Rafael Campos had a rough 2022 on the Korn Ferry Tour. Like, really rough. In 20 starts, he made just five cuts. In 48 rounds, he broke 70 just 10 times. He battled injuries and self-doubt, and he was carrying more weight on his 5-foot-10 frame than he would have liked. He made less than $26,000.
“I just had enough, to tell you the truth,” Campos said. “I really did.”
Something needed to change.
Everything needed to change.
With a dismal season in his rearview mirror, Campos set out to reinvent himself, beginning with the team around him. New manager. New trainer. New nutritionist. Even a new chiropractor. His primary goal was injury prevention. That began with exercise and an improved diet, which quickly resulted in weight loss.
Lots of it. Ten pounds. Then 20. Then 30. Then more still.
Since Campos committed to his new lifestyle just five months ago, he has lost roughly 45 pounds, he said. His play in 2023 has showed positive signs, too, with two made-cuts in four KFT starts, including a T12, and also a T48 finish on the PGA Tour, in his native Puerto Rico, earlier this month.
“I’m just really upset sometimes when I think about it that I waited so long to make this type of change,” Campos said this week from his second PGA Tour start of the year, at the Corales Puntacana Championship, in the Dominican Republic.
So why now, he was asked. What motivated him to finally get in shape? Had anyone inspired him?
Yes, Campos said, someone had.
“I do remember Rory, an interview he had,” Campos began, speaking of Rory McIlroy. “Rory was never fat like me, but he was chubbier, and I do remember an interview, I still go back to it, I want to say it was, like, a good 13 years ago. One reporter basically asked him like, hey, how did you get in shape so quick or why did he do it. He was like, man, my lower back was really bothering me and if I want to play golf until I’m 60 or something like that, I have to get in shape. I do remember that and I still remember that kind of triggered me saying like, OK, this is one of the top players in the world and he’s doing something about it, just because he knows we have to use our body to play and to be able to work. I think that definitely helped.”
It’s hard to overstate Campos’ transformation. When Mark Williams, a longtime media-relations staffer for the Tour, first saw Campos on site this week in Puntacana, he didn’t recognize him. Williams wasn’t alone. “A lot of guys would just walk right across, right in front of me and then realize, oh, wait, that’s Rafa, what’s going on?” Campos said.
Which is exactly what Campos was hopeful would happen when he started shedding pounds.
“My wife five months ago, she’s like, hey, you should post like on Instagram and Facebook so people can see that you’re really working hard,” he said. “I’m like, no, honey, I just want to see the reactions.”
Even golf’s Adonis, Camillo Villegas, has been impressed by his friend’s makeover. When Campos spent a couple of weeks at Villegas’ home in the Bahamas in January, the host was impressed by Campos’ dedication: the 5 a.m. gym sessions, the healthy snacks. “It’s pretty cool to see the reaction of the other guys,” Campos said. “But it’s also a motivator. It really kind of lets me know I was in pretty bad shape or lets me know that, man, you’re working hard and people are seeing it.”
Campos’ next goal: get back to the PGA Tour, and stay there. His only full season on Tour came in 2020-21 when he made seven cuts in 25 starts and earned $565,186 on the back of a runner-up finish at Puntacana, where he’s back in the field this week.
Might he contend again? Don’t count him out. And if not this week, another week soon, Campos said.
“I just feel great, I really do,” he said. “I think all the hard work I’ve put in the last five months will give me results. I don’t know when, but I know they will.”
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