Awe-Inspiring

By Randall MellJune 18, 2010, 3:10 am

2010 U.S. OpenPEBBLE BEACH, Calif. – Erik Compton put together the most remarkable performance in the history of the U.S. Open Thursday at Pebble Beach.

Forget Johnny Miller’s 63 in the final round at Oakmont in ‘73.

Or Hogan’s return from a nearly fatal car accident to win at Merion in ’50.

Or Tiger Woods’ victory on a blown out knee at Torrey Pines two years ago.

Or even Francis Ouimet’s upset of Harry Vardon and Ted Ray at The Country Club in Brookline in 1913.

The U.S. Open was witness to its first real miracle here at Pebble Beach the moment Compton put his peg in the ground before his first tee shot.

Compton’s overcome more than any man who’s ever played the 110 renditions of this championship.

That’s why the 77 he signed for didn’t add up.

It’s why it made no sense that five hours of the most awe inspiring golf ever played could be summed up so unremarkably.

It’s why it didn’t seem fair that his heroic effort could leave him so desperate to make the cut.

“I’m so angry,” Compton said. “I wasn’t nervous out there. I felt comfortable. I just wish I had gotten off to a better start because I’ve got a lot of work left.”

What’s behind is quickly turned away from to focus on what’s ahead. It’s a way of life for Compton.

While courage is normally too large a word to describe what it takes to play any golf shot, it fits the nature of every shot Compton’s ever played, since the day he received a new heart as a 12-year-old and became the youngest heart transplant recipient at the time at Miami’s Jackson Memorial Hospital.

Golf’s the sport he took up under his doctors’ watchful eyes to help him recover.

It’s the game that makes his new heart seem so mighty to all those fearful souls who wonder what their lives will be like after a transplant only to have doctors tell them about the rich and wondrous life Compton’s lived after his transplant.

Erik Compton 1st round 2010 U.S. Open
Erik Compton is playing in the U.S. Open after two heart transplants. (Getty Images)

Check that, after his transplants.

Because everyone who’s followed Compton’s journey to this U.S. Open knows he’s barely two years removed from his second heart transplant after a heart attack nearly killed him in the fall of ’07.

Compton, 30, might have left the course Thursday frustrated by his round of three birdies, five bogeys and two double bogeys, but his longtime swing coach and friend Jim McLean understood how the round wasn’t distinguished by the nature of the shots played but by the nature of the man playing the shots.

“He’s my hero,” McLean said. “When I saw him lying in the hospital after the last transplant, I didn’t think he would make it. God’s honest truth, the doctors told him playing professional golf was out. It would be too much for him.”

Too much pressure on the new heart, too much angst in the touring pro’s life, and yet five months after the second heart transplant Compton teed it up in a first stage PGA Tour qualifying tournament.

It’s why miraculous, for the first time, is appropriate in describing shots being played in a U.S. Open.

It’s why McLean’s cell phone started humming after Compton chipped in for birdie at his second hole in his first major championship.

With Compton making his way to the next tee, McLean dug the phone out of his pocket.

“I’m not supposed to have my phone on the course,” McLean said. “But look at this.”

McLean showed the message freshly sent from fellow Miami native Cristie Kerr, the LPGA pro who grew up marveling at Compton’s perseverance.

“How do you not cry watching Erik Compton play in the U.S. Open?” Kerr texted from the Shoprite LPGA Classic, where she was preparing to play in Galloway, N.J. “My God, it’s so unbelievable.”

Two-time U.S. Open champion Ernie Els shared the same sentiment with Erik’s father, Peter, during a practice round Wednesday at Pebble Beach. Els called Erik before the U.S. Open and asked if he would like to play a practice round together. They also played a practice round at the Memorial two weeks ago. During Wednesday’s work, Els lagged behind Erik at the ninth hole and waved Peter to come walk with him down the middle of the fairway.

“Ernie wanted me to know how much he admires Erik,” Peter said.

Those words made Peter’s heart swell. They meant so much to a father. The friendship Els has struck up with Compton means so much to the Compton family.

“Ernie said he’s been following my story since I first played at Doral,” Compton said.

When Els won at Doral in ’02, Compton was in the field, playing on a sponsor’s exemption.

“I tell Ernie he’s my hero, and he always says, `No, no, you’re my hero,’” Compton said.

That’s what made their crossing paths so notable in Thursday’s first round. The fourth and 17th tees at Pebble Beach intersect. As fate would have it, Els and Tiger Woods were coming off the 16th green when Compton was teeing it up at No. 4. Els and Woods stopped alongside Compton and watched him hit his tee shot.

“I was 5-over there, and Ernie gave me a look, like, `Let’s get it going,’” Compton said.

Compton strafed a 4-iron to the middle of the fourth fairway, his 13th hole of the first round, but he couldn’t spark a run down the home stretch. It left Compton so angry he marched to the driving range after his round to work on hitting a draw because his fade got him in too much trouble.

“I get so competitive, I want to win so badly, sometimes I think I want it too much,” Compton said. “It’s hard to appreciate what I’ve achieved when I’m out there on the course. I’m pushing so hard.”

That kind of stubborn determination is what makes Compton’s family and friends marvel.

Compton’s wife, Barbara, faithfully followed Erik’s adventures Thursday. She says their 16-month-old daughter, Petra Ella, is just like her father.

“They both want to show you how determined they can be, how tough they are,” Barbara said. “You try to take Petra’s hand, and she won’t let you.”

Christian Compton, Erik’s older brother by three years, knows that stubborn determination. Christian is a project manager for Royal Caribbean, the cruise line. He helped build the Oasis of the Seas, the largest cruise ship in the world. He surprised his brother flying in this week from Finland to watch the U.S. Open.

“I can still remember so clearly the day we first learned Erik needed a heart transplant,” Christian said. “I remember Erik, he was 12, coming home from the doctor with this huge bag of toys, saying how lucky we were to have all these toys, and I remember him saying, `Come on, let’s play.’ And I remember seeing my mother cry when he said it, and I knew something was really wrong.”

The whole family’s together at Pebble Beach this week.

Eli Compton, Erik’s mother, devoted herself to the work of helping families needing organ transplants after Erik’s first surgery. She’s the executive director of the Transplant Foundation of Miami.

While so many fans of Erik tell Eli how they admire his fearless nature, she knows that’s not the true nature of his gift. Erik knows fear. He knows it all too well. She sees how he’s learned to live with fear as a constant companion. His special gift, she knows, is how he keeps figuring out how to beat it.

“Erik gets scared,” Eli says. “He has palpitations, and they do make him afraid.”

This week, fans are marveling at the vital looking young man who’s overcome so much to play in his first major championship, but they can’t fully appreciate just how much. They can’t see how far Erik’s really come because they don’t know how low he’s really been and the risks that lie ahead.

After making the cut at the Memorial on a sponsor’s exemption two weeks ago, Erik shot 82 in the final round. He was exhausted and frustrated. He was also so down about his finish he was going to skip the 36-hole U.S. Open qualifier he was scheduled to play the next day.

“He called home and told us he was going to quit golf,” Eli said. “We were so concerned about him, but, of course, he played and qualified. I tell you, two weeks ago, we couldn’t have imagined being here at this U.S. Open.”

That’s what made the news that he advanced through the U.S. Open qualifier in Springfield, Ohio, in a playoff so emotional.

“My dad was crying on the phone when he told me in Finland,” Christian said.

This U.S. Open seems an impossible reality when the family thinks back to the heart attack that led to Erik’s second surgery. He was stricken in a hospital waiting room in Miami, where he drove himself upon feeling ill. He’d probably be dead if he had been anywhere else when the heart attack struck.

“Waking up in intensive care after the last heart transplant, 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.”

This getting back up to fight, it isn’t just Erik’s story. It’s the whole Compton family story. Christian broke his neck back when he was in college in a snowboarding accident. He was temporarily paralyzed, though he’s nearly completely recovered, some minor nerve damage the only remnant of the frightening fall.

“In my family, a broken neck’s not enough to complain about,” Christian said.

Eli’s a cancer survivor. She was diagnosed with breast cancer seven years ago.

“We know what it is to be afraid, to be crazy with fear sometimes, but we’ve learned that you can’t let it take over your life,” Eli said.

Erik’s story is a hopeful one for so many folks who are afraid as they wait for their own heart transplants. He’s an example of what’s possible.

Christian said he was heartened walking among the gallery Thursday.

“Erik’s raised so much awareness about heart transplants and the importance of organ donors,” Christian said. “Everywhere I go, you hear people saying, `Oh there’s the kid who’s had the heart transplants.’ It’s funny how the story grows, though. I heard this one guy say, `Oh that’s the guy who’s had five hearts.’”

For the record, it’s three hearts, including Erik’s original, and that’s the number that makes Compton’s performance in Thursday’s first round of the U.S. Open the greatest this championship’s ever seen, not the number he scrawled on his scorecard.

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Arizona caps an improbable journey with a title

By Ryan LavnerMay 24, 2018, 3:49 am

STILLWATER, Okla. – Five hours before the final match at the NCAA Women’s Championship, Arizona coach Laura Ianello sat cross-legged on a couch in the Holiday Inn lobby and broke down four times in a half-hour interview.

It’s been that kind of exhausting season.

From poor play to stunning midseason defections to a stroke-play collapse, Ianello has felt uneasy for months. She has felt like she was losing control. Felt like her carefully crafted roster was coming apart.

So to even have a chance to win a NCAA title?

“I know what this team has gone through,” she said, beginning to tear up, “and you don’t get these opportunities all the time. So I want it for them. This could be so life-changing for so many of them.”

A moment that seemed impossible six months ago became reality Wednesday at Karsten Creek.

Arizona continued its magical run through the match-play bracket and knocked off top-ranked Alabama to capture its third NCAA title, with junior Haley Moore – who first rose to fame by making the cut at an LPGA major as a 16-year-old – rolling in a 4-footer to earn the clinching point in extra holes.

All throughout nationals Arizona was fueled by momentum and adrenaline, but this was no Cinderella squad. The Wildcats were ranked ninth in the country. They won twice this spring. They had four medalists. They were one of the longest-hitting teams in the country.

But even before a miracle end to NCAA stroke play, Arizona needed some help just to get here.


NCAA Women’s DI Championship: Team scoring

NCAA Women’s DI Championship: Individual scoring


On Christmas Day, one of the team’s best players, Krystal Quihuis, texted Ianello that she was turning pro. It may have been a gift to her parents, for their years of sacrifice, but it was a lump of coal in Ianello’s stocking.

“I was absolutely heartbroken,” she said. “It was devastating.”

Even more bad news arrived a few weeks later, when junior Gigi Stoll told Ianello that she was unhappy, homesick and wanted to return to Portland, Ore. Just like that, a promising season had gone off the rails.

Ianello offered her a full release, but Stoll looked around, found no other suitors and decided to remain with the team – as long as she signed a contract of expected behavior.

“It was the most exhausting two months of my life,” Ianello said. “We care so much about these freakin’ girls, and we’re like, Come on, this is just a small, little picture of your life, so you don’t realize what you’re possibly giving up. It’s so hard to see that sometimes.”

Stoll eventually bought in, but the rest of the team was blindsided by Quihuis’ decision.

“We became even more motivated to prove we were a great team,” said junior Bianca Pagdanganan.

It also helped that Yu-Sang Hou joined the squad in January. The morale immediately improved, not least because the players now could poke fun at Hou; on her fourth day on campus she nearly burned down the dorm when she forgot to add water to her mac-and-cheese.

Early on Ianello and assistant Derek Radley organized a team retreat at a hotel in Tucson. There the players created Oprah-inspired vision boards and completed exercises blindfolded and delivered 60-second speeches to break down barriers. At the end of the session, they created T-shirts that they donned all spring. They splashed “The Great Eight” on the front, put the state of Arizona and each player’s country of origin on the sleeves, and on the back printed their names and a slogan: If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.

“I can’t think of anything else that better embodies this team,” Radley said.

This spring, they rallied together and finished no worse than fourth in a tournament. Through three rounds of stroke play here at the NCAA Championship, they used their distance advantage and sat third in the standings. Then they shot 17 over par in the final round, tumbling outside the top-8 cut line.

They were down to their final chance on the 72nd hole, needing an eagle to tie, as Pagdanganan lined up her 30-footer. She dramatically drained the putt, then gathered her teammates on the range.

“This means we were meant to be in the top 8,” she said. Less than an hour later, they beat Baylor in the team playoff to earn the last match-play berth.

Ianello was so amped up from the frenetic finish that she slept only three hours on Monday night, but they continued to roll and knocked off top-seeded UCLA in the quarterfinals, beating a pair of Player of the Year contenders, Lilia Vu and Patty Tavatanakit, in the process. In the afternoon semifinals, they jumped all over Stanford and won easily.

It was a cute story, the last team into the match-play field reaching the final match, but a stiffer challenge awaited the Wildcats Wednesday.

Alabama was the top-ranked team in the country. The Tide were a whopping 110 under par for the season, boasting three first-team All-Americans who were so dominant in their first two matches that they trailed for only two of the 99 holes they played.

Ianello already seemed to be bracing for the result on the eve of the final match.

“Win or lose,” she said, “this has been a hell of a ride.”

But their wild ride continued Wednesday, as Hou won four holes in a row to start the back nine and defeat Alabama’s best player, Lauren Stephenson, who had the best single-season scoring average (69.5) in Division I history.

Then sophomore Sandra Nordaas – the main beneficiary after Quihuis left at the midway point of the season – held on for a 1-up victory over Angelica Moresco.

And so Arizona’s national-title hopes hinged on the success of its most mercurial player, Moore. In the anchor match against Lakareber Abe, Moore jumped out to a 2-up lead at the turn but lost the first three holes on the back nine.

By the time Radley sped back to help Moore, in the 12th fairway, she was frazzled.

“But seeing me,” Radley said, “I saw a sense of calm wash over her.”

Moore played solidly for the rest of the back nine and took a 1-up lead into the home hole. She didn’t flinch when Abe hit one of the shots of the entire championship – a smoked 3-wood to 12 feet to set up a two-putt birdie and force extras – and then gave herself 4 feet for the win on the first playoff hole. She sank the putt and within seconds was mobbed by her teammates.

In the giddy aftermath, Ianello could barely speak. She wandered around the green in a daze, looking for someone, anyone, to hug.

The most trying year of her career had somehow ended in a title.

“At some moments, it felt impossible,” she said. “But I underestimated these young women a little bit.”

Getty Images

Pac-12 continues to dominate women's golf

By Golf Channel DigitalMay 24, 2018, 3:04 am

Arizona's national women's golf championship marked the fourth consecutive year in‌ which the women's Division I national title was won by a Pac-12 Conference team. All four championships were won by different schools (Stanford, 2015; Washington, 2016; Arizona State, 2017; Arizona, 2018). The Pac-12 is the only conference to win four straight golf championships (men or women) with four different schools.

Here are some other statistical notes from the just-concluded NCAA Div. I Women's Golf Championship:

• This is the second time that Arizona has won the national title the year after rival Arizona State won it. The last time was 1996.

• Arizona now has three women's golf national championships. The previous two came in 1996 and 2000.

• Arizona is only the sixth school to win three or more Div. I women's golf championships, joining Arizona State (8), Duke (6), San Jose State (3), UCLA (3) and USC (3).

• Arizona's Haley Moore, who earned the clinching point on the 19th hole of her match with Alabama's Lakareber Abe, was the only Arizona player to win all three of her matches this week.

• Alabama's Kristen Gillman and Cheyenne Knight also went 3-0. Gillman did not trail in any match.

• Since the match-play format was instituted in 2015, Arizona is the lowest seed (8) to claim the national title. The seeds claiming the national championship were Stanford (4) in 2015; Washington (4) in 2016; and Arizona State (3) in 2017.

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High school seniors win U.S. Amateur Four-Ball

By Associated PressMay 24, 2018, 1:44 am

TEQUESTA, Fla. - The 18-year-old Hammer, from Houston, is set to play at Texas next fall. Barber, from Stuart, Fla., also is 18. He's headed to LSU.

''Growing up watching U.S. Opens and U.S. Amateurs on TV, I just knew being a USGA champion is something that I desperately wanted,'' said Hammer, who qualified for a U.S. Open three years ago at 15. ''And to finally do it, it feels incredible. It feels as good, if not better, than I thought it would. And especially being able to do it with Garrett. It's really cool to share this moment.''

Hammer and Cole won the par-4 eighth with a birdie to take a 2-up lead. They took the par-4 10th with a par, won the par-5 13th with an eagle - Barber hit a 4-iron from 235 yards to 3 feet - and halved the next two holes to end the match.

''Cole didn't want me to hit 4-iron,'' Barber said. ''He didn't think I could get it there. I was like, 'I got it.' So I hit it hard, hit pretty much a perfect shot. It was a crazy shot.''

The 32-year-old Dull is from Winter Park, Fla., and the 42-year-old Brooke from Altamonte Springs, Fla.

''Cole Hammer is a special player,'' Brooke said. ''Obviously, he's going to Texas (and) I'm not saying he is Jordan Spieth, but there are certain things that he does.''

In the morning semifinals, Hammer and Barber beat Idaho high school teammates Carson Barry and Sam Tidd, 5 and 4, and Brooke and Dull topped former Seattle University teammates Kyle Cornett and Patrick Sato, 4 and 3.

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Watch: Pumped up Beef deadlifts 485 lbs.

By Grill Room TeamMay 24, 2018, 12:19 am

Andrew "Beef" Johnston has been playing some solid golf on the European Tour this season, and he is clearly pumped up for one of the biggest weeks of the year at the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth.

Judging from the video below, Beef will have no problems lifting the trophy on Sunday as he reportedly deadlifted 220 kg ... (Googles kilogram to pounds converter, enters numbers) ... that's 485 lbs!

@beefgolf with a new deadlift PB 220kg ! #youcantgowronggettingstrong

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