Slowly but surely, Michael Campbell is falling back in love with golf after quitting the game less than 10 years after becoming a major champion.
“I didn’t touch a golf club for 18 months when I retired in 2013,” said the Kiwi after the opening round of the Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Par 3 Championship at the Paul Lawrie Golf Centre on the outskirts of Aberdeen.
“It’s hard to believe it has been four years, but I’ve really enjoyed the break as it has given me the chance to reconnect with my boys who are 16 and 18 now.”
Campbell was flying high after beating Tiger Woods by two shots to win the 2005 US Open at Pinehurst, having finished third in the Open Championship at St Andrews a decade earlier.
He recorded 15 professional wins in total, including eight European Tour title triumphs, but has no regrets about a decision to step back from the front line and focus his energy on something else.
“I live in Marbella, where I have two golf academies which give me great satisfaction,” added the 48-year-old after carding a level-par 54 on the Devenick Course in the company of tournament host Paul Lawrie.
“I love being able to give back to the game by teaching the 43 kids I work with there. They play on second and third-tier tournaments around Europe and there are good professionals and young amateurs there.”
Campbell, who said “yes straight away” when asked by long-time friend Lawrie to compete in this week’s event, outscored his playing partner by two shots in testing conditions at the venue on the south banks of the River Dee.
“This is just the third time I’ve played this year,” reported Campbell, who trails Alastair Forsyth by five shots heading into the final 18 holes tomorrow. “I played in a pro-am in February then the British Par 3 a month ago, so I’m happy to be level-par here today.
“It’s a great set-up here. The golf centre is fantastic, Aberdeen is being showcased well and Paul and I had a really good conversation about our careers during our round.
“He is establishing companies and businesses like I am doing now with my academies and the aim is to hopefully be able to have them up and running so I can play on the Seniors Tour in two years’ time.
“The only difference between us is that Paul is still playing while I’m not. He’s a month older than me but I’ll see him on the Seniors Tour in 2019.”
Personable as ever, Campbell added: “I fell out of love with golf and going through a divorce didn’t help either. My left ankle was troubling me and a combination of that meant I didn’t love the job anymore.
“Packing it in was the best thing I’ve done, but I do miss competing against the best players in the world.
“It is great just to reconnect with Paul as it has been a long time since I’ve spoken to him. We had a great chat about our lives and what we’re planning for the future and we’re on the same pathway.
“He’s such a great player and I’ve always admired his achievements in winning The Open and playing in the Ryder Cup.”
Lawrie is currently struggling with a foot problem and is hoping the doctor who prolonged Jose Maria Olazabal’s career can do the same for him.
“I didn’t know he was having a problem with his feet and it’s a shame,” said Campbell. “I gave him my opinion, which is to go natural - diet, ginger and turmeric with pepper works wonders - but he is against that.”