Local golf legend remembered
LEWISBURG, W.Va. -- Mike Davis, executive director of the United States Golf Association, got the news on Aug. 30 that he knew he and the golf world eventually would receive. It would not be good. William C. Campbell of Huntington, one of amateur golf's last remaining giants, had died at his home in Lewisburg. He was 90.
Monday, Davis and other dignitaries in golf, business and other walks of life joined the Campbell family at Old Stone Presbyterian Church to pay tribute to a man who compiled a distinguished career as a golfer, administrator, businessman, philanthropist, husband and father.
"It was a sad day (Campbell's death)," Davis said prior to the memorial service. "Certainly today will be a great celebration of life. He's someone you'd want to emulate. He's a golf legend, he's a hero. He did so many good things for so many people, so many good things for the game. He'll be someone who's remembered for a long, long time."
Rev. J. Dexter Taylor echoed that sentiment in his welcome to the men and women who filled the church beyond capacity.
"We rejoice at a life well lived," he said.
In golf, Campbell was known as a career amateur. He won the U.S. Amateur in 1964, two U.S. Senior Amateur titles, 15 West Virginia Amateur championships, three West Virginia Opens, the North and South Amateur four times, played in eight Walker Cup matches (7-0-1 record), played in the Masters 18 times and U.S. Open 15 times.
As an administrator, Campbell is the only American to be USGA president and captain of the Royal & Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews in Scotland. Among his many awards, the most significant of them include the UGSA's highest honor, the Bob Jones Award for Distinguished Sportsmanship. In business, the Princeton graduate built his career with Campbell Insurance, serving as a John Hancock agent for nearly 60 years. He also made it his mission to give back to the Huntington community.
"He was such a gentleman," Marshall president Dr. Stephen J. Kopp said. "We could learn a lot from him. He was the personification of integrity."
"No. 1 I think of Bill Campbell, he's a gentlemen," Davis said. "First and foremost, Bill was a wonderful golfer, a wonderful human being and meant so much to game of golf, to amateur golf. In so many ways if you could instill qualities in young people and say if want to emulate somebody in the game, we talk about how great Arnold Palmer is, and he truly is. But you know Bill Camplell is one of those people in just about every aspect I can think you'd want to emulate."
Fred Ridley, a past USGA president and 1975 U.S. Amateur winner, came with Davis. Ridley is the last Amateur champion to not turn pro. Ridley is now a lawyer in Florida.
"We're not in the same sentence," Ridley said of having success similar to Campbell. "His record ... there's not one like it."
"I'm not surprised he didn't turn pro," Davis said of Campbell. "He certainly was good enough to earn a great living at it. But I think Bill was one of those guys where there was more to his life than just golf. He loved the game, he was passionate about the game, he was passionate about the history, the traditions. Etiquette. I don't feel Bill Campbell was ever in it to make a name for himself, never in it for the money. He was just a wonderful individual. Looking back, I'm so glad he took to the game at a young age."
Before and after the service, those who came to pay their respects had many stories to tell about this golf icon.
"Arnold Palmer told me Bill Campbell probably was the finest amateur to play the game and finest gentleman to walk the earth," said John Klemish, adviser to the chairman and broker-in-charge for the Greenbrier Sporting Club's real estate sales team. "I'd sit for hours with Billy. His mind was sharp. He could remember every shot. He was good for The Greenbrier. He's my buddy."
Harold Payne, former West Virginia Am and West Virginia Open champion, standout golfer at Marshall, West Virginia Golf Hall of Fame member like Campbell, and now an insurance executive in Hurricane, said Campbell showed him the ropes in golf and business.
"He was my mentor from an early age," Payne said. "I had great respect for him. The last two State Ams he won, I was coming on. In 1974, I played all four rounds with him. We certainly know what a great golfer he was. He was a great ambassador. He was a mentor and friend to so many West Virginia golfers. He had an aura about him. He told me to call him Bill. I couldn't. It was Mr. Campbell."
Patricia Dourif Amenta, Campbell's stepdaughter, and Victoria Campbell Collins, his daughter, offered reflections on their father's life. Colin Cammack Campbell followed with a moving talk about his father. Collins lives in Glyndon, Md. The son resides in Denver. After the service, the Campbell family held a reception.
"He chose a life of service," the proud son said. "He was guided by an unerring moral conscience. Many were lifted by his example. The words heard here today make dad's memories come to life."
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