by Jeff Skinner
With all due respect to The St. Jude Classic, I have already started my countdown to The U.S. Open. The St. Jude Classic is fine, as is The LPGA’s State Farm Classic but this week they are just pacifiers, keeping me content while I wait for the best tournament of the year. The Open at Pebble Beach: it doesn’t get much better than that.
It seems that each time the Open takes place at Pebble it gives us a great champion and an amazing tournament. From Nicklaus to Watson to Kite to Woods, each tournament was a classic and each champion an eventual member of The World Golf Hall of Fame. It really can’t get much better than this.
I do understand that there is some debate as to the Open qualification process but The U.S. Open never has the best field of the majors. The USGA doesn’t claim to have the best field of players. They claim to have the most democratic field and thanks to their qualification process they do. There are more spots earned through the USGA’s qualifying than at any other major tournament. All of the players have dreamed of playing in The U.S. Open, but few have dreamed that dream from a hospital bed while recovering from a heart transplant.
Erik Compton is the one man that had that dream and this year that dream will be fulfilled as Compton used the Open qualification process to take the first step in seeing his dream come true. His story is so different from that of any other golfer. He has had two heart transplants, the most recent two years ago, and has to deal with issues from the transplant each day. His stamina was tested at the qualifier as he had just competed in all four rounds of The Memorial. Compton finished tied with two other golfers after the 36 hole qualifier on Monday and then survived the playoff to make it to Pebble Beach.
Most golfers show up to the course and hope their swing is on that day. Compton does the same but he has to deal with all that comes with being a transplant recipient, the issues with his strength and stamina, the anti rejection drugs and the side effects they cause. Compton’s being alive is a miracle. His playing competitive golf and competing in the U.S. Open is more like an act of God.
He’ll play Pebble for the first time when he tees it up in his first practice round. The rough will be deep and the greens will be firm. The course will play tough and many a pro will be pushed to the edge by the difficult setup the USGA loves so much. Erik Compton won’t mind. He’s here, he’s alive and he’s playing in the U.S. Open.