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Interviews, analysis and highlights of Hotel Fitness Championship opening round

Ryan Blaum leads the Hotel Fitness Championship with a 8-under 64 at Sycamore Hills Golf Club, after the first round of the four-day tournament. Check out interviews, analysis and highlights. By Justin A. Cohn/The Journal Gazette

Samuel Hoffman | The Journal Gazette
Chad Campbell shared memories of playing the Kendallville Open before he made it on the PGA Tour.

Happy Kendallville memories

– Chad Campbell, 40, has been one of the best players on the PGA Tour since 2002. He’s won four tournaments, earned around $22 million, finished second at the Masters and been on the Ryder Cup team three times.

But mention Kendallville to him and not only will you bring him back in time, but you will also put a smile on his face.

“I remember it, oh yeah,” Campbell said Thursday, after the first round of the Hotel Fitness Championship at Sycamore Hills Golf Club, where he’s five strokes back of the leader, Ryan Blaum.

Before he was big time, Campbell was trying to make ends meet on the National Golf Association Hooters Tour, which was roughly a Double-A level of professional golf and had a tournament at Cobblestone Golf Course.

The Kendallville Classic ran 1999 to 2011 and featured a slew of golfers who went on to great things, including Campbell, future British Open champion Ben Curtis and future Masters winner Zach Johnson.

“(Cobblestone) was probably the best conditioned course we played all year. Everybody was so excited to get there. There was great support in the tournament,” said Campbell, who got one of his eight Hooters Tour victories in 2000 at Cobblestone.

“It was the only tournament on the tour where, and I think it was the top 10 guys, they got courtesy cars. (The sponsor, Shepherd’s Auto Group) owned a dealership there and they took care of us guys. It was a lot of fun going up there.”

Campbell shot a 3-under 69 at Sycamore Hills on Thursday. A whopping eight players were 6 under or better at the Jack Nicklaus-designed course. Last year at the Hotel Fitness Championship, Campbell tied for 55th at 6 under, which was 14 strokes back of the champion, Trevor Immelman.

And it happened not far from Kendallville, where he began to make a name for himself.

“I know everybody enjoyed it (in Kendallville),” he said. “We played a lot of not-so-good-conditioned golf courses on that tour and it was nice to get up there and see some good grass and some good greens. Everybody loved it.”

Notes: On Saturday, as part of Hometown Team Day, fans wearing logos of local professional teams – the Komets, Mad Ants or TinCaps – will receive a program at the gate. There will be an autograph session with mascots 12:30 to 2 p.m. near the putting green.