Campbell hopes to exit with a bang
UT-Tyler coach retiring, looking for one more highlight
DESTIN, Fla. -- For UT-Tyler head golf coach King Campbell, each tournament trip to the Sandestin Golf and Beach Resort comes with a certain grounding effect.
Campbell weathered a serious health scare during the annual Golf Week Fall Preview tournament in October 2011. Each time he returns, it’s with a figurative tip of the cap to the local Scared Heart Hospital.
“I’m pretty excited to be here,” Campbell said of this week’s NCAA Division III Men’s Golf Championship. “It put a whole different perspective on life.”
His perspective heading into Wednesday’s second rounds was darn good. The 11th-ranked UT-Tyler women shot a school-record 309 in Tuesday’s first round on the Baytowne Golf Club course, trailing only American Southwest Conference rival Mary Hardin-Baylor’s 306. The 15th-ranked UT-men carded a 293 on Sandestin’s Links course, finishing third overall in the first round.
“It was a great day,” Campbell said. “No matter what happens. Our girls just shattered their own school record. We normally shoot 320 and we shot . And our guys have been shooting big numbers and we shot 293. I just told the kids and the parents, no matter what happens, this has been good.”
Good continued in Wednesday’s second round. The UT-Tyler men shot a collective 286 and moved up to a tie for first. The women also secured second for a second day, with another school-record, this time a 308.
In October 2011, Campbell, also UT-Tyler’s assistant athletic director for budgeting and finance, had juggled a hectic schedule before the annual fall tournament at Sandestin, hosting a tournament in Tyler then overseeing the dedication of new gym.
Swelling in his left leg bothered him enough to check with athletic trainers, but the cause seemed a mystery. Off to Sandestin the Patriots went, with Campbell driving.
Upon arrival, he dropped players at their course, took luggage back to their lodging and experienced sudden, scary shortness of breath as he hauled stuff upstairs.
“It was stupid,” Campbell said. “I look all the way back at how stupid it was. But I didn’t think I was having a heart attack. I really didn’t and I don’t know what I thought. But just like an idiot, I came out here and watched the practice round and I coached the first two rounds, but the third round, I said, ‘guys, I gotta go to the hospital.’”
Initial tests at Scared Heart revealed no dire circumstances. As he waited for more results — reading a magazine, he says — a male physician interrupted a la Grey’s Anatomy.
“You know, slicked-back hair and handsome and one-day beard,” Campbell said. “And he says, ‘Mr. Campbell, I’m not sure you’re going to make it.’ And I looked around and I said, ‘you’re in the wrong cubicle, you need to look somewhere else.’”
The physician hadn’t erred. Campbell says a part of a blood clot in his left leg had traveled to his lungs, putting him at risk for a stroke or aneurism. He spent two and a half days at Scared Heart hardly being allowed to move. Blood-thinning medication eased the threat and he was released, even though doctors couldn’t pinpoint a cause.
Several months later, still taking blood thinners, monitoring his diet and having undergone further tests, Campbell said he received a Mayo Clinic newsletter in the mail. It contained information about blood clots, and, he says mental light blubs went off when he read that dehydration can cause clots.
“I look back now, and I’m not sure, but I think that all the things going on and the stress and the hosting the tournament and the dedication of the gym -- I think I kind of forgot to drink fluids and got dehydrated,” Campbell said.
No small reason that he’ll retire following this week’s Division III national championship.
“The leg just gives me trouble,” Campbell said. “The 12-hour days when we play 36 holes, those are the days that are tough on me.”
There are other factors. A soon-to-arrive grandson, the first after five granddaughters for Campbell and his wife, Angela, means moving closer to family. He also says he’s at peace with his UT-Tyler accomplishments. Hired in 2005 as the school’s first full-time men’s golf coach, Campbell took the then-two-year-old women’s team in 2006 and added his assistant athletic director duties in 2007.
His athletic career began, oddly, after a 20 years at Bank of America. A Stephen F. Austin State graduate, Campbell had played basketball then coached the men’s freshmen team at Lamar College while earning his MBA. Thinking coaching wasn’t for him, he became a banker. After retiring early from Bank of America 10 years ago, he restarted his coaching career, teaching business classes at Lon Morris College and coaching the men’s golf team. It was in that latter capacity that UT-Tyler found him.
“It was a chance to start a program, very strong academics,” Campbell said. “I could teach some finance classes and banking classes to kids that are pretty intelligent, pretty smart. And I thought it was the perfect world for me except for the pay.”
The Patriot men have played in four of the last five NCAA championship tournaments; the Patriot women have made three of the last five. The men have won two American Southwest Conference titles (2010 and 2012) under Campbell with a top finish of fourth (2009) in the NCAA tournament. The women won the 2009 ASW title and finished 19th in that year’s NCAA tournament.
The current UT-Tyler women are led by freshman Laura Lindsey, who shot a field-best 72 on Tuesday. She also shot a 72 on Wednesday and led the women’s individual standings after two rounds. The men are led by senior John Dukes, in a four-way tie for fifth in individual competition after two rounds, and shot-making junior Trent Boudoin, back after breaking his right wrist in a skateboarding accident during Christmas break.
Campbell says it’s not easy to walk off the course for good, but that it’s time.
“It’s been probably the best eight years of my life,” he said of his UT-Tyler tenure. “I’ve enjoyed these kids. It’s hard to leave and walk away.”