Niagara Gazette — If you like “heart” warming stories, then the tale of PGA tour member Eric Compton is a great place to start.
The 33-year-old professional was diagnosed as a child with cardiomyopathy, which is an inflamed heart muscle that cannot adequately pump blood through the body. As a result, Compton has endured two heart transplants, the first when he was 12 years old and a second in 2008.
Despite the malady, he succeeded in turning professional in 2001 and began his career on the Nationwide Tour. Last season, he successfully made 16 weekend cuts on the PGA Tour. His best finish was a tie for 13th at the 2012 John Deere Classic.
His underdog charm took yet another upturn two weeks ago when he made news by MISSING the cut by a single stroke at the Zurich Classic. Normally, a missed cut wouldn’t be noteworthy news but the circumstances surrounding his missed cut managed to further increase his fan appeal.
During Thursday’s first round in the event, he turned a par into a double bogey when he called a two-stroke penalty on himself at the seventh hole. The issue arose when Compton hit his drive on the par 5 hole into the water, took a drop, found the green with his third shot, and two-putted for an apparent par.
As he retrieved his ball from the cup, he noticed that he had used an older Titleist model than the 2013 version he'd used to start the round. As such, he was in violation of Rule 33-1 and assessed himself a two-stroke penalty.
No one, except Compton, would have ever known. Instead of playing for big cash on the weekend, exceptional honor sent Compton home sooner than he had planned. Looking for a role model, a true hero? Look no further than Eric Compton, professional golfer.
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Let’s start some controversy. It’s time for all area golf courses to support the USGA and its now two-year-old “Tee It Forward” campaign by providing three distinct sets of tees for its players. At many public courses in our vicinity, there is no measurable distinction between the various tees being offered.
Here’s the simplicity of the USGA crusade. Golfers come in all shapes, sizes and skill sets. Expert players who can hit a drive 250 yards and more should play 6,500-yard courses. Players who cannot hit a drive that distance should play yardages that are shorter in order to establish equity and enjoyment.
Makes sense to me.
If you hit the ball 225 off the tee, you would be better to play a 6,100-yard course. Hit it only 200 yards? No problem. Play the course at 5,700 yards. 175-yard and less drivers of the ball should play layouts that measure around 5,100 yards.
Everyone gets a fair shot at par and everyone has more fun, including the better players who can now get around the course more rapidly.
So, what’s the problem? The predicament is that our area courses do not currently provide tee flexibility. As a result, players are forced to play layouts that are too long for them and play on those negligent courses is v-e-r-y s-l-o-w.
The “Tee It Forward” initiative is uncomplicated and supports both the player and the golf course. Golfers who accept their limits will now have a chance to reach each hole in regulation and play on the course will speed up as a consequence. It’s a win-win situation.
The USGA endorses it and our area courses should provide it. And, if any area course would like to reset their tees in this manner, I’ll offer my services free of charge to assist them. Call me. (Special thanks to reader Bob Berthot for suggesting this topic.)
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I received my first email question from long-time reader Tom Carlson of Bergholz. His inquiry: “Ken, is it really that important to have your golf clubs fitted for you or is the idea overrated?”
Good question Tom. The simple answer is that it’s very important to be properly fitted by a local golf professional. There are so many variables that go into the construction of a golf club. Here’s a few:
1. Shaft. They come in all lengths and strengths. Shafts can be very flexible (recommended for senior players) or they can be stiff (recommended for a player with swing speeds exceeding 110 MPH). They have low “kick” points for players who want to keep their ball flight low and high “kick” points for players that desire to hit their golf ball on a higher trajectory. The correctly fitted shaft will optimize the swing characteristics that you currently possess.
2. Clubhead. They come in a multitude of designs. Some clubfaces are extra large and provide a bigger “sweet spot” surface. These assist the novice and average player. There are also “blade” club heads which are geared more for the low handicap, expert player. This type of face is less forgiving on off-center strikes but its construction allows the better player to “work” the ball better.
3. Grip. Technology has improved the vast selection of grips that can be placed on your golf club. A professional fitting expert will take note of your hand as it is wrapped around the grip to fit you with the best width. I, for example, have larger than normal hands and prefer an over-sized grip.
Every season or two, I meet with my professional Dan Antonucci from Niagara Frontier. He is specially trained in fitting a club to a player and he carries several brands of equipment.
He has apparatus that give great feedback on player tendencies. For example, I hold my hands relatively low at address. His testing tools allow him to establish that I need a club head that is “flattened” by 2-degrees to accommodate my swing plane. Without this adjustment, I would likely hit into the ground heel first and close the clubface prematurely.
Getting fitted correctly is a great way to make the most of the golf game that you bring to the table. It’s by no means a remedy for a poor swing technique, but it’s the first thing to do on your checklist if you have any hopes of improving your game.
Until next week, keep it in the fairway.Ken Ruggiero is a local golf instructor and has been writing this column for the past 28 years. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.