Why I Love The PGA Tour

The PGA Tour continues to surprise us. Just about the time you think the story will write itself with glowing narratives about our week-to-week top players, somebody comes out of nowhere to amaze us with their skill. In today’s first round in the Sony Open in Hawaii, it was Graham DeLaet and Bud Cauley with an inspirational interview from Eric Compton.

DeLaet is the first-round leader in the clubhouse with a 7-under 63. To most of us, this is a nobody from nowhere. He’s a Canadian from Weyburn, Saskatchewan, attended college at Boise State and resides in Boise. But the truth is, he’s not a nobody, he’s just a pretty good unknown. He’s had four international victories and played in the World Cup twice. The World Cup, you’ll recall, is the two-man team event in China, last year won by Matt Kuchar and Gary Woodland of the United States.

He won his card by finishing T8 in the 2009 Q-School, finished T3 in the 2010 Shell Houston Open and finished 100th on the Money List with $954,000. But did you ever hear of him? I didn’t.

Maybe one of the reasons why is that he had back surgery in 2011, tried to play mid-year and then went back to the bench to continue his re-hab. This year he’s playing on a major medical and has 26 events to earn $657,700 to keep his card. What a wonderful way for him to have started that campaign: he had one eagle, six birdies and just one bogey.

He has an afternoon tee time tomorrow, so if he keeps this up, we’ll see a lot of him in the Golf Channel coverage.

Bud Cauley was an All-American at Alabama and played on the winning 2009 Walker Cup. He turned pro right before last year’s U.S. Open. He played in 8 events through sponsor’s exemptions finishing T4 in the Viking Classic and 3rd in the Frys.com Open (Tiger’s coming out party at the behest of Presidents Cup captain, Fred Couples). At the end of the season, he’d accumulated $735,000, enough to earn his PGA Tour card without actually having to go to Q-School, a very rare accomplishment achieved by just six players: Gary Hallberg, Scott Verplank, Phil Mickelson, Justin Leonard, Tiger Woods and Ryan Moore. And now seven. Not a bad list to have your name associated with.

He “only” finished T5 Thursday shooting a 4-under 66; six birdies and two bogeys. He is an extremely confident young man, impacted no doubt by his ebullient, irrepressible father, a former Navy diver who can barely contain himself when he attends Bud’s events.

Cauley gave a very centered post-round interview to Kelly Tilghman where he humbly, but matter-of-factly responded to her that, yes, he expected to win, win majors and make the Hall of Fame. And on that last one, “Sure, why not?” There was not a hint of hubris, it was all possibility.

And finally, we have Erik Compton. As you may have heard by now, this is the guy who is already on his third heart. He had his first transplant as a 12-year-old. They said the heart would probably only last 5 years and it lasted 17. But when it started to unravel that day, by the time he drove himself to the hospital, he was coughing up blood. He managed to make it though a second transplant in 2008 and five months later finished T60 at Disney. He’s been working his way back to the Tour ever since, finally winning his card on the Nationwide Tour last year.

Tim Rosaforte did a, forgive me, heart-warming interview piece with Compton that aired during the first round broadcast. The Golf Channel hasn’t put it up yet, but it would be worth checking back regularly just to see it. Compton went into some detail, not only about the physical aspects of his heart failures, but also the emotional and psychological too.

I did find part of it from another broadcast, “Heart of a Champion – Part II,” which philosophically ended with this transformational quote from Compton:

For the first time in my life, I don’t feel intimidated by the other players or the golf courses. The real story for me is what I’ve overcome physically and emotionally. So the golf is just a game that we really complicate.

He’s 1-over for the tournament and 1-over the cut line. But there are so many players clustered right around the cut line that he’s T80. If he can shoot a couple under par Friday, he should make the cut and get his season off to a rewarding start…for him and for us.

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