Tip from taxi driver

SPORTING CHANCE - Joaquin M. Henson -

LONDON – The other night, my wife Menchu and I took a taxi to the home of our friends Jeremy and Myra Taylor in Ennismore Gardens where we were invited for dinner.

On the way, we introduced ourselves as Filipinos to the cab driver Ivor Obuchowski who volunteered the information that there’s a half-Filipino, half-Scottish teenager making a name for himself as a parbuster at the Hainault Forest Golf Club in Chigwell, Essex, 13 miles outside of the English capital.

Obuchowski claimed to be a scratch golfer and said he often plays with the kid at Hainault.

“He’s quite a golfer and for his age, he’s very competitive,” said Obuchowski. “Take my word for it, he’s going to be the next Tiger Woods.”

Obuchowski couldn’t remember the kid’s surname. 

“I know he’s half-Filipino and we call him Hugh,” said the driver. “Check him out in the internet and you’ll be surprised to know he’s the under-14 Southeast England champion.”

I took Obuchowski’s tip seriously. When we got back to our hotel, I immediately turned on my laptop to google Hainault. I found out that the club operates two 18-hole courses. The upper course is a par-70 laid out in 1908 with tight fairways and hilly surface. The lower course is a par 72 built in 1923 and was the site of the 2003 Essex amateur championships. Both courses were designed by five-time national open titlist J. H. Taylor.

In 2001, Hainault added a 22-bay driving range with an outfield extension of 280 yards. Four PGA pros, including Alan Walker, are available to teach the game at the club.

From the internet, I got the Hainault contact telephone number. The next morning, I phoned the club and spoke to Billy Surridge who answered the call. I asked if he knew about a half-Filipino kid who plays golf.

“Sure, I know him, everybody does,” said Surridge. “He’s Hugh Campbell. His mother is Filipina. He’s a three handicapper. The kid’s for real. He hits the long balls and putts extremely well. There isn’t a weak thing in his game. He’s a complete player and I predict he’s going to go far in golf.”

 It was Surridge who put me in touch with Campbell. I got his cell phone number and called late morning but there was no reply. Early that night, I received a voice message from Campbell’s mother returning the call. Hugh was in school when I phoned earlier.

 Before long, I was on the phone with Campbell and his mother Rosie Angelito of Bolinao, Pangasinan. 

I gathered that Hugh is the younger of two boys. Rosie’s other son Alexander, 24, is in Manila managing a call center. 

Hugh was born in Manila and attended Brent International School before relocating to Essex in 2002. He is now in Year 9 at Trinity High School. Four years ago, Hugh began to take golf seriously and enrolled in group clinics to improve his game. He was initially hooked to soccer but eventually gravitated towards golf. His mother used to play so she was a major influence.

Last year, Hugh came under the personal tutelage of PGA pro Bradley Smith who, his mother said, will likely be his manager. Hugh’s dream is to turn pro.

“It would be an honor to play for the Philippines if I’m allowed to,” said Hugh.who also plays at the West Essex Golf Club. “Right now, I hold only a British passport. But since my mother is Filipina and I was born in the Philippines. I should be eligible for a Filipino passport.”

Hugh, who stands 5-8, said his biggest win so far was capturing the Southeast England under-14 crown in Colchester last year. He shot four over par and won by seven strokes in the 26-hole, one-day tournament for 24 age group competitors.

Hugh’s mother said she picks him up from school before 4 p.m. Mondays to Fridays and brings him to Hainault for practice until 9 p.m. 

“He plays almost every day,” she went on. “On weekdays, he’s in school from 8:45 a.m. to 3:45 p.m. then I take him to the golf course. On Saturdays, he plays from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday is his rest day but sometimes, he plays, too.”

As it turned out, the taxi driver’s tip was a sure thing.

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