New Zealanders Riveted by Campbells Win

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WELLINGTON, New Zealand -- Prime Minister Helen Clark joined a national celebration Monday of New Zealander Michael Campbell's two-stroke victory at the U.S. Golf Open.
 
Clark's Cabinet, the decision-making body of New Zealand's parliamentary government, delayed its weekly meeting to join many of this country's four million residents in watching the last holes of the tournament.
 
'His win is a triumph of immense skill, determination and perseverance, along with great modesty and humility,' Clark said. 'It is one of New Zealand's greatest sporting achievements and his place as one of New Zealand's sporting greats is cemented.'
 
Campbell's win was the first in a major championship by a New Zealander since left-hander Bob Charles won the 1963 British Open.
 
Clark said the triumph was the crowning moment of Campbell's career.
 
'We have watched his highs, and we have watched him in more troubled times. Nobody deserves such an immense victory more than Michael,' she said. 'All New Zealand will join with me in sending our congratulations to Michael, and to his family. He has done his family, his community and New Zealand proud.'
 
The government ministers returned to business after watching Campbell receive his trophy.
 
It was shortly before 10.45 a.m. New Zealand time when Campbell sank the putt that clinched his two-shot victory. Work in factories, shops and offices around New Zealand ceased as staff gathered around television sets to watch the crucial final holes.
 
More than 50 of the 300 members of the nine-hole Titahi Bay Golf Club -- where Campbell was introduced to golf by his father, Tom Campbell, at the age of 10 -- gathered from 7.30 a.m. to follow progress of the final round.
 
Campbell's parents, Tom and Maria, were among those who crowded the tiny clubrooms in this downscale suburb 15 kilometers (9 miles) north of the capital Wellington to sip champagne and cheer on their son.
 
'This is an event he's ... been dreaming about since he was young so I'm glad he's been able to fulfill that dream,' Tom Campbell told National Radio.
 
'The way Michael has been playing I couldn't see anyone catching up to him. He played really well over the whole three days previously -- so there was no reason for him to buckle.
 
'He is a confidence person ... that's the type of player he is. He's been down a couple of times but he has the fortitude to come back again.'
 
The Titahi Bay golf club opened its kitchens to serve a champagne breakfast.
 
'A few drifted off to work but they came back,' said club member Liz Pokia.
 
Campbell holds the course record at the club and holds life membership, as does his father.
 
'We're the cheapest club in town,' said Pokia of the Titahi Bay club, which charges 300 New Zealand dollars ($215) for full membership.
 
'Everywhere you look around here it's Michael Campbell,' Pokia said. 'He won all the junior championships, he won the hole in one trophy, he holds the course record, he won the club championship.
 
'All over the walls there are photographs of him. He still sponsors the club. He pays for junior tournaments and coaching programs. He's a ... big part of club life.'
 
The New Zealand state betting agency, the Totalisator Agency Board, had little faith in Campbell's Open chances, reportedly starting him at pre-tournament odds of 150-1.
 
Tom Campbell regretted he didn't bet on his son.
 
'I could have got him at 150 [to one] ... A couple of mates of mine got him at that,' he said, laughing.
 
In golf, New Zealanders have taken vicarious pleasure in recent years at Tiger Woods' success because New Zealand-born caddie Steve Williams has been working with Tiger. Williams was among the first to hug Campbell after his fellow Kiwi secured the title.
 
Related links:
  • Leaderboard - 105th U.S. Open
  • Full Coverage - 105th U.S. Open

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