Compton's story is heartwarming

By Jason SobelJune 15, 2014, 12:48 am

PINEHURST, N.C. – Erik Compton was nervous and frightened. He was 12 years old and lying in a hospital bed, the result of a faulty heart that had left him hooked up to scary-looking machines while surrounded by a swirling sea of doctors and nurses, each prepping him for transplant surgery.

His parents were nervous and frightened, too. They couldn’t show it, though, not in front of their son. Peter and Eli Compton needed to put up a brave front. They needed to encourage their youngest son. They needed to tell him that everything would be OK.

No, they needed to tell him that everything would be better than OK.

“We just said once you get a new heart, you’re going to be a champion,” his mother remembers. “You’re going to get the heart of a champion.”

Twenty-two years ago, Eli Compton (her first name is pronounced Ellie) wasn’t trying to foreshadow the 114th U.S. Open Championship. In fact, her son loved baseball more than golf back then. Following the surgery, he sat in a wheelchair, looked into a camera and offered the same proclamation that he’d first made four years earlier: “I’m going to be a Major League baseball player.”

U.S. Open: Articles, videos and photos

U.S. Open full-field scores

His career on the baseball diamond – not to mention the football field and basketball court, each the product of all that encouragement from his parents – stalled, but his pursuit of golf soared. He became a top-ranked junior player, competed for the University of Georgia and turned professional.

If that sounds like a Hollywood movie, what came next was the rare sequel that might have outshined the original.

In 2008, at age 28, Compton drove himself to the hospital, fearing the worst. Once again, the swirl of doctors and nurses hooked him up to machines. Once again, he was given a new heart.

It didn’t take long for him to return to professional golf - first on the developmental Nationwide Tour, then graduating to the PGA Tour. He’s yet to win on the world’s most elite circuit, but if this story needed a Hollywood ending, perhaps it’s coming this week.

Entering the final round at Pinehurst No. 2, Compton is tied for second place, just five strokes behind leader Martin Kaymer and with a major championship victory well within striking distance.

The symbolism of a man on his third heart contending at the year’s most grueling tournament hasn’t been lost on him.

“I’m just trying to execute and then move to the next shot,” he says. “I guess that’s kind of reflective of how I’ve always lived my life. If you have a bad situation or a bad day, you get up and try to do it again.”

Erik Compton the golfer is ranked 187th in the world. He’s played in 99 career PGA Tour events and has finished in the top 10 in exactly three of them – two this year. Prior to this week, he’d played in only one career major, missing the cut at the 2010 U.S. Open, but as he not-so-subtly points out, “You’ve got to give me a break - I just had a new heart.”

Erik Compton the two-time heart transplant recipient is probably ranked a lot higher, if you could measure the impact he’s had on children around the world who are undergoing similar surgery to what he endured. When he was 12, his mother remembers, there was nobody with that experience who could offer him their support.

The two are forever entwined, the transplant recipient and the golfer, not just because they are one and the same, but because one led to the other. He might not be here – on the leaderboard, contending for one of the game’s most prestigious titles – without the journey. It steeled him for the so-called pressures of playing a game. It hardened his resolve in a world where the failures always exceed the successes.

“If I go out and shoot 90, I don’t think anyone will be surprised,” he says. “But if I shoot 67 again, you may be surprised.”

Just as his parents once sat in that hospital room and whispered words of encouragement to him, just as he often offers similar words of encouragement to children awaiting transplants, he’s received support from some of golf’s most legendary sources.

Two weeks ago, Compton had lunch with Jack Nicklaus at Muirfield Village. He hadn’t yet qualified for the U.S. Open, but the four-time winner knew his game would suit this venue. “If you get there, you’re going to have a special week,” Nicklaus told him. And on Saturday morning, with Compton needing a strong round to move up the leaderboard, Chi Chi Rodriguez called him and said, “You’re going to shoot 64 today.”

He missed by three strokes, but the third-round 3-under 67 tied for the best score of the day and put him in contention for not just a U.S. Open title, but for sports story of the year. Or decade.

Compton is equal parts inspirational, motivational and heartwarming – everything needed for a good Hollywood script. Now he’ll try to write his perfect ending at a tournament that he knows is a perfect symbol of his perseverance.

“I think my attitude suits a U.S. Open-style course,” he explains. “Because I don’t ever give up.”

Getty Images

PGA Tour suspends Hensby for anti-doping violation

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 11, 2017, 8:02 pm

Mark Hensby has been suspended for one year by the PGA Tour for violating the Tour’s anti-doping policy by failing to provide a sample after notification.

The Tour made the announcement Monday, reporting that Hensby will be eligible to return on Oct. 26, 2018.

The statement reads:

The PGA Tour announced today that Mark Hensby has violated the Tour Anti-Doping Policy for failing to provide a drug testing sample after notification and has been suspended for a period of one year. He will be eligible to return on Oct. 26, 2018.

Hensby, 46, won the John Deere Classic in 2004. He played the Tour this past year, playing just 14 events. He finished 142nd on the money list. He once ranked among the top 30 in the Official World Golf Ranking but ranks No. 1,623 today.

The Sunshine Tour recently suspended player Etienne Bond for one year for failing a drug test. Players previously suspended by the PGA Tour for violating the anti-doping policy include Scott Stallings and Doug Barron.

The PGA Tour implemented revisions to its anti-doping program with the start of the 2017-18 season. The revisions include blood testing and the supplementation of the Tour’s prohibited list to include all of the substances and methods on the World Anti-Doping Agency prohibited list. As part of this season’s revisions, the Tour announced it would also begin reporting suspensions due to recreational drug use.

The Tour said it would not issue further comment on Hensby's suspension.

Good time to hang up on viewer call-ins

By Randall MellDecember 11, 2017, 7:40 pm

Golf announced the most massive layoff in the industry’s history on Monday morning.

Armchair referees around the world were given their pink slips.

It’s a glorious jettisoning of unsolicited help.

Goodbye and good riddance.

The USGA and R&A’s announcement of a new set of protocols Monday will end the practice of viewer call-ins and emails in the reporting of rules infractions.

“What we have heard from players and committees is ‘Let’s leave the rules and administration of the event to the players and those responsible for running the tournament,’” said Thomas Pagel, the USGA’s senior director of rules and amateur status.


The protocols, formed by a working group that included the PGA Tour, LPGA, European Tour, Ladies European Tour and the PGA of America, also establish the use of rules officials to monitor the televised broadcasts of events.

Additionally, the protocols will eliminate the two-shot penalty when a player signs an incorrect scorecard because the player was unaware of a violation.

Yes, I can hear you folks saying armchair rules officials help make sure every meaningful infraction comes to light. I hear you saying they make the game better, more honest, by helping reduce the possibility somebody violates the rules to win.

But at what cost?

The chaos and mayhem armchair referees create can ruin the spirit of fair play every bit as much as an unreported violation. The chaos and mayhem armchair rules officials create can be as much a threat to fair play as the violations themselves.

The Rules of Golf are devised to protect the integrity of the game, but perfectly good rules can be undermined by the manner and timeliness of their enforcement.

We have seen the intervention of armchair referees go beyond the ruin of fair play in how a tournament should be conducted. We have seen it threaten the credibility of the game in the eyes of fans who can’t fathom the stupidity of a sport that cannot separate common-sense enforcement from absolute devotion to the letter of the law.

In other sports, video review’s timely use helps officials get it right. In golf, video review too often makes it feel like the sport is getting it wrong, because timeliness matters in the spirit of fair play, because the retroactive nature of some punishments are as egregious as the violations themselves.  

We saw that with Lexi Thompson at the ANA Inspiration this year.

Yes, she deserved a two-shot penalty for improperly marking her ball, but she didn’t deserve the two-shot penalty for signing an incorrect scorecard. She had no idea she was signing an incorrect scorecard.

We nearly saw the ruin of the U.S. Open at Oakmont last year, with Dustin Johnson’s victory clouded by the timing of a video review that left us all uncertain if the tournament was playing out under an incorrect scoreboard.

“What these protocols are put in place for, really, is to make sure there are measures to identify the facts as soon as possible, in real time, so if there is an issue to be dealt with, that it can be handled quickly and decisively,” Pagel said.

Amen again.

We have pounded the USGA for making the game more complicated and less enjoyable than it ought to be, for creating controversy where common sense should prevail, so let’s applaud executive director Mike Davis, as well as the R&A, for putting common sense in play.

Yes, this isn’t a perfect answer to handling rules violations.

There are trap doors in the protocols that we are bound to see the game stumble into, because the game is so complex, but this is more than a good faith effort to make the game better.

This is good governance.

And compared to the glacial pace of major rules change of the past, this is swift.

This is the USGA and R&A leading a charge.

We’re seeing that with the radical modernization of the Rules of Golf scheduled to take effect in 2019. We saw it with the release of Decision 34/3-10 three weeks after Thompson’s loss at the ANA, with the decision limiting video review to “reasonable judgment” and “naked eye” standards. We’re hearing it with Davis’ recent comments about the “horrible” impact distance is having on the game, leading us to wonder if the USGA is in some way gearing up to take on the golf ball.

Yes, the new video review protocols aren’t a panacea. Rules officials will still miss violations that should have been caught. There will be questions about level playing fields, about the fairness of stars getting more video review scrutiny than the rank and file. There will be questions about whether viewer complaints were relayed to rules officials.

Golf, they say, isn’t a game of perfect, and neither is rules enforcement, though these protocols make too much sense to be pilloried. They should be applauded. They should solve a lot more problems than they create.

Lexi 'applaud's USGA, R&A for rules change

By Randall MellDecember 11, 2017, 5:15 pm

Lexi Thompson’s pain may prove to be the rest of golf’s gain.

David Rickman, the R&A’s executive director of governance, acknowledged on Golf Channel’s "Morning Drive" Monday that the new protocols that will eliminate the use of TV viewer call-ins and emails to apply penalties was hastened by the controversy following Thompson’s four-shot penalty at the ANA Inspiration in early April. The new protocols also set up rules officials to monitor TV broadcasts beginning next year.

“Clearly, that case has been something of a focus point for us,” Rickman said.

Thompson reacted to the new protocols in an Instagram post.

“I applaud the USGA and the R&A for their willingness to revise the Rules of Golf to address certain unfortunate situations that have arisen several times in the game of golf,” Thompson wrote. “In my case, I am thankful no one else will have to deal with an outcome such as mine in the future.”

Thompson was penalized two shots for improperly returning her ball to its mark on a green during Saturday’s round after a viewer emailed LPGA officials during Sunday’s broadcast. She was penalized two more shots for signing an incorrect scorecard for her Saturday round. Thompson ultimately lost in a playoff to So Yeon Ryu.

The new protocols will also eliminate the additional two-shot penalty a player receives for failing to include a penalty when a player was unaware of the penalty.

Shortly after the ANA Inspiration, the USGA and R&A led the formation of a video review working group, which included the PGA Tour, LPGA, European Tour, Ladies European Tour and PGA of America.

Also, just three weeks after Thompson was hit with the four-shot penalty, the USGA and R&A released a new Rules of Golf decision decision (34-3/10) limiting video evidence in two ways:

1. If an infraction can’t be seen with the naked eye, there’s no penalty, even if video shows otherwise.

2. If a tournament committee determines that a player does “all that can be reasonably expected to make an accurate estimation or measurement” in determining a line or position to play from or to spot a ball, then there will be no penalty even if video replay later shows that to be wrong.

While the USGA and R&A said the new decision wasn’t based on Thompson’s ANA incident, LPGA players immediately began calling it the “Lexi Rule.”

Getty Images

PGA Tour, LPGA react to video review rules changes

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 11, 2017, 1:32 pm

The USGA and R&A announced on Monday updates to the Rules of Golf, including no longer accepting call-ins relating to violations. The PGA Tour and LPGA, which were both part of a working group of entities who voted on the changes, issued the following statements:

PGA Tour:

The PGA Tour has worked closely with the USGA and R&A on this issue in recent years, and today's announcement is another positive step to ensure the Rules of Golf align with how the game is presented and viewed globally. The PGA Tour will adopt the new Local Rule beginning January 1, 2018 and evolve our protocols for reviewing video evidence as outlined.


We are encouraged by the willingness of the governing bodies to fully vet the issues and implement real change at a pace much quicker than the sport has seen previously. These new adaptations, coupled with changes announced earlier this year, are true and meaningful advances for the game. The LPGA plans to adopt fully the protocols and new Local Rule as outlined.