Welcome, friends. Yes, pro sports are starting to return, and golf is chief amongst them. The PGA Tour begins play Thursday in Fort Worth for the Charles Schwab Challenge at Colonial Country Club. A few former ‘Dawgs are in the field (Keith Mitchell, Brian Harman, Harris English, Sepp Straka, Brendon Todd, Bubba Watson, Kevin Kisner, and Chris Kirk), but that’s not what I’m here for. First, some background in case you were following Bundesliga:
Pro golf came to a stuttering stop in early March once the pandemic caught the right ears. The PGA Tour was at a flagship event, the Players Championship, when they made a decision after the first round to play without fans. Then overnight they cancelled the whole thing. The Tour hasn’t played a shot since.
But after consideration and congress with various golfing bodies, and the players themselves (independent contractors all, but they have a representative committee that deals with the Tour), a decision was made to restart the season this week in Texas. They will play the next four tournaments without patrons, before eventually allowing a limited audience back in with masks at Muirfield Village in July.
The players are, at this point, happy to play and earn fat paychecks even with no one clapping, yelling “Mashed Potato” after a shot, or taking pictures in their downswing. The general consensus is that phasing in fans via constricted entry, wearing masks, reducing common areas, etc. is the wise move and they can reassess at each stage. And there seems to be few, if any, pro golfers who have contracted COVID-19. So this cautious approach with measures in place, phasing in larger crowds, and preventative measures should be easy on everyone, right?
We’ve covered former UGA golfer Erik Compton’s story previously on this site and through the ‘Dawgs on Tour series. But considering Compton lost his PGA Tour playing privileges (think relegation) and is back playing on the Korn Ferry Tour (think AAA baseball), why would we revisit? Because he’s got a LOT of heart. Literally.
Let’s consider Erik Compton. A Miami, FL native (of Norwegian descent) who played at UGA in the late 90’s and early aughts. Turned pro in 2001 and had good success on the developmental Tours, earning his PGA Tour card and having a decent early career. He even placed second at the 2014 US Open. Oh, except he was diagnosed with viral cardiomyopathy, a condition affecting muscles of the heart. A condition that has now required not one, but TWO heart transplants. And yet he plays on.
He plays on even though he takes dozens of pills a day to help manage his immune system and to prevent his body from rejecting the transplanted organ. And these meds have to be tweaked almost continually. His body simply can’t fight off the common germs and viruses we all are exposed to every day. It’s well documented that he thought his death was imminent. And he still calls Miami home - an area hit very hard by the virus.
Compton is pretty diligent about social distancing and preventing the spread of, well, anything. During the pandemic he’s had to be especially so. His mask is, shall we say, top of the line. He wipes down things most don’t even think about. He keeps his distance. For one who has seen more hospital time than a lot of us put together, Compton is fully aware what catching the coronavirus would do. He’s the poster boy for “underlying condition” or “compromised immune system.”
But this week, we find our hero heading north to Ponte Vedra, site of the Korn Ferry Tour’s return to golf at TPC Sawgrass, joining Greyson Sigg, Joey Garber, and Hudson Swafford. You know he’ll have to take the same precautions every other player will, plus probably 50% more. He’s 40 years old, at high risk for serious complications from COVID-19, yet he continues the fight to get back to the PGA Tour and reach the pinnacle of his sport. Because he’s a competitor, and because he’s a Bulldog.
I’ll be rooting for him, so please join me in cheering Erik on. And as always...