Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Erik Compton –THE best story of this US Open

Well, I made it.

As it turned out, the easiest part of the day was the plane flight. Seriously though, I do not know how people who fly all the time do it. First you wait in line to get your ticket checked and then you go through the degrading experience of practically stripping to go through security.

I made two mistakes today: First I started to pick up my bag while the guy was still scanning my driver’s license. “I’ll tell you when to pick up the bag sir.”


Then, after taking off my shoes and my belt, I forgot to take my sports coat off (!!). I was so focused on making sure I didn’t put anything in the wrong place I flat out forgot to take off the jacket. I got snapped at for that too.

Dulles Airport used to be one of the world’s simplest. You went through security—a lot different back then obviously—and got on what they called a “people-mover,” that delivered you to your plane. Now they have a subway system ala Atlanta and you take an escalator to the center of the earth to get to it and then walk forever once you get off the escalator to get within range of your gate.

I do this stuff maybe three times a year and it makes me nuts. How do people do it three times a week? Or more?

The flight—drug-aided—was fine. Then we landed in San Francisco and boy has that airport changed. Again, I’m old enough to remember WALKING to my rent-a-car. Now you walk miles to a train, take the train through about 100 stops, wait on line forever at the rental car counter and then wait AGAIN until your car pulls up. I swear it almost took longer to get out of the airport than to fly across the country.

I made it down the Monterey Peninsula fine but then must have driven 170 miles on 17-mile drive to find the parking lot. But I found it. So I’m here. When I walked in two things happened, one nice and one predictable. The nice thing was that a number of people came up to say how much they enjoyed the ‘Caddy For Life,’ documentary last night. There were also a lot of nice e-mails saying the same thing.

The predictable thing that happened was that someone apparently asked Tiger Woods in his pre-U.S. Open press conference today if, given that one’s personal life can affect one’s performance, there was anything new on his impending divorce. (Not sure how it was phrased EXACTLY, I haven’t looked up the transcript. I’m sure it is online if anyone is curious). Tiger’s answer was apparently something to the affect of, “none of your business.”

I guess it’s not, unless HE thinks it may be affecting his play. But it is a legitimate question to ask. I honestly don’t care whether he answers it or not at this point. I just don’t want to hear from ANYONE—including the BCS Presidents and Ari Fleischer—that Tiger is a changed man.

Enough about that. My brother Bobby says I take the bait on Tiger too often, that I shouldn’t write about him or talk about him anymore until and unless something REALLY happens. I agree except for this one problem: people ASK me about Tiger all the time. A few days after John Wooden died I was on Tony Kornheiser’s show. Maybe Tony didn’t ask me about Wooden because he was afraid I’d tell the hotel lobby story again—no apologies, it’s a great story—but he wanted to talk about Tiger. I swear I don’t even remember what he was asking about but that’s where HE went with the conversation, not me.

The last month when I’ve been promoting, ‘Moment of Glory,’ how many times do you think I’ve been asked about Tiger? Granted, I have a set answer designed to steer the conversation back to the book. At least I DON’T go around saying I know Tiger well or believe I have any handle on his psyche. I don’t—neither does anyone else who does what I do for a living.

The best story at this U.S. Open, regardless of who wins the championship, is Erik Compton. No one else comes close. This is a guy who has had TWO heart transplants—one at the age of 12, the other at the age of 28 after he had a major heart attack six months earlier.

I had the chance to talk to Compton after he made it through Open qualifying—walking 39 holes that day because he had to go three holes in a playoff to earn his spot. If he has any complaints about how tough his life has been (The guy has had more than 1,000 biopsies; that’s not a typo) he doesn’t let on.

“When I had the heart attack I was trying to get myself to the hospital (he blew through a toll booth on The Florida Turnpike en route) I was honestly thinking two things,” he said. “One was that I was lucky that I had lived this long and two, I hoped I would make it to the hospital so I’d have a chance to call my parents and say goodbye.”

He was in intensive care for 30 days after the surgery and there were times, he said, when he regretted the transplant, wished he hadn’t done it. But his parents sat with him for hours and hours and his father, Peter, wouldn’t allow him to give up.

“He sat there and said, ‘you’re going to play golf again,’” Compton said. “I’d say, ‘dad, it’s over.’ He simply refused to accept that. Eventually I came to believe what he believed.”

Five months after the surgery, Compton made the cut at Disney. He’s playing this year on sponsor exemptions wherever he can get in and he’s five-for-five making cuts. But the weekends still wear him out. Walking four days in a row is still difficult. Which is what makes what he did in the Open qualifier remarkable: on Sunday he shot 82 at The Memorial and thought about not even going to the golf course for the qualifier on Monday. He went—and made it, his first trip to a major.

“Two years ago I was lying in a hospital bed wondering if I’d ever get out of that bed, now I’m playing the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach,” he said. “This is my journey this week. It isn’t about being in the same field with Tiger Woods or Phil Mickelson or anyone else it’s about me getting to play in this event.”

If you really want someone to pull for this week, here’s your answer. He tees it up at 5:30 eastern on Thursday.

At the end of our conversation, Compton jokingly asked if I’d write a book on him if he won the Open. I told him, if he was game for it and wanted me as the author, we’d start Monday morning.

I wasn’t kidding.


John recently appeared on The Jim Rome Show ( to discuss 'Moment of Glory.' Click here to download, or listen in the player below:

John's new book: "Moment of Glory--The Year Underdogs Ruled The Majors,"--is now available online and in bookstores nationwide. Visit your favorite retailer, or click here for online purchases


Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing that story....maybe you guys shouldn't wait for him to win to write the book, it would be inspirational without being the US Open champ?!?

Hustle said...

Q. On the basis that all our professional lives, all our professional lives, are affected by our personal lives, can you tell us if you’ve got any resolution one way or the other with Elin yet?

TIGER WOODS: That’s none of your business.

....that was the exact question and exact answer. Honestly, I don't have any issue with the way it was asked and I also don't have any problem with his answer. It's STILL his personal life whether you like it or not. Your brother Bobby is spot take the bait on Tiger not too often but ALL the time. That's just a fact. I've heard you on a couple of radio stations basically say you don't like the guy so I always take whatever you say about him with a grain of salt. It's common knowledge you don't have the best relationship with him. Does he even speak to you anymore these days?

Gordon said...

Not that me or anyone else needs to stand up for John but the fact of the matter is that in the face of a new book and the "caddy for life" documentary all he is asked about is Tiger. It has to get old and more than a little annoying. He like all of us are sick of "as the tiger turns" His golf game or his swing or even his health relative to his golf are one thing but the obsession with everything else is just plain obnoxious. ENOUGH!

Sometimes it's not the number on the score card or scoreboard that matter as is the case with Erik Compton who only serious golf geeks like me had ever heard of before. Sometimes its how one gets there that is important and inspiring. Even I didn't know the complete story until now. The only problem is that he really does need to win to warrant a book as with out the the Cinderella ending no publisher would go near it. Regardless it's a great story.

Drive idiots like Alex Mecelli and all the other GC people nuts and call the US Open The Open Championship as often as you get the opportunity. Trust me they love it!

This would be a great week for TV golf it we didn't have to listen to Johnny Miller

qtlaw24 said...

Mr. Feinstein, thanks for the reminder that some golfers are real people who have the same obstacles as the general populus.

One hint, go find the Monterey Fish House, a great little seafood jewel. Or get a table at Roy's and have the seared Ahi tuna, no one does it better.

Enjoy the Peninsula, its going to be a great weekend down there.

Branden said...

Compton is a great story! Write the book.

Anonymous said...

I am Erik's most recent heart donor's Mother. I like the idea of you writing the book!