.
In early August she shot her career low, a 72, at Harrisonburg’s Heritage Oaks, winning that Shenandoah District mini-tournament. She also broke 80 two other times and never shot above 81 in the five district minis.
Thompson was sick on the day she carded her 72, battling an ailing stomach around the course. The first time she smiled all day was at the 16th hole.
“All the coaches are real nice to me,” Thompson said when asked how she made it through. “I guess that’s one of the perks of being one of the only girls. They were giving me drinks and snacks and all of that.”
Thompson also had her putter working that day.
“I was sinking putts from like 20 feet (out),” she said. “A bunch of them.”
Next up for Thompson, after some nine-hole matches as a bridge to the postseason, is the Conference 36 tournament at Spotswood Country Club on Aug. 29. Then she’ll compete in the Group 2A East regional tournament at her favorite course, and the one where she shot 72, Heritage Oaks.
As for the state tournament this year, a lot depends on how the Bison do as a team. If Buffalo Gap advances to the states, Thompson will have a chance to compete individually in both the Virginia High School League’s boys’ and girls’ tournaments.
However, if the Bison don’t get that far, and Thompson qualifies as an individual, she’ll have to choose between the boys’ and girls’ tournaments.
Last year, as a 14-year-old, she played in both tournaments. If she had to choose this year, she might decide to play in the girls’ field.
“She’s always loved playing with the boys, don’t get me wrong,” said her dad. “But I think she understands the girls’ state tournament there are more college coaches there.”
What both dad and daughter realized last year playing against some of the top girl golfers in the state was that, while she could drive with them, her second shots were considerably shorter. That is something she’s improved.
And with two years left, golf is definitely the path Campbell would like to follow to college. She also plays, and loves, basketball, but she’s passionate about golf.
Said her dad, “I think we’re on the right track with this golf thing.”