Good to see you, Michael
Michael Campbell is making a comeback.
It won’t be in the open ranks against the likes of Dustin Johnson, Jordan Spieth, Rory McIlroy or Jason Day — unless something dramatic occurs.
Instead it will be the seniors’ tour for players aged at least 50.
Campbell confirmed his intention in a surprise visit to New Zealand last month.
He is already marking down the time to when he turns 50 in February of 2019. There were no maybes, no hopefuls. It was a case of will do.
Campbell has not played in recent years. He lost form and the difficulties that come with divorce proceedings were hardly the platform from which to get his game back on track.
Instead he has turned his hand to golf coaching. Campbell now operates a golf academy in Spain and said all was going well. He had recently increased his staff from six to eight.
He’s even learned to speak a little Spanish.
“Dos cervezas por favor,’’ Campbell offers as an example. The translation is no surprise. It means two beers, please.
Campbell returned to New Zealand mainly as a surprise guest for his father’s birthday in Wellington. But his presence in the country was quickly swooped on.
He ended up giving advice to the New Zealand’s Eisenhower team which happened to be in Wellington at the same time.
Campbell, of course, was part of New Zealand’s winning Eisenhower team in Canada in 1992 along with Grant Moorhead, Phil Tataurangi and Stephen Scahill.
And just to underline his seriousness about a return to golf he had a lesson. Yes, you read correctly.
Campbell, after spending time with the Eisenhower team at the Royal Wellington Golf Club, popped down the road to the driving range at Silverstream for a lesson with Matthew Lane.
Matthew will tell you Michael made the trip from Spain especially for the lesson and the fact that Michael’s father was having a birthday at the same time was merely coincidence.
But the two together rekindled memories of a golden era in New Zealand golf. Lane and Campbell are both New Zealand Open winners and were part of a streak of five successive wins by New Zealanders in our national open.
For the record they were Michael Long (1996), Greg Turner (1997), Lane (1998), Campbell (2000) and David Smail (2001). There was no tournament in 1999.
Earlier in Campbell’s day around Wellington he called into his old stomping ground of Manor Park Golf Sanctuary.
Campbell’s arrival was completely unannounced but he did not need to remove his reflective sunglasses to be recognised despite what he believed his first visit to the club for about 20 years and changes in personnel.
Club teaching pro Bruce Farmer immediately said “hello Michael,’’ as he offered a handshake.
The sunglasses were removed and the obligatory photos followed.
This is an occurrence Campbell is very well used to as could be gleaned from his advice: “No we need to face this way, face towards the light.’’
Then it was off to the club’s driving range to meet up with Lynnette Brooky and Gareth Paddison.
Brooky, a winner of two French Opens, is from a similiar era to Campbell and both started their golf in Titahi Bay, north of Wellington.
Paddison, like Campbell, played his amateur golf at Manor Park before turning professional. They were both coached by Mal Tongue.
Campbell’s career went into the strastophere in 2005. He won the US Open at Pinehurst No 2 when he defeated no less than Tiger Woods when he was at the peak of his career. A street parade in Wellington followed to celebrate the win.
It was just the second time a New Zealander had won a major, following Bob Charles’ win in the 1963 British Open.
A few months later Campbell won the World Matchplay Championship.
In the semi-final he thrashed Retief Goosen 7 and 6, which came as a surprise to some. Goosen had recorded an amazing 12 and 11 win in his previous match and most bets were on him to win the tournament. Campbell went on to beat Irishman Paul McGinley 2 and 1.
He was subsequently named European Tour player of the year and took out the supreme prize at the New Zealand Halberg sports awards.