I discovered Eric Compton last week. I know I’m probably a little late coming to Compton, but I’m generally focused on the LPGA and the LET, and I leave the PGA commentary to Les Bailey. However, over the past few days, waiting for the US Women’s Open hopefuls to roll into Pinehurst and start limbering up their sticks, I passed the time by watching the men battle it out on Pinehurst No. 2, and I became an Eric Compton fan. The guy really captured my attention and, as I watched him battle his way through 72 grueling holes on what has to be one of the most challenging golf courses in the world. He’s earned my unconditional admiration.
Compton’s playing golf with a third heart. He’s survived viral cardiomyopathy and two heart transplants and he played heroically on No. 2′s fairways and waste areas and ungroomed rough and nasty, tricky greens. Faced with utter physical and mental depletion on Sunday, he played with steely resolve. I could see it on his face.
It was a tough course, an Open that challenged everybody and made par a meaningful score. By Sunday the outcome of the US Open was a done deal. We all knew nobody was going to catch Martin Kaymer and we also knew that Compton and Ricky Fowler were playing for runner-up.
When Compton paused on the fairway mid-way through back nine and drew a deep breath as he contemplated his next shot I knew he was reaching deep, deep into the very limited physical and mental reserves remaining in his bag of tricks.
I live with and play golf with an energy-sapping chronic disease and I know what it feels like to face down that moment in a round when you wonder if you have enough left in you to finish it. I’ve reached that point many times myself. Compton was there. I could feel it. I breathed with him, closed my eyes as he closed his, and willed him to line it up and take his shot. He did, and he kept going, and he finished the round, one of three guys in red numbers!
I’ll conjure up that image of Compton on the back nine every time I think I’ve run out of steam. Is it going to convert me to a PGA fan? Probably not. But I’ll follow Eric Compton, and you know he’ll be high on my Must Watch list for the 2015 Masters!