Hamish McKenzie - closet golf fan, London, Ontario

Monday, June 20, 2005

Seeing New Zealand mentioned in the media over here anytime is a thrill. I felt slighted the other day when Canada's natoinal newspaper, the Globe and Mail, carried a picture of San Antonio Spurs/Tall Blacks basketball player Sean Marks with a caption identifying him as an Australian. I was excited to see a photo of Mt Cook in the same paper a week earlier. And when Russell Crowe was named as an Australian after his phone-throwing hissy fit, I almost cared. But then I realised it was Russell Crowe.

So when I watched Michael Campbell lift the US Open trophy on MSNBC tonight (it's still Sunday over here -- Canada's a bit behind the times), I felt something stir inside me. I guess it was something akin to pride.

Helen Clark, who must have been immensely grateful to finally hear some good news, described it as "one of New Zealand's greatest sporting achievements". Of course, everyone knows Clark is a golf expert of some repute. What's more, she just so happens to be right.

Campbell's victory is more significant than our America's Cup victories. Beating the world's top golfers -- Tiger Woods, Vijay Singh, Phil Mickelson, Retief Goosen, Ernie Els, and so many more -- at a course as unforgiving as Pinehurst, certainly outweighs a bunch of boat-bound privileged white men outracing other privileged white men around buoys. It's better than the 1987 rugby world cup victory, which was really just a victory over the three teams that had any chance of challenging the All Blacks. But it's probably not quite as good as Sarah Ulmer winning gold and setting world records at the Athens Olympics...

Okay, I'm not going to write anymore about whether or not it is one of New Zealand's greatest sporting moments, 'cos you might start thinking I actually care. After all, I don't want to step on Joseph Romano's toes.

Let's just say it was bloody good.

To have a humble, gentle, almost-in-tears New Zealander accepting the trophy, though, was really kinda nice. Seeing Campbell up there talking about his family in that thick Kiwi accent; to hear him telling New Zealanders that if he could do it, they can too; to witness the wussy boy inside of him come out -- it was all very heartening. Here was a New Zealand sportsman who could stand in front of a camera without cauliflower ears and cry in front of millions. And hardly a cliche uttered!

That's a man who I'm proud to point my Canadian friends to and say, "He's a New Zealander".