Playing Golf With Tony Kornheiser—Trip to Hospital Follows

By Arch Campbell

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Tony Kornheiser (left) and Arch Campbell (right) with Courtney Froemming, a good golfer who often plays with them in club tournaments.

I was standing on the 15th tee at the Columbia Country Club in Chevy Chase, Maryland, when somebody yelled “FORE”—followed by “BAM,” the sound of a golf ball hitting me on the head. It felt like somebody hit me with a baseball bat.

“Jesus” I said as I went down, “Jesus Christ.” My playing partner Pete said, “Arch? Arch? Are you all right?”

“No!” I said. “I think I just got hit in the head by a goddamn golf ball.”

Then a group came over to the tee asking, “Are you okay? Are you okay?” I looked at the guy asking and said, “I know you didn’t do this on purpose because you’re not that accurate.” Nobody laughed.

I took off my hat and my partners saw a big lump starting to get bigger. “You’re going in,” one said. About that time an assistant pro drove up in a golf cart and took me off the course. As we left, Pete handed me a bag of ice to put on my head. The ice came from the six-pack Pete got on the 8th hole. I hardly ever drink and don’t drink on the golf course—it’s hard enough for me to play sober.

The guy who drove me to the locker room started looking for a doctor. I lay down on the floor and that’s when I started to see stars. They couldn’t find a physician so they brought in a guy I know who got rich as a veterinarian. He looked at me and laughed. Later I said he had me roll over, sit up and beg.

Then a friend who’s a dentist came in—looked at me—and along with a third friend said, “We’re calling an ambulance.” By this time I had a big bump. I heard the siren and the guys walked me out by the pool where I found my wife sunning herself. Her eyes got big and she said, “I’m following you.” Off we went to Suburban Hospital.

Once there they put me in a bay and the doctor—a nice woman named Barbara—had me follow her pen with my eyes. Then she had me write a few things. Then she asked me some questions. Her aide Bobby came over and told me he had worked as a caddy before he became a physician’s aide. He laughed at my bump.

After a brain scan another doctor came over and asked, “Are you the Arch Campbell?” I used to be somewhat well-known in Washington because for 40 years I appeared on the local news. I reviewed movies and theater and reported on celebrity events at the end of the 11 o’clock news—right before Johnny Carson. “Well, yeah,” I said and then the woman said, “I grew up watching you.” Many male broadcasters will tell you they know they’ve been working too long when a beautiful girl says hello and adds, ‘My mother loves you.”

After a couple of hours, Barbara and Bobby sent me home. I learned if you get hit on the head you want a big bump to form outside your skull, otherwise you might be bleeding inside your brain.
I joined the Columbia Country Club almost 30 years ago when I was well-paid. When I joined an older woman saw me in the parking lot and asked, “Oh, Mr. Campbell, do you belong here?” “No,” I said, “but I’m a member.”

My dear father had taken me in our backyard when I was 12 and put a golf club in my hand. “If you can play golf,” he said, “you can make friends from every level of life.” He showed me his scrapbook of golf victories in the 1930’s and ’40’s. I tried but never got the hang of it. At age 40 I tried again and got hooked. Now I dream about the times my father and I played together. In my dreams I sometimes try to set up a game with him.

I have a lot of friends still working in television, including Tony Kornheiser, the sportswriter, host of a radio show, and co-host of ESPN’s “Pardon the Interruption.” Tony was with me the day of the bonking and told the guy who hit me that I’d gone to get a lawyer. The guy said, “I’m an attorney.” Tony said, “Never mind.”

Tony told the tale on his radio show. Then he had me on his show. One of Tony’s fans emailed, “It’s a good thing that veterinarian didn’t want to take Arch’s temperature.”

The guy who hit the errant shot said he felt terrible but he didn’t laugh at any of my jokes. He set it up to pay for dinner for me and my wife the next time I came to Columbia. I called him and told him I was fine but he wanted to do it so I let him.

Now lots of people ask me about getting hit on the head. I ask if they’ve ever been hit by a golf ball. A surprising number say yes. We agree it stuns. I saw a good friend I once played golf with and asked if he’d ever been hit. “Yeah,” he said “by you.” I did hit him once with a grounder to the leg.

There’s also the guy I hit on the hand as he was crossing a bridge. This occurred because of what is known as a “shank,” which is a shot that careens off at a ninety degree angle. This guy growled at me when I apologized. If he had been a dog he would have bitten me. Now we’re sort of friends, trading interesting books with each other.

If you play golf and get hit by a golf ball, be nice to whoever does it. Most of the people I know play golf terribly and love it anyway. I make shots on faith rather than ability. I’ve never made a hole in one, but I have been bonked on the head. I think that counts for something.
P.S. from Jack: After 40 years in television, Arch is now taking classes at the Writer’s Center in Bethesda, Maryland, trying for a second career as a writer. I asked him:

“You made a great living as a talker—did you pretty much always just wing it? What’s the difference between talking and writing? What’s it like to take classes in how to write? What’s your ambition as a writer?”

He said he’d ponder the questions and get back to me.



  1. This is why you should always play golf with a nurse. I am happy to volunteer-lol

  2. Old tom shales says

    Arch, remember Gleason as Ralph Kramden telling Audrey Meadows as Alice that he had nothing to fear from even the most exhaustive examination of his brain: “They can have every doctor in the country examine my head, Alice! They can fly doctors over here from Vienna — from Vienna! They can examine my head ’til the cows come home. They can x-ray my head all day and all night, I don’t care! And ya know what they’re gonna find up there, Alice?!? Ya know what they’re gonna find?!? I’ll tell ya what they’re gonna find, Alice! ABSOLUTELY NOTHING!” …
    Well that was a long way to go, wasn’t it? But hey, it’s a classic, and, I feel, somehow à propos……

  3. Old tom shales says

    ( the contributor is a bona fide & certified Arch fan )

  4. I am shocked but not saddened that Arch got hit in the head by a golf ball. Before you think me cruel, that’s because as a newly hatched print writer, Arch needs experiences like this to use as topics. I’ve emailed him directly suggesting he swim with sharks, visit Syria, and declare himself a GOP candidate for president.

    Back when dinosaurs and David Shoumacher roamed the Earth, Arch worked at WRC-TV, and I had pretty much the same gig at WJLA-TV. One of my favorite memories was attending screenings with him. Strong of intellect yet weak of bladder, Arch would often ask me if “anything interesting” happened during one of his forays to the Gents. I’d answer something like, “Yes, a UFO landed, kidnapped Meryl Streep and force fed her Kale Slurpees.” I regret the time he believed me and used that info in his review of ‘Sophie’s Choice.”

    I too consider Arch a dear friend and remain a big fan of his work, and that he thrived in this business for so long while keeping his decency, his sense of humor, and his rye look at life and losing only his hair. If this piece is any indicator, he has a successful career ahead of him in his latest field of endeavor.

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