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Last Updated: Monday, 20 June, 2005, 05:27 GMT 06:27 UK
Hard graft pays off for Campbell
Michael Campbell
US Open champion Michael Campbell says he almost gave up golf in 1998 and was not even going to play at Pinehurst.

On Sunday, the 36-year-old became the first New Zealander to win a major title since Bob Charles won the Open Championship 42 years ago.

Campbell said: "I can't believe I'm holding this trophy. I almost gave up seven years ago after I lost my card.

"And I wasn't going to play this week but I went through qualifying at Walton Heath and just scraped through."

Campbell began the final day four shots behind leader Retief Goosen, who crumbled to an 81 and finished in a share of 11th.

Tiger Woods also threatened with a closing round of 69, but Campbell matched that to win by two shots, becoming the first player for seven years to come from behind to win the title.

New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark described Campbell's win as one of the country's "greatest sporting achievements".

"His win is a triumph of immense skill, determination and perseverance, along with great modesty and humility," added Clark.

"His place as one of New Zealand's sporting greats is cemented."

Clark's cabinet joined many of New Zealand's four million residents in watching Campbell achieve his dream.

MICHAEL CAMPBELL FACTFILE
Born: Hawera, NZ, 23/02/69
1993: Turns pro
1995: Runner-up in Open, fifth on Euro PGA Tour money list
1997: Loses European and Australasian Tour cards
2001-2003: Wins six European Tour titles
2005: Misses first six cuts of European Tour season

And Campbell's parents, Tom and Maria, joined other members of the nine-hole Titahi Bay Golf Club, where Campbell was introduced to golf, to cheer their son on.

"This is an event he's been dreaming about since he was young and I'm so glad he's been abel to fulfill that dream," said Tom Campbell.

Campbell, from Hawera, just outside the New Zealand capital Wellington, has had a rollercoaster career.

He led the Open after 54 holes at St Andrews in 1995 before finishing behind America's John Daly.

After that sensational rookie year he was hit by a wrist injury and a slump in form and lost his European and Australasian Tour cards in 1997.

He received a few invitations to play on both tours the following year and was able to regain his playing privileges.

Campbell has won six tournaments on the European Tour since 1999 but missed his first five cuts this season.

"The self-belief and the patience over the last 10 years have really paid dividends but it's been quite a journey.

To be in the same circle, the same sentence, as Bob Charles is an honour for me
US Open champion Michael Campbell

"Back in '98 I was going to throw the game away and sell golf balls. I remember throwing my golf bag across a hotel room and thinking to myself: 'It's all over.'

"To be in the same circle, the same sentence, as Bob Charles is an honour for me. I'm very, very pleased."

"This win is going to break down all the barriers back home. It's going to be a great thing for the game of golf back home, especially for the Maori people.

"I think for the first time today I actually made the front page of the newspapers with the All Blacks."

Campbell earned $1.17m (641,870) for his victory as well as five-year exemptions for the other three majors.


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