| Saturday, July 14, 2012 9:54 AM
If there is any athlete in New Zealand who should be held up as an example to young people of being true to yourself and following your heart, even when all hope looks lost, it has to be Michael Campbell.
Last week, the 43-year-old professional golfer recorded his best result in four years on the European Tour, finishing tied 11th at the Alston Open de France just outside Paris.
It's hardly "Comeback Player of the Year" material and there is still a lot of work to be done, but considering everything Campbell has been through, it was impossible not to be happy for him.
Here's a guy who as recently as two years ago had every reason to walk away from the game. Golf had given him a heck of lot, but at that time it must have been causing him, his family and friends a great deal of angst.
Campbell was a shell of the player who won the US Open and World Matchplay Championship in 2005. That same year he was fifth at the British Open and sixth at the US PGA Championship.
From that point the scoring numbers and earnings steadily declined year on year, reaching rock bottom in 2010 when he made the cut in just three of 20 tournaments, winning a minuscule 13,500, just over NZ$20,000 at the time.
The golf swing, once one of the most fluid and unerring in world golf, was all over the place, like a mad woman's hairdo.
The confident stride was replaced by the disheartened trudge of a man searching for a lost ball.
When spoken to by media, he appeared eternally stuck at the Pinehurst Resort No.2 course in North Carolina, site of his US Open triumph.
Some media even joked about how long it would take Campbell to reference his major golf victory, even when unprompted.
Michael Campbell has the personality and eloquence that would have seen him easily slide into any broadcast booth with immediate success. But rather than go down a route that others have followed, he stayed and worked.
And he worked and he worked.
Some weekends the work was better than others and you saw glimpses of the old Cambo trying to poke through the darkness in search of the sun.
In May this year, he began working with his old coach Jonathan Yarwood after three years apart.
Given the success they had together - 10 titles during 10 years together – you sense that the rekindling of that partnership will do wonders for Campbell's game.
Michael Campbell may never make it back into the top 100 golfers in the world.
Heck, he may never make it into the top 200 or even 300.
But when it comes to showing perseverance in the face of constant ridicule, personal belief during a seemingly endless fight with self-doubt, and the courage to follow one's heart, Michael Campbell is No1 in my book.
**As published in the Waikato times on Saturday July 14 2012**