If you ever want to get levelheaded people in an uproar, bring up any hot topics like politics or religion. These things get a response out of nearly anyone because it appears everyone has an opinion. If your goal is pulling emotion out of veteran golfers, ask them about golf carts on the PGA tour.
With that we welcome Erik Compton, a 28-year-old competing in the first stage of PGA Tour Qualifying School, a tournament some call the most grueling test in golf, on his third different heart. Compton, who teed off on Tuesday at Crannon Park Golf Course in Key Biscayne, Florida, is currently five shots out of the top-23 through two rounds, a spot needed to move on to the second stage of Q-School, but is doing it in a very different way.
Compton was granted a golf cart.
The PGA Tour has always been extremely strict with these rules, granting a golf cart about as often as a mulligan, but Compton's story is rather remarkable. Being a great golfers means you have to be able to handle nerves and pressure as well as anyone, and Erik isn't a virgin to those types of situations.
Starting at age 12, Compton had to get a heart transplant. His first one was before golf was his life, but the second, coming a year ago, occurred just a week after competing in a Nationwide Tour event, when Compton suffered a heart attack and had to wait seven months for a donor.
The heart came through and now Compton is out trying to make his dream come true.
"I've obviously come very, very far in five months," Compton told NBC's Adam Kuperstein. "Getting through here would be a blessing but it's going to be difficult, you know putting the new heart under pressure is a new feeling."
The uphill climb continues for Compton, after rounds of 76-75 have him in a t-55 through the first stage, but the big question here is the golf cart. Basically it comes down to your take on the advantage of a cart in contrast with the disadvantage the player in question will be at without the wheels. Giving someone like Compton a golf cart is intended to even the playing field for a person suffering through a disability others don't have to worry about.
Personally, I see absolutely no problem with this. I've played in competitive events with golf carts and ones where you could walk and I'd take walking 100 percent of the time. I like to feel out the hole, I enjoy knowing the yardage as I'm stepping up to my ball and I like sweating a little while lugging the bag 18 holes. Driving a cart is a leisurely event that is meant for golf outings and bachelor parties and anyone that isn't physically capable of walking 18 holes sure wishes they could.
ESPN did a great fact or fiction about this and the one writer who said he shouldn't be allowed, John Antonini, made this point.
"If Compton's new heart will never be strong enough to allow him to walk the course, he should be allowed to ride. But if doctors say he will be eventually have enough stamina to walk, he should be required to wait until he is able to do so."
Well, I see the logic here, it makes sense, but the time table isn't that flexible. PGA Tour Q-School comes around once a year, and to ask Compton to wait another year is just torture on the highest level. Another year of bumming around on the mini tours, trying to Monday qualify into some Nationwide or PGA Tour events and hoping to pull together enough scratch to fork up the $5,000 for 2009 Q-School doesn't sound like a lot of fun. Give him a shot, see if he can compete and maybe next year he will be strong enough physically to walk the course like everyone else.