New Zealand Golf Hall of Fame member Michael Campbell has won 15 international titles and captivated a global audience in 2005 when he defeated World No.1 Tiger Woods in the peak of his career to claim the US Open Championship at Pinehurst.
The 43-year-old from Titahi Bay in Wellington, who has failed to reach the incredible heights of his career in 2005 in recent years, has now set his sights on competing at the Rio Olympics in 2016.
The eight-time European Tour champion was an honoured guest at the International Golf Federation Golf Day at Sunningdale in England, to mark the start of a new Olympic four-year-cycle which will see golf restored to the roster of Olympic sports in 2016.
At his best Campbell has always been a world-beater. He is inspired to add an Olympic gold medal to his trophy room that he calls “my ego room” which includes replicas of the Eisenhower, New Zealand Open and US Open trophies.
“How good must it feel to have that gold medal dangling around your neck?” he asked rhetorically as he provided golfing tips for the IGF’s invited guests.
“I’ve been lucky enough to lift the US Open trophy and to experience that unbelievable feeling of winning a Major Championship, but I can already sense in the locker rooms around the world that a lot of people are going to be desperate to claim the first gold medal in golf in over a hundred years. It’s going to be fantastic.”
Campbell, only the second New Zealand golfer after Sir Bob Charles to win a Major, was a special guest at Sunningdale with Olympic officials and R&A Chief Executive Peter Dawson, who is also the IGF President.
European Tour Chief Executive George O’Grady and Antony Scanlon, the Australian who was appointed Executive Director of the IGF to oversee the delivery of golf in the 2016 Games were also in company.
The IGF’s role, who has designed how golf will be staged at the Olympics, is to promote golf as an Olympic sport and, with the sanction of the International Olympic Committee, to act as the Federation for golf in the Olympic Games going forward into future Olympiads.
Campbell said on the European Tour site: “For the past three weeks I’ve had square eyes from watching the London Olympics and, without doubt, it’s been one of the greatest sporting spectacles I’ve witnessed.
“We’ve seen the incredible passion for every conceivable sport during the Games – from the competitors to the spectators – and the energy and enthusiasm for the Olympics has had an effect on so many people.
“If this passion can be transmitted to golf in 2016 then it has to be great for our sport. The London slogan was ‘Inspire a Generation’ and I am sure that the Games will have a lasting legacy in the UK.
“That’s what we have to aspire to in the build-up to Rio and beyond. Right now, countries that currently don’t have a great golfing heritage will be thinking about how they are going to improve and get on the plane to Brazil.
“We want to inspire kids to play golf and to spread the word and the Olympics can do that. This has the capacity to bring golf to a new audience in 2016 and to leave behind a lasting legacy for Brazil and the game in general.”
Campbell, who will be 47 at the Rio 2016 Games, still holds the desire to compete.
“Look at what the tennis gold meant to Andy Murray. I speak to other golfers at tournaments and I can sense the enthusiasm for Rio. "Whoever wins the men’s and women’s gold medals will go into the history books. After the spectacle we’ve just witnessed in London, I for one can’t wait!”
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