I know almost nothing about golf, and the little I do know has come to
me mainly in the last 24 hours from reading reports about Michael
Campbell’s win at the US Open this week. I am still not clear on the
difference between a birdie and bogey, or whether a putt to par is
different from a par putt. But one thing is pretty clear, and it is
that my countryman has done something world class and made New
Zealanders enormously proud of him.

It’s not just the win that has swept people away, of course. It’s the
come-back, the fact that, after a brilliant start, Campbell’s golfing
career slumped and he has had to fight his way back from near oblivion
to carry off one of the most prized sporting cups in the world. And
this is the first thing I like about Michael Campbell: He persevered.

It is 13 years since he starred in New Zealand’s victory in the
international amateur showpiece, the Eisenhower Trophy, and was
instantly proclaimed ready to take on the world. His successes since
then include a third-equal placing in the 1995 British Open and beating
Tiger Woods in Johnnie Walker Classic in Taiwan back in 1999. But his
failures — “I’ve been injured, missing cuts, I’ve missed my European
Tour card and my Australian tour card back in 1998” — saw him
despondently considering a career change.

He said at a news conference this week that he may have been a little
greedy at the beginning, seeking to expose himself too much, and this
backfired on him — an admission that shows an attractive sort of
humility. In a similar spirit he has given his wife, Julie, a lot of
the credit for his staying in the game: “I’ve worked very, very hard
but my wife has been very supportive. She believed in me and got me
going again.”


Which leads me to the second thing I like about Cambo — his family. I
like the fact that he has a wife and not just a cohabiting partner;
that they have kids, Thomas and Jordan; that he was on the phone to his
mum, Maria, and dad, Tom, the night before the big game; that in his
hour of triumph he keeps talking about them all — and the uncle who
taught him to play golf, and the late, revered grandmother who gave him
the confidence to dream and aim high.

I’m a family man,” he told reporters, emphasising that’s the way it
would stay. “You ask anybody who is close to me — all I care about is
my family. Golf is always second in my life.” Fantastic, Michael. You
scored a hole in one for values there.

Yet Campbell’s loves don’t stop with his family and profession but
extend, importantly, to his Maori community. And this is the reason for
my third, and last, cheer for our new Kiwi legend.

He is very aware that if he has boosted the confidence of all Kiwis —
who, being a small nation hanging off the edge of the Pacific, tend to
need that sort of thing — that effect will be doubled or trebled for
Maori, who often have to struggle harder than most for the sort of
confidence Cambo’s grandmother gave him. His victory, as he has said,
“sends a message back home that if a little Maori boy from Titahi Bay
can do it, then I’m sure many kids from back home can do the same.”

Realistically, few New Zealand kids are going to become international
golfing stars. But what they can all learn from their latest hero are
the virtues that make him such a likeable winner: his perseverance,
hard work, humility, love of family and concern for the wider community
he belongs to. Thanks, Michael, for reminding us of the things that can
make us all winners in the game of life.

Carolyn Moynihan is deputy editor of MercatorNet