The loss of memory can be a curse... and a blessing

The loss of memory can be a curse… and a blessing


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