Compton One Stroke Short

By Brian HewittNovember 15, 2008, 5:00 pm
PGA Tour (75x100)BROOKSVILLE, Fla. ' Everybody, Jim McLean was saying, should come to watch somebody they know play in the second stage of the PGA Tours Q-School.
Or, the internationally-known golf teacher said, they should watch somebody they know watch somebody that person knows try to get advance from second stage to Q-School finals.'
Saturday, in the gently rolling hills of Central Florida at a handsome Pete Dye golf course called Southern Hills Plantation, I watched McLean watch one of his long-time pupils, Erik Compton, fall one agonizing stroke short of making it through second stage.
It was painful because I know McLean a little and always root for the story. It was excruciating for McLean and devastating for the 29-year-old Compton, who just last May underwent his second heart transplant and has been the best story in golf for most of the fall.
Earlier Compton had advanced through the PGA Tours first stage at Key Biscayne with a clutch 68 on the final day. Then, last week, playing on a sponsors exemption, he made the cut at the Childrens Miracle Network Classic at Disney.
Through 54 holes at Southern Hills Plantation Compton was tied for 13th. The top 20 and ties would advance, guaranteeing at least conditional status on the Nationwide Tour next year. If I get to the finals, said Compton, who isnt even sure where his next health insurance policy is coming from now, it would open up a little of doors for me.
But Compton three-putted twice on the final nine holes and bogeyed the short par-4 15th from the middle of the fairway with a wedge in his hand to finish with a final-round 73 and a 72-hole total of 6 under par. The number turned out to be 7 under.
When you live and die by the way I live and play, it will catch up to you, Compton said when it was over.
He was tired. He had fought a dizzy spell after missing a short par putt on the 11th hole. He wasnt sure what was next for him on the long, strange trip his life has turned out to be. And he needed to console his young wife, who is pregnant with their first child.
Compton was allowed to ride a cart and take anti-heart rejection medicine by the Tour. Referring to the two heart transplants, McLean said, Eriks said goodbye to me a couple of times already. But what hes done this year is beyond belief; that somebody could come from where he was and almost make it. When I saw him earlier this year after the operation, he couldnt even move.
During the prepping stage for the second transplant, Compton was actually on the operating table without any heart at all for two hours while doctors readied for the actual organ transfer.
McLeans son, John, caddied for Compton this week. And before the round he showed his father the 17 expensive pills Compton has to take before every round. For his part, Compton has long since stopped offering details of his medical history unless pressed. Hed rather talk about the golf.
I hit the ball well, I just didnt score, said Compton, who drove it past his two playing competitors ' Michael Bradley and Seung-su Han ' all day long. I just didnt score. I didnt have the short game today. The pressure definitely got to me.Its hard to stay in the moment, especially for someone who has no place to play.
Compton fought a cold most of the week. And, in his weakened state, he did not hit practice balls after any of his rounds last week or at Southern Hills Plantation.
So now he will rest. And think about the next chapter of a life that would make a terrific movie but right now has no sequel.
He didnt miss, McLean insisted. Its more like a phenomenal win.
Compton had the first transplant at the age of 12 and went on to be an All-American at the University of Georgia. He certainly is a phenom. And everything about his personality says winner.
But for now he feels like all the other second stagers who just missed moving on with their dreams of playing on the PGA Tour. And it feels pretty bad.
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