Compton impacts lives, inspires others like him

By Jason SobelJune 18, 2014, 12:30 pm

HARTFORD, Conn. – George Petro Jr. runs a hand through his closely cropped salt-and-pepper hair and begins sobbing softly. Standing in the same hospital room where eight days earlier he received a heart transplant, the sobbing grows, his shoulders heaving up and down.

He knows he shouldn’t remove the light yellow surgical mask covering his nose and mouth, but he does anyway. A chorus of objections immediately ensues from the nearby collection of doctors and nurses. George sheepishly places the mask back on.

“I’m sorry,” he says through tears. “I guess this is an example of what not to do.”

It’s just that he can’t help himself. For 169 days, ever since Christmas Eve, he’d been here in Hartford Hospital, waiting for his transplant. He has literally been given a new lease on life – and if that isn’t enough to inspire him, George is now standing face to face with a man who has dedicated himself to inspiring people like him.


ERIK COMPTON is the only heart transplant recipient to play on the PGA Tour, having twice undergone this surgery. His story has made headlines for years, how he received his first transplant at age 12, then another at 28, but it reached a new high this past weekend, appealing to the masses as he finished in a share of second place at the U.S. Open.

Even though Compton has been making hospital visits since he turned professional, first independently and in the last three years as part of a partnership between Genentech and Donate Life, he’s cognizant of how this one might look two days after his career-best result.

“I don’t want this to seem like I’m just doing it because of the U.S. Open,” explains Compton, who is competing in this week's Travelers Championship in nearby Cromwell. “This is a regular thing that I do. I’m not doing it for the publicity.”


Erik Compton

Erik Compton and George Petro Jr. at Hartford Hospital


He understands the impact he can make. He understands how patients who are hooked up to machines, just like he once was, can see his success and use it as fuel.

“I remember visiting a young kid,” he says. “His name was Kevin Garcia and he was 12 years old and he did not want to speak to me. He did not want to speak to anybody. But I relayed him a little bit of a message and I left a golf bag in his room and when I left it made a huge impact on him, because now he's a huge golfer and he's 21 years old and he's doing well with his transplant. You never know the impact that you're going to have on a kid.”

Shawn Fullard isn’t a kid anymore. Retired from the Connecticut Department of Corrections, where she served as a prison counselor, she underwent her first heart transplant in 1998. She needs a new one now – and a kidney, too. In the meantime, she spends her days lying in a hospital bed, wistfully looking out a bay window.

“At least you have a window,” Compton says while visiting with her.

Shawn had never heard of Compton, didn’t know his story until she was recently told that he’d be stopping by her room. So she did some research, then watched the U.S. Open on the small television attached to her bed.

“It was exciting,” she says. “I was so proud of him coming in second.”

Now here he is, the man who’d played golf on that small TV in her room less than 48 hours earlier, standing here in front of her, admiring her view.

Shawn begs to differ, though. “I don’t want to look outside,” she admits. “I can’t get out there. My husband comes in and says, ‘Oh, baby, it’s a beautiful day out there.’ I just want to kill him.”

The room grows silent. What do you say to a woman who can’t go outside? What do you say to someone who is constantly tormented by a reminder of her pain?

Compton breaks the silence with words that can only come from experience.

“You just have to visualize yourself getting out there,” he explains. “You’ve done it once, you can do it again.”


GEORGE IS a golfer. Not a pro like Compton, he assures him, but pretty decent in his own right, usually shooting around 8 or 10 over par at his local muni.

He can’t wait to play again – and maybe he’ll invite his fellow transplant recipient along someday.

“I’d love to golf with Erik,” he says. “He showed me that I have a second chance. He did it twice. I have a lot to live for.”

It’s about more than just golf, though. For a man who spent nearly six months in a hospital room  before receiving his transplant, he just wants to enjoy this new lease on life.

“A week ago, I didn’t have the heart,” George explains. “Now I have it. I can’t wait to smell the air outside.”

He begins sobbing once again, his shoulders heaving up and down. This time, his mask remains on. It collects the tears as they trickle down.

Getty Images

Day's wife shares emotional story of miscarriage

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 12, 2017, 4:12 pm

Jason Day’s wife revealed on social media that the couple had a miscarriage last month.

Ellie Day, who announced her pregnancy on Nov. 4, posted an emotional note on Instagram that she lost the baby on Thanksgiving.

“I found out the baby had no heartbeat anymore. I was devastated,” she wrote. “I snuck out the back door of my doctor, a hot, sobbing, mascara-covered mess. Two and a half weeks went by witih me battling my heart and brain about what was happening in my body, wondering why this wouldn’t just be over.”

The Days, who have two children, Dash and Lucy, decided to go public to help others who have suffered similar heartbreak.

“I hope you know you aren’t alone and I hope you feel God wrap his arms around you when you feel the depths of sorrow and loss,” she wrote.  

Newsmaker of the Year: No. 5, Sergio Garcia

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 12, 2017, 1:00 pm

This was the year it finally happened for Sergio Garcia.

The one-time teen phenom, known for years as “El Nino,” entered the Masters as he had dozens of majors beforehand – shouldered with the burden of being the best player without a major.

Garcia was 0-for-72 driving down Magnolia Lane in April, but after a thrilling final round and sudden-death victory over Justin Rose, the Spaniard at long last captured his elusive first major title.

The expectation for years was that Garcia might land his white whale on a British links course, or perhaps at a U.S. Open where his elite ball-striking might shine. Instead it was on the storied back nine at Augusta National that he came alive, chasing down Rose thanks in part to a memorable approach on No. 15 that hit the pin and led to an eagle.


Full list of 2017 Newsmakers of the Year


A green jacket was only the start of a transformative year for Garcia, 37, who heaped credit for his win on his then-fiancee, Angela Akins. The two were married in July, and months later the couple announced that they were expecting their first child to arrive just ahead of Garcia’s return to Augusta, where he'll host his first champions’ dinner.

And while players often cling to the notion that a major win won’t intrinsically change them, there was a noticeable difference in Garcia over the summer months. The weight of expectation, conscious or otherwise, seemed to lift almost instantly. Like other recent Masters champs, he took the green jacket on a worldwide tour, with stops at Wimbledon and a soccer match between Real Madrid and Barcelona.

The player who burst onto the scene as a baby-faced upstart is now a grizzled veteran with nearly two decades of pro golf behind him. While the changes this year occurred both on and off the course, 2017 will always be remembered as the year when Garcia finally, improbably, earned the title of major champion.


Masters victory


Article: Garcia defeats Rose to win Masters playoff

Article: Finally at peace: Garcia makes major breakthrough

Article: Garcia redeems career, creates new narrative


Video: See the putt that made Sergio a major champ


Green jacket tour

Article: Take a look at Sergio's crazy, hectic media tour

Article: Garcia with fiancée, green jacket at Wimbledon

Article: Watch: Garcia kicks off El Clasico in green jacket


Man of the people


Article: SERGIO! Garcia finally gets patrons on his side

Article: Fan finally caddies for Sergio after asking 206 times

Article: Sergio donates money for Texas flood relief


Article: Connelly, Garcia paired years after photo together


Ace at 17th at Sawgrass


Growing family

Article: Sergio, Angela get married; Kenny G plays reception

Article: Garcia, wife expecting first child in March 2018


Departure from TaylorMade


Article: Masters champ Garcia splits with TaylorMade


Squashed beef with Paddy

Article: Harrington: Garcia was a 'sore loser'

Article: Sergio, Padraig had 'great talk,' are 'fine'


Victory at Valderrama


Article: Garcia gets first win since Masters at Valderrama

Getty Images

Newsmakers of the Year: Top 10 in 2017

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 12, 2017, 12:30 pm
Getty Images

Montana parents can't watch kids play high school golf

By Grill Room TeamDecember 11, 2017, 9:47 pm

Well, this is a one new one.

According to a report from KTVQ in Montana, this line in the Montana State High School Association rule book all but forbids spectators from observing high school golf in that state:

“No spectators/fans are allowed on the course except for certain locations as designated by the tournament manager and club professional.”

Part of the issue, according to the report, is that most courses don't bother to designate those "certain locations" leaving parents unable to watch their kids compete.

“If you tell a parent that they can’t watch their kid play in the Thanksgiving Day football game, they would riot,” Chris Kelley, a high school golf parent, told KTVQ.

The report lists illegal outside coaching as one of the rule's chief motivations, but Montana State women's golf coach Brittany Basye doesn't quite buy that.

“I can go to a softball game and I can sit right behind the pitcher. I can make hand signals,” she is quoted in the report. “I can yell out names. I can do the same thing on a softball field that might affect that kid. Football games we can yell as loud as we want when someone is making a pass or a catch.”

The MHSA has argued that unlike other sports that are played in a confined area, the sprawling nature of a golf course would make it difficult to hire enough marshals to keep unruly spectators in check.

Meanwhile, there's a lawyer quoted in the report claiming this is some kind of civil rights issue.

Worth note, Montana is one of only two states that doesn't allow spectators on the course. The other state, Alaska, does not offer high school golf.