Erik Compton is a walking, talking medical miracle

803220.png

Erik Compton is a walking, talking medical miracle

Len Shapiro
CSNWashington.com

Erik Compton looked tired late Tuesday afternoon. He had just played nine holes in a warm-up round for the AT&T National at Congressional Country Club, followed by a little practice and a half-dozen media interviews.

On Wednesday, there was more of the same, as well as a visit to the Washington Hospital Center in the morning to meet with transplant patients and staff members, the better to promote organ and tissue awareness.

Compton is a walking, talking prime example of the sort of medical miracles transplants can accomplish. Hes had two heart transplants, one at the age of 12, the other in 2008 at the age of 28. Now, four years later, he is a full-fledged member of the PGA Tour, playing in his rookie season at age 32.

Im just a regular guy playing golf, he insisted during an interview. But I guess maybe Im not that regular.

He is also a gifted golfer, a man who visualized returning to the game he loves while recovering from his second transplant four years ago, even if most of his doctors told him they didnt think it was possible.

Hes been through more and overcome more than anyone I have ever known, his long-time teacher, Miami-based Jim McLean, told CBSsports.com earlier this year. I remember visiting him in his hospital room and the doctors told him he was pretty much through with professional golf. He has already achieved more than anyone could have expected. His comeback, its unreal.

Certainly, its a remarkable story for the former University of Georgia All-American and member of the 2001 Walker Cup team.

In 2008, Compton was playing in a Nationwide Tour event when he duck hooked a drive late in his round and missed the cut. He flew back home to Miami and a few days later was out fishing with friends when he began to suffer intense pain in his shoulder blades. He was taken to the hospital and told hed had a major heart attack, with a blocked artery.

He was soon on a transplant list, eventually receiving the heart of a 26-year-old man who had been killed when his bicycle was hit by a pickup truck. Within a year, Compton was back playing competitive golf again. In 2009, he made two cuts on the PGA Tour playing on sponsors exemptions and in 2010, he played 36 holes in a single day to qualify for the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach.

In 2011, he played in 18 Nationwide Tour events and finished 13th on the money list, earning an automatic promotion to the PGA Tour. His season also included a victory in the Mexican Open when he shot 65 in the final round.

This year, hes played in 15 events and made ten cuts and about 230,000. His main goal now is to keep his card for the 2013 season. A victory would obviously give him a two-year exemption. Without a win, he would have to earn about 700,000 to keep his card for next season.

Despite all those made cuts, his rookie year has been something of a disappointment if only because his best finish has been a tie for 26th in the Honda Classic just up the road from his home in Coral Gables, Fla. Hes shown flashes of brilliance, including a 67 in the first round of the Memorial three weeks ago, but his weekend scoresincluding three straight 75s in that event-- have been a problem all season.

Stamina is always a little bit of a factor, he said, but Ive also made some bad decisions on club selection. Theres also something to be said for playing a course four or five times and getting to know it. As a rookie, its always hard because you really dont know the lay of the land.

You know how you feel when you eat a meal and youre satisfied? I just want to feel that way after a tournament. I havent felt that way this year. My game has been hit and miss, sporadic. Im hoping thats going to change.

Still, Compton is hardly a complainer. He knows hes got to play better to keep his Tour playing privileges, particularly with his short game. He also knows hes a role model for so many others, a responsibility he does not take lightly.

Theres part of me thats chasing to do something that nobody has done, he said earlier in the season. At the end of the day, I dont care if I make a lot of money. I still want to be in my back yard hosing my plants and hosing down the patio and doing the simple things.

I think the talent is there. Theres a lot more to this game than just talent, but I cant wait as much as you can.

Quick Links

Gillmore: No panic despite thinning TE ranks

Gillmore: No panic despite thinning TE ranks

When the Ravens entered training camp, tight end was considered the deepest position on the team after the signing of veteran Ben Watson and the return of Dennis Pitta from two serious hip injuries.

But now, the Ravens are staring at the prospect of having just one healthy tight end for their Week 1 game against the Bills.

Watson suffered what is believed to be a season-ending Achilles injury on the first play of the Ravens preseason game Saturday night against the Lions, and Dennis Pitta (broken finger) and Maxx Williams (undisclosed) remain sidelined with injuries. Two other tight ends, Darren Waller and Nick Boyle must begin serving suspensions when the regular season starts – Waller four games and Boyle 10.

So of the top six tight ends on the depth chart, Crockett Gillmore is the only healthy one who will be on the roster for the Sept. 11 opener.

But Gillmore, who had one catch for 2 yards in the Ravens 30-9 win Saturday night, said no one is in panic mode.

MORE RAVENS: 3 OBSERVATIONS FROM FLACCO'S PRESEASON DEBUT

“This is an organization that has dealt with those kinds of things since I’ve been here, and we’ve always had guys step up,” Gillmore said.

Watson’s injury does have a painful ring of familiarity; the Ravens lost veterans Terrell Suggs and Steve Smith to season-ending Achilles injuries last year.

“It’s not like we’re sweating bullets around here,” Gillmore said. “We’ve got a lot of guys that can play.”

The problem is, at least two of them – Waller and Boyle – can’t play early in the season. Pitta has been out with a broken finger sustained in a scuffle with Kamalei Correa in a stadium practice earlier this month, and Wiliams has missed the past two preseason games. Their availability for Week 1 remains uncertain.

Watson’s injury could open the door for Daniel Brown to make the team, at least until Waller’s suspension is over, depending on the progress of Pitta and Williams.

Another option might be to look to utilize fullback Kyle Juszczyk more often in a hybrid role.

 “That’s a versatile guy that can do everything,” Gillmore said.

“We’re not sweating,” Gillmore said. “We’ve got a bunch of receivers, too. We’ll make it work.”

Quick Links

Ravens win preseason game vs. Lions, but lose Watson for season

Ravens win preseason game vs. Lions, but lose Watson for season

BALTIMORE – Five instant observations from the Ravens’ 30-9 preseason win over the Lions, which made the Ravens 3-0 this preseason:

1. Ben Watson’s season-ending Achilles injury made this victory hollow:

The veteran tight end was lost on the first play from scrimmage, and his season was lost before he ever played a regular season game for the Ravens. Football can be cruel.

2.  Rookie running back Kenneth Dixon’s knee injury could be another blow.

It was announced that Dixon had a sprained left knee, but he was helped off the field, and no timetable was given for his return. It would not be surprising if an MRI is forthcoming. If so, many people will be holding their breath.

MORE RAVENS: DEEPER LOOK AT FLACCO'S PRESEASON DEBUT

3. Rookie pass rusher Matt Judon looks ready to have an immediate impact.

Judon had a strip-sack on another active night. At the very least, Judon looks like could have an immediate role as a situational pass rusher.

4. Linebacker-safety Anthony Levine could be the Ravens’ most improved player.

Levine had an athletic interception, and he has made a successful transition to playing closer to the line of scrimmage. Last week, Levine picked off a pass on a two-point conversion attempt against the Colts and took it to the house. Levine’s ability to line up in multiple spots, and to make plays, could make the Ravens’ defense more versatile and less predictable.

5.  Wide receiver Jeremy Butler keeps making plays.

I know it’s preseason, and I know the Ravens are deep at wide receiver. But I think they have to keep Jeremy Butler. He had his second touchdown catch of the preseason, he can contribute on special teams, and he caught 31 passes last season. I see the Ravens keeping seven receivers - Steve Smith Sr., Kamar Aiken, Mike Wallace, Breshad Perriman, Michael Campanaro, Chris Moore, and Butler.

Quick Links

Nats' bullpen, defense continue to cause problems, lead to losses

Nats' bullpen, defense continue to cause problems, lead to losses

Starter A.J. Cole made it 5 2/3 innings on Saturday afternoon, which is pretty good considering that's how much Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg combined to pitch against the Rockies less than two weeks ago. Gio Gonzalez also only made it three innings in that series due to a rain delay.

And in the time since, the Nats' bullpen has been battered around by all sorts of elements including injuries and short outings from starters. The Nationals' next off-day on Thursday, Sept. 1 can't come soon enough to put them out of their current 20 games in 20 days misery.

Cole's outing, by all accounts, could have been a lot worse. But unfortunately for the Nationals, Saturday's game went to extra innings, forcing manager Dusty Baker to do some things he wouldn't normally prefer to do. Like, use the newly acquired Marc Rzepczynski for 2 1/3 innings. Or, to go to Mark Melancon for the third straight game. Or, to leave Yusmeiro Petit on the mound in the 11th even when it was clear he just didn't have it.

For Petit, in particular, Baker felt like he had no other choice, even after the right-hander served up a two-run homer to Charlie Blackmon.

"We felt badly for Yusmeiro because we had to leave him in there, he was our last pitcher we didn't have [Koda] Glover and we were trying to stay away from [Mark] Melancon because that was his third day in a row and we didn't have [Shawn] Kelley. We were down to our last player, we had no more players on the bench and that was our last player, I don't know who was going to pitch if he didn't get out of that inning. He took one for the team so to speak," Baker said.

Petit's inning got off on a sour note with an error by Anthony Rendon at third base. It was one of two errors committed by the Nationals on Saturday. One was by Rzepczynski in the seventh and that one helped lead to a run. Rzepczynski also messed up fielding a bunt in the ninth. Cole also allowed a run on a wild pitch during an intentional walk.

It was a rough day for the Nats, who were plagued by uncharacteristic mistakes. That has been a theme lately and the Nationals hope it ends soon.

“We address it daily, but you cant harp on it. Like I said the other day these things go in streaks," Baker said. "Tony is sure handed over there. We haven’t seen Rzepczynski. He just threw that ball over the head. They bunted on us twice a couple of times and got hits on us. We just have to continue to work.”

The Nats have now made 14 errors in their last nine games. It's been bizarre to watch and it has some at a loss for words.

“Can’t call it. I don’t know. One of those things," left fielder Jayson Werth said.

[RELATED: Harper explains ejection vs. Rockies: 'It's not a strike']

SCROLL DOWN FOR MORE NATIONALS STORIES