“Golf is a good walk spoiled,” according to Mark Twain. And to be totally honest, it’s not my game. I can make neither heads nor tails of it, and can find no good reason to watch it on TV.
Compton was born with Cardiomyopathy and had his first heart transplant at the age of 12. Things were going well for him until last year, when he suddenly had a heart attack and wound up in the hospital again. His attack resulted in a second heart transplant, and now here he is, ten months after getting his (second) new heart, playing in a Professional Golfer’s Association (PGA) level golf tournament. Compton hasn’t yet qualified through “Q-School” (the PGA’s testing program: do well in Q-School and you can get your PGA card, which allows you to enter tournaments as a professional) and had to get a sponsor’s exemption to play.
Enter John Paul George.
John Paul (named after the Pope, not the Beatles) is a 14 year old Cardiac Kid from Juno Beach, Florida living with Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome (HLHS). He’s about half the size of a “normal” 14 year old teenager and looks like a child, but John Paul is a rock. His dad spoke with Erik Compton after a practice on Wednesday, and John Paul was invited to hang out with Erik during the tournament on Friday.
There was one catch: Compton had been granted the right to use a golf cart, something rarely done on the PGA Tour. He planned to turn it down and walk the course, to prove that transplant patients could live their lives to the fullest. John Paul could use a cart if he wished; after all, he wasn’t competing. But John Paul refused. If Erik was walking, he was walking too.
Darkness had stopped the match the day before, so Erik had to finish two holes before “officially” starting Friday’s round, but John Paul was good to go. Together, the guy on his third heart and the boy with only half a heart took on The Honda Classic. Erik was shooting the lights out and John Paul was right there with him, every step of the way. Compton shot a 69 and for a moment, was tied for second place.
In the perfect world Erik would have swept into first place with John Paul by his side, outplayed everyone on Saturday and Sunday, and won the whole bloomin’ thing. But that only happens in bad fiction. Y.E. Yang won the tournament; Erik finished tied for 44th and won $16,000.
But it’s not about the money. It’s not about the game.
It’s about overcoming the obstacles in your path and living your life, no matter what. And in that contest, Erik Compton and John Paul George tied for first place.