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Michael Campbell returns to New Zealand

U.S. Open champion Michael Campbell returned to New Zealand to a hero's welcome on Wednesday, the first time he has visited his home county since winning the major in June.

Accompanied by his wife Julie and two children, Campbell was met by about 300 people and a traditional Maori welcome at Auckland airport.

Campbell's two-stroke victory over world number one Tiger Woods at Pinehurst, North Carolina, was only the second time a New Zealander had won a major title. Bob Charles won the British Open at Royal Lytham in 1963.

"To come home, flying 12,000 miles and having a reception at the end from you, was definitely worth all the flying time," he said after arriving. "I have brought my family over today because of it and it is a day I will never forget.

"Obviously I'm over the moon. I tried to mentally prepare myself but couldn't for this though, I've got goosebumps."

Campbell brought the U.S. Open trophy with him, which he proudly displayed during a news conference.

"It's a label I am very proud of. If you go through the names on this trophy the history is incredible. It started in 1895 and here in 2005 you've got Michael Campbell."

Since the victory, Campbell has finished tied for fifth at the British Open at St Andrews and was 14th equal last weekend at the Players Championship of Europe in Germany.

"My whole life has changed, that's all I can say. People give you things, it's nice, all these bottles of Dom Perignon champagne on my doorstep."

But Campbell still felt the importance of returning to New Zealand.

"I was born to do something in this world. I was talking to a few kids in the arrival hall and they were saying 'the only reason we are playing golf right now Michael is because of you' and that's just a wonderful response to hear from complete strangers."

Campbell will visit his Titahi Bay Golf Club, about 20kms north of Wellington on Friday before visiting local schools and an official welcome by the Porirua City Council.

He will then take part in a special street parade in Wellington later on Friday before attending a civic reception.

A further street parade will be held in Auckland, New Zealand's largest city, on August 5 before he heads to the U.S.


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