Ya Gotta have “Heart!”

On the TUNNEYSIDE of SPORTS April 13, 2015 #536 Up next…Ya Gotta Have “Heart!”

After further review…With the completion of the 79th Masters Golf tournament this last weekend, the age-old question is asked once more: how does one qualify to receive such a prestigious invitation? The truth is that 99-plus percent of those playing golf today will never be invited to participate. But ask any of those legions of golfers, and they will tell you that simply to play Augusta National would be a dream come true, never mind the green jacket. There are 19 routes to that coveted invitation. So, —how did a professional golfer ranked 117th by Official World Golf get one, and who is he?

His name is Erik Compton, 35, born and raised in Miami of Norwegian ancestry, and he has played golf since he was 12. At age 18, he was the top-ranked junior golfer in the United States, and later became a two-time All-American at the University of Georgia coached by Chuck Haack – or “Hacker” as he is known by the six – yes, six — professional protégés who played in this year’s Masters.  But Haack’s tutelage alone did not qualify Compton for an invitation to play in the event he had dreamed of all his life. Stay tuned.

Compton’s second-place tie in the 2014 U.S. Open at Pinehurst #2 did! And for that he earned $789,330, his biggest win ever. With that tidy sum, you’d think Compton might have celebrated by taking a cruise or a vacation. Nope—Erik played in the Travelers Championship in Crowell, CT., the very next week, which gave him the chance to show up at Hartford Hospital and visit heart transplant patients.

You see, Compton, who walked the Augusta National terrain last week, has had two heart transplants! His first was in 1992 at the age of 12 due to cardiomyopathy. The second was in 2008, at age 29. If you’re keeping score at home, Compton played this year’s Masters with his third heart! Note: Compton shot a one over par to make the cut!

His appearance at the Hartford hospital was no surprise. Photographers had followed Compton there, but he avoided them saying he preferred private time with patients. One of them, Shawn Fullard, was preparing to undergo her second and had lost considerable weight.  Compton told her his weight dropped to 129 pounds following his second procedure, and assured her the weight will come back. He encouraged her to “Stay Strong;” then, he autographed a golf glove for her.

Will you have the “heart” to follow your dreams even under trying circumstances?

To contact Jim go to www.jimtunney.com or email jim@jimtunney.com.

Three of Jim’s books: (“101 Best of Tunney Side of Sports,” “It’s the Will, Not the Skill,” and Impartial Judgment,” are available at the value price of $40. – $20. off the list price. Please email him at the above address.

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