December 2, 2008–Chad Campbell was an All-American at UNLV, and has gone on to a very successful PGA Tour career that includes several wins and being a member of the U.S. Ryder Cup team three times. After two losses in his previous Ryder Cup experiences, he and his American teammates won the Cup in 2008, and recently celebrated by visiting The White House and meeting with President George Bush, who told them he watched every minute of the event. While at UNLV, Campbell played at many of the best Las Vegas golf courses.
Campbell was joined at the ceremony in the oval office by teammates Stewart Cink, Ben Curtis, Jim Furyk, J.B. Holmes, Hunter Mahan and Boo Weekley, in addition to inspirational captain Paul Azinger and assistant Raymond Floyd. The U.S. Team was also accompanied by PGA of America President Jim Remy, Vice President Allen Wronowski, Honorary President Brian Whitcomb and Chief Executive Officer Joe Steranka. Also at the meeting was Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice. "This was the icing on the cake for me and the players," said Azinger, who said that he was making his fourth White House trip, but first as a Captain. "I was really proud of what the players were able to accomplish on a stage of this size, one of the biggest stages in the world when you consider there were some 600 million viewers. It was a great honor to have the president invite us, and to show how much he cared for and followed our team."
It was a terrific shot by Campbell on the first day of the matches that helped propel the U.S. Team to a runaway victory. Campbell stiffed a 5-iron from 186 yards on the 18th hole of Valhalla in the alternate shot format, and allowed teammate Stewart Cink to cozy the putt up for a birdie that won the match against the European team of Ian Poulter and Justin Rose. The win helped the U.S. take a 3-1 lead on the opening morning. Some consider it the shot of the 2008 Ryder Cup.
"Chad's 5-iron was amazing," said Azinger following the morning session. "Part of the reason I picked Chad is because I feel like he's got the heart of a champion. You know, Chad did not hit it great off the tee today. He always hits his irons well. For whatever reason, he didn't drive it well today. He'll have an opportunity to practice this afternoon, but he manned up when he had to. He's a gamer. He hit that terrific wedge on 17 and he hit that terrific 5-iron today on the last hole. I put my arms around him and could not be any more proud of him, and I told him that's the reason he's here."
The photo to the right shows Campbell, second to the left, with his teammates and coaches while Bush holds the trophy. The photo was taken in the oval office. The setting brings back memories of a trip that the UNLV golf team took to the White House in 1998, shortly after the team captured the NCAA Golf Championship. Unfortunately for Campbell, he wasn't a member of that team, but he was very happy for his school and Hall-of-Fame golf coach Dwaine Knight. The team met with then President Bill Clinton and also played 18 holes with Clinton, an avid golfer and good friend of Las Vegas resident Brian Greenspun. Official caption: From left: Stewart Cink, Chad Campbell, Ben Curtis, Hunter Mahan, Bush, captain Paul Azinger and assistant captain Raymond Floyd, Jim Furyk, J.B. Holmes and Boo Weekley. Courtesy: whitehouse.gov.
Campbell was in Las Vegas in October for the PGA Tour's Justin Timberlake Shriners Hospitals for Children Open. Campbell challenged for the lead throughout the tournament, and ended up finishing in a tie for third behind champion Marc Turnesa and second-place finisher Matt Kuchar. Campbell finished 22-under par, three shots off the champ. The event marked the first year of a five-year deal for Timberlake to serve as the official tournament host. Las Vegas is one of the world's best golf cities, and many of the best golf course designers have built great golf courses in the Las Vegas area including Rees Jones, Pete Dye, Jack Nicklaus, and Johnny Miller, among others.