PGA GRAND SLAM OF GOLF
Michael Campbell was greeted by the Maori dance group "The Four Winds" yesterday.
Campbell receives a warm welcome
U.S. OPEN champion Michael Campbell of New Zealand got a warm greeting from Maori warrior performers before teeing off on the first hole of yesterday's rainy PGA Grand Slam of Golf pro-am.
As Campbell approached the tee box, the group members (who live on Maui) did a three-part traditional dance.
"The first part was to determine if he comes in peace," said Teiwingaro Henare. "Then we did a haka, a men's posture dance to encourage him in his endeavors. The third part was spiritual content. A blessing from us.
"We wanted to come and support him."
Campbell, one of the four competitors in the Grand Slam that starts today, is of Maori descent.
"It was amazing, really incredible," Campbell said. "It was very special to come all this way and receive such a wonderful welcoming."
Campbell's first cousin, Warren Hikupoa, was one of the performers.
The Maori performance worked, at least temporarily. Campbell opened his round with a birdie on the 428-yard hole and finished the pro-am with a 3-under-par 69.
Got skills?: Campbell and Vijay Singh gave fans loads of laughs -- along with excellent shot-making and golf advice -- at the Champions Skills Challenge before yesterday's pro-am.
They were jolly jokers at every turn.
Singh twice drove the ball toward a TV cameraman perched on a platform more than 100 yards away. On the second try, the camera person turned to watch the ball whiz by his head about 10 yards to his left.
The golfers showed the spectators (and a Golf Channel TV audience) how to hit knockdown shots (keeping the ball low into the wind) and flop shots (high trajectory, short distance) over 8-, 10- and 12-foot walls from a few feet away.
After an announcer finished telling the crowd that a low finish to the swing is important for a knockdown shot, he asked Campbell for his key to the shot.
"A high finish!" Campbell said, just to throw some spice into the proceedings.
After successfully chipping the ball over the high walls with numerous flop shots, Singh said, "This is like hitting out of the bunker at St. Andrews, except this is a much better lie."
Singh and Campbell also broke framed panes of glass with their drivers from 20 feet away, as can be seen on the Golf Channel's "Big Break."
Campbell was the first to break the glass. After several attempts, Singh hit the glass, but it didn't shatter, so he threw his club at it and missed.
Work ethic: Singh, who went 1-under 71 in the pro-am, continues to train hard off the course. He was up at 7 a.m. yesterday to lift weights.
"At my age (42), you need to work twice as hard. There are so many young guys on the tour. I say to my trainer, 'Tell me what you want me to do and I'll do it.' It's taking its toll. I have pain all over my body."
Last hurrah?: The PGA of America is entertaining offers from Las Vegas, the Caribbean and other sites interested in hosting the PGA Grand Slam of Golf next year.
But whether it moves or continues its long run on Kauai won't be known until sometime next month, according to PGA of America media relations director Julius Mason.
"It's been 12 years of a wonderful relationship," Mason said. "We've made lots of friendships, and we would never rule out coming back to Kauai."
The event first came to the Garden Isle in 1991 at the Kauai Lagoons Kiele Course. After Hurricane Iniki, the tournament moved to La Quinta, Calif., for two years before coming back to Kauai at Poipu Bay in 1994, where it has been since.