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Struck Strikes Out : Campbell brings Sioux Valley trophy 'home'

Monday, July 7, 2008

Except for the concern for his ailing mother, life is good for the 2008 Sioux Valley Amateur Men's Match-Play Golf Tournament Champion, Jeff Campbell of Niles, Ohio.

Jeff, one of six children of Don and Barb Campbell of Cherokee, has returned to his home town from Ohio 13 years, including 11 years in a row, to play in the venerable Sioux Valley Amateur, Iowa's oldest match-play golf tournament.

Next year, as the Sioux Valley Am celebrates its 75th year, he will return as the defending champion, a title he proudly wears today after dispatching four tough foes over the recent Father's Day Weekend Classic.

From the very beginning 40 years ago at age seven when he would accompany his dad to the old Cherokee Mental Health golf course and their sand greens, Jeff Campbell has developed a serious passion for the game of golf.

"Dad's clubs were taller than I was, but I swung 'em and hit the ball. It didn't take me long to learn to love the game," said Campbell in an interview Sunday night after winning the coveted crown in the only golf tournament he ever plays in.

Jeff's passion for the game is made more evident by the fact that he has "negotiated" to work a solitairy midnight shift at his job at Lowe's In Niles, Ohio, so he can play golf all day, every day when the weather allows.

This passion also led Jeff to become varsity boys golf coach at Brookfield High School a few miles from his Niles home.

This passion also led him to employ a swing coach four years ago that has paid off in a lowered handicap and helped him craft a game so solid that he is now able to win the Sioux Valley Amateur Golf Tournament.

When he first started returning to his favorite golf course in Iowa, Campbell usually made the cut and played in the lower flights. Each year, he would step up his game and climb the ladder so that the last few years he's been in the Championship Flight, or at worst, the First Flight.

This passion also leads him to Cherokee a full week before the Sioux Valley Am so he can arrive at the Country Club at 6 a.m. every day and play "45 or 54" holes each day, from dawn to dusk.

"The Cherokee course is one of the nicest golf courses I've ever played," said Campbell, who has 61 golf courses within an hour's drive of his Ohio home and he's played them all. "It looks friendly but it's brutal. You can't go off line or you pay the price."

The strength to Jeffs' game besides his booming drives from his small frame, is a consistency he's mastered through the years. Seldom does he ring up a big number. On top of that is a fiery competitiveness and an athletic ability that the Campbell children possess that helped them excel in a variety of sports.

"Match-play get's my blood pumping," explained Jeff. "It's just me and you against the course. It's a shot-by-shot challenge. I absolutely love it. It raises my game." Obviously, because in his four matches - 26 holes on Saturday, and the full 36 on Sunday, he was at or near level par throughout.

"It's hard to explain, but this (Sioux Valley) is the classiest, best-run tournament I've ever seen. The people are great. The course is great and in incredible condition. And everyone is so polite and courteous. My wife (Janet - an Ohio native) just loves to come here because of all that.

"I play golf to have fun and take the good with the bad. I don't get nervous or mad because I know I'm there to have fun. We finally found out what was wrong with Mom and she's been diagnosed with lymphoma. Now that we know, we can start her treatment. Not knowing what was wrong was very tough on all of us. Now that we know, it soothed me a little and I was very relaxed all weekend knowing I'm just playing a game and Mom's fighting cancer. There's no comparison."

After Jeff and Janet head back to Ohio, that attractive Frank Greenwood Memorial Trophy that goes annually to the Sioux Valley Amateur Champion, will be proudly sitting in Don and Barb's house. "That baby is not leaving Cherokee. It belongs here and it will stay here until next year when I'm going to try my best to win it again," said Jeff, knowing that three wins automatically earns one permanent possession of the trophy.

In winning the 2008 title, Campbell is the first Cherokee native to win the tournament since Cherokee Washington High graduate Mark Northcraft won it in 1977.

"This is so special to me because I know about the history and tradition and how special this tournament is to Cherokee," concluded Campbell. "I brought the trophy back home to stay for at least another year."

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