I've had the great fortune to meet a lot of extraordinary people over the years, but I've never met anyone like Michael Campbell. And no, I don't mean the former U.S. Open champion from New Zealand. I'm talking about a 10-year U.S. Marine veteran who, when in Fallujah in 2003, sustained a TBI (Traumatic Brain Injury) from an IED that killed most of his brothers-in-arms. Michael walked inside the ropes with me at the Colonial Invitational last May.
Due to my own mostly self-inflicted TBI, I don't recall how it happened. Michael just kind of showed up at the TV compound, a cheerful 28-year-old who announced that he was going to be spending the day with me, and that he wanted to turn pro. But when he told me he was a Marine, I was instantly fine with it. He didn't look injured, but I didn't care. Any member of the military can walk with me, any time, anywhere, as long as it's okay with the organizers and now that I think of it, even if it's not.
When Michael asked me again 20 minutes later what my name was, then shook hands with me and told me that he was a Marine and that he was going to be spending the day with me, my razor-sharp intuition told me that this boy's bowl might be full, but his goldfish had clearly jumped out. I was intrigued, and as I got him set up with some radio equipment, I asked him a few questions. As I recall, the conversation went something like:
"Where are you from, Michael?"
"From around here."
"Were you injured in combat?"
"Well, kind of..."
"I'm sorry, uh, kind of?"
To which Michael said, "I'm sorry, what was your name again? Can I take a picture of us together? I only have two minutes of short-term memory, so I like to have a face to go with a name, and something I can write on."
Okaaaaaay, I thought. This ought to be interesting. You see, I am a magnet for mental cases, and I don't mean that in a negative way. My own ongoing struggle with mental health seems to give me a greater appreciation for and understanding of people who have these issues. For some reason I attract them, or maybe they attract me. Either way, I seem to spend a lot of time with people who at least on the surface appear to be totally crazy. And Michael the Marine was a ripper!
It turned out that Michael loved golf, and was also a huge fan of the walking scoreboard, which he thought was genius. I had to admit to him that I hadn't thought about this concept for quite a while, if ever, but given his circumstances I could understand his enthusiasm. Michael and I had a great day together. Just like every other wounded U.S. armed service member I have ever met, his sense of humor was his self-defense. After the round I was happy to give him my cell number and asked him to keep in touch with me.
When people ask me why I do things for our wounded servicemen and women, I tell them that they do infinitely more for me. I keep every e-mail and text message between me and them, and a couple of weeks later, I got one from Michael, which, with his permission, I'd like to share with you:
"Hey dude, just wanted to see how you were doing? Didn't know if you wanted to get together sometime soon, if ur not too busy. I've been ok... cloudy outside today, so I'll have to call someone to come get me cause the clouds prevent my GPS from working. I lost my wedding ring a few weeks ago...which kind of sucks...other than that, my story should come out in the Dallas Morning News the week after the 4th of July, mostly about my TBI and my golf, but some about my blog. A guy [also] called me the other day... he wants to write a book...
Anyway, man, take care...Michael."
The last time I saw Michael was at the "Harmon's Heroes" event that Butch hosts with Greg Maddux in Las Vegas. The week before, he had played in my IED of Golf South, at Brigg's Ranch in San Antonio, and I noticed that he could really play! I mean, REALLY! Michael wants to play the PGA Tour, and Butch Harmon thinks he might! After all, just like Butch, Michael is a U.S. Marine, so how tough could the Tour School be? I mean really?
And another thing I think it was Ingrid Bergman who said, "All you need for a happy life is good health and a bad memory." I can't think of a sport other than golf in which these two attributes would be more helpful, so please, remember the name, "Michael Campbell." If nothing else, you should remember it for Michael, because he might not.
To read more about Michael Campbell and his desire to help other wounded members of the U.S. armed forces, please visit www.givehopethurgolf.com