Bunker Shots The Heart to Persevere


Blasting into the week ahead with Pascal, Galileo and Mozart.

With 20-year-old Rickie Fowler making a fast start on the PGA Tour, we set the week’s storylines with prodigies guiding us:

Compton and the heart to persevere

“It is incomprehensible that God should exist, and it is incomprehensible that he should not exist.” French mathematician, physicist and philosopher Blaise Pascal (1623-62).

Erik Compton is taking up the cause again.

His stubborn determination to persevere after two heart transplant surgeries resonates beyond golf.

In the world of medicine, especially the treatment of failing hearts, his story is a dose of hope doctors can point to for the therapeutic benefit of all their patients.

Who knows the recoveries Compton may assist with the newest run he has started at PGA Tour Q-School?

On Sunday morning, a day after he tore through the first-stage qualifier at PGA Golf Club in Port St. Lucie, Fla., Compton cuddled with his wife and baby daughter on the couch of their Miami Beach condo and counted his blessings.

“It’s like a rebirth of golf and life,” Compton said. “Something’s going on, and it’s not my doing. For some reason, God’s blessed me.”

It was two years ago that Compton nearly died of a heart attack, surviving only because he was at home in a hospital emergency room when the heart transplant he received as a 12-year-old began to fail. Almost 18 months ago, he had a second heart transplant. A year ago, he made it through the first stage of Q-School with his new heart before missing out at second stage by a single shot. Nine months ago, his wife, Barbara, gave birth to their first child, Petra. Today, they’re packing up their condo after closing on the purchase of their first home in nearby Coral Gables.

After blistering PGA Golf Club’s Wanamaker Course with rounds of 68, 67, 65 and 66 to win medalist honors by seven shots at Port St. Lucie, Compton takes terrific momentum to second stage.

Compton was among 154 players who advanced through seven first-stage qualifiers last week. Six more first-stage qualifiers are scheduled this week with Jamie Lovemark, fresh off his runner-up finish at the Frys.Com Open, scheduled to tee it up Tuesday at Pinewild Country Club in Pinehurst, N.C. Rickie Fowler was scheduled to tee it up at Lantana (Texas) Golf Club but his tie for second at the Frys.com Open earned him enough money in his first two PGA Tour starts as a pro to exempt him into Q-School’s second stage.

Compton is signed up to play second stage at Southern Hills Plantation Club in Brooksville, Fla., Nov. 18-21. He turns 30 a week before teeing it up. It’s going to be a special birthday because he feels as if he’s lived at least three lives already.

“I can’t believe how blessed I am, how things have worked out,” Compton said. “When I had the heart attack, it could have been on a plane. But here I am, two years later, shooting 22 under par and able to pursue something I’ve dreamed of doing my whole life.”

Compton’s torrid play last week was impressive considering it was his first tournament since he played the Memorial on a sponsor’s exemption more than four months ago. After returning home from that event, Compton was fishing with friends in the Everglades. While helping pull a boat back onto a trailer, the hand crank unhinged and broke Compton’s right hand. He didn’t touch a golf club for nine weeks. He was supposed to go 10 weeks in a cast, but he impatiently sawed the cast off a week early.

“My wrist looked so thin when I took the cast off,” Compton said. “I started playing tennis, and that helped a lot in building it back up.”

Compton said even the accident seemed inspired.

“It was a chance to be around Petra and help out Barbara,” Compton said. “That was a blessing.”

Compton’s blessings are shared like medicine. In his first emergence in golf, when he rose to become the No. 1 junior in the nation, Compton understood how fortunate he was, but he didn’t see the larger role his profile gave him as clearly as he does now. His mother, Eli, is the executive director of the Transplant Foundation at the University of Miami, an organization devoted to helping transplant patients and their families with financial and emotional support. Ten years after she slept on the floor at the foot of Erik's hospital bed following his first heart transplant, Eli helped open the Transplant House, rooms on the UM campus for families of patients undergoing transplants.

“Growing up, Erik didn't want to be the 'transplant kid,' ' Eli said. 'He understood, 'Yes, I'm a miracle,' but he wanted golf to be his great achievement. He wanted the transplant to be a footnote to that.'

Eli sees Erik taking up the greater cause in his golf now. He isn’t just a spokesman for the Transplant Foundation. He’s helped counsel other heart transplant recipients who want to know that a better life is possible, who want the hope Erik’s life offers.

“Waking up in intensive care this last [surgery], with all these tubes coming in and out of him, with all these monitors beeping, in that time when you're first trying to bring your mind and body back, it was very tough on him,' Eli said. 'At one point, he was bent over, really struggling to support himself, or move, and he says, 'I can't believe I've put myself through this again.' It was one of those moments when it's so bad, you don't think it's worth it, but it was a short moment. When your mind and body do come back, you realize how happy you are to be alive.'

Surviving moments like that makes Compton’s story special to every heart patient frightened about the future. It makes Compton feel a sense of purpose beyond shooting low scores.

Daly, Duval and Fowler gear up for Viking Classic

“I never ask a man what his business is, for it never interests me. What I ask him about are his thoughts and dreams.” American author H.P. Lovecraft (1890-1937), who recited poetry at 2 and wrote long poems at 5.

For an event that doesn’t feature a player among the top 30 in the Official World Golf Ranking, the Viking Classic at Annandale Golf Club in Madison, Miss., offers compelling possibilities for weekend drama.

John Daly, 43, coming back from a rib injury, is making his first start since the Wyndham Championship two months ago. David Duval, 37, arrives as a bubble boy, No. 125 on the money list. Rickie Fowler, 20, tees it up as a rising young pro full of possibility after losing in a playoff at the Frys.com Open last weekend and tying for seventh the week before at the Justin Timberlake Shriners Hospitals for Childrens Open in his first two PGA Tour starts as a pro.

Fowler’s earnings moved him inside what the top 150 money winners made last season, giving him special temporary Tour membership and exempting him to second stage of Q-School. If he stays within the top 150 of this year’s money list, he will be exempt to final stage. If he moves among the top 125 at season’s end, he will be exempt for next year.

The last time Duval and Daly were both inside the top 50 in the world rankings was July 14, 2002. Fowler was 13 years old. In his two PGA Tour starts as a pro, Fowler (No. 265) already ranks ahead of Daly (No. 439) and is gaining fast on Duval (No. 176).

Allenby vs. Kim: The rematch?

“Actions are right in proportion as they tend to promote happiness; wrong as they tend to produce the reverse of happiness. By happiness is intended pleasure and the absence of pain.” English philosopher/economist John Stuart Mill (1806-1873).

Three weeks after the controversial aftermath of their Presidents Cup match, Robert Allenby and Anthony Kim could meet again. They’re among 16 players competing at the Volvo World Match Play Championship at Finca Cortesin Golf Club in Casares, Spain.

Allenby created a storm when he said Kim beat him at Harding Park after spending nearly the entire night out and then coming home “sideways.” Kim denied he was out late and Allenby apologized.

Under a new format, the Volvo World Match Play field will be divided into four groups (Groups A through D). A round robin on Thursday and Friday will determine who advances from each group to the semifinals. Kim is in Group A with Paul Casey, Retief Goosen and Scott Strange. Allenby is in Group B with Sergio Garcia, Martin Kaymer and Oliver Wilson. If Allenby and Kim advance from their groups, they’ll meet in the semifinals on Saturday.

Group C is made up of Henrik Stenson, Rory McIlroy, Angel Cabrera and Simon Dyson. Group D is comprised of Lee Westwood, Camilo Villegas, Ross Fisher and Jeev Milkha Singh.

Long, lost LPGA storyline re-emerges

“Neither a lofty degree of intelligence nor imagination nor both together go to the making of genius. Love, love, love, that is the soul of genius.” Austrian Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-91).

Out of sight, out of mind, pretty much sums up the plight of the LPGA through most of October.

The tour resumes action after three weeks off with the Hana Bank-Kolon Championship beginning Friday in South Korea. Jiyai Shin’s the big story in her return home. After winning the Japan LPGA event last week, she takes momentum into her stretch-run bid to become the first player to win LPGA Rookie of the Year and Player of the Year awards in the same season since Nancy Lopez in 1978. She leads in points in both award categories. Lorena Ochoa, ranked No. 1 in the world, is in the field and bidding to extend her streak of Player of the Year awards to four consecutive. Just three events remain in the season after this week.

Hall of Fame to grow by four

“I've loved the stars too fondly to be fearful of the night.” Italy’s Galileo Galilei (1564-1642), the father of modern science.

The World Golf Hall of Fame’s membership grows to 130 Monday with the inductions of former U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower, Ireland’s Christy O’Connor, Spain’s Jose Maria Olazabal and American Lanny Wadkins at the World Golf Village in St. Augustine, Fla.

Arnold Palmer will present Eisenhower for his posthumous induction, Christy O’Connor Jr. will present his uncle and CBS announcer Jim Nantz will do the honors for Wadkins. Seve Ballesteros will appear via video to present Olazabal.

Champions Tour to crown season’s winner

“Art washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life.” Spanish painter and sculptor Pablo Picasso (1881-1973).

The Champions Tour season ends with the Charles Schwab Cup Championship Thursday through Sunday deciding the winner of the season-long points race at Sonoma (Calif.) Golf Club. A $1 million annuity goes to the winner of the Charles Schwab Cup. With double points up for grabs, four players have a chance to claim the big prize: Loren Roberts, Fred Funk, Bernhard Langer and Jay Haas.