Heart recipient earns card

TWO-TIME heart-transplant recipient Erik Compton earned a PGA Tour card when he finished in the top 25 on the Nationwide Tour money list, while Ken Duke won the season-ended Nationwide Tour Championship yesterday in Charleston, S.C., to also secure a spot on the big tour.

Duke closed with a 4-under 68 to finish at 10-under on Daniel Island Club's Ralston Creek Course, two better than Scott Brown. The 42-year-old Duke earned $180,000 and went from 36th to seventh on the money list.

Compton, 31, wasn't sure he'd ever play pro golf, let alone be member of the PGA Tour. Yet he officially realized his dream yesterday. Compton mostly secured his spot in June when he won his first Nationwide title at the Mexico Open. He ended 13th overall with $239,737 to advance.

He has played 30 career PGA events, but none with a tour card in his bag.

"It's a miracle," he said. "It really is a miracle what I've been able to achieve."

J.J. Killeen won the money title, which made him fully exempt on the PGA Tour and gave him entry into The Players Championship at TPC Sawgrass in May.

And the day ended with some drama as Brown made a long par-saving putt on the 17th and birdie on the 18th to finish alone in second when a bogey down the stretch would have dropped Billy Hurley III from the final qualifying spot at No. 25.

Hurley, a former Naval lieutenant who was on active duty in the Persian Gulf guarding Iraqi oil platforms 2 years ago, hugged his wife when Brown's last put dropped.

James Nitties, who began the week in 23rd, fell to 26th, just outside what it took to join the PGA Tour.

There were plenty of smiles and disappointments when the event was over. None of the triumphs, though, seemed as amazing as Compton's rise from two heart transplants. He was diagnosed at age 9 with cardiomyopathy, an enlarging of the heart that deters its ability to pump blood. Three years later in 1992, Compton received a new heart. He needed another donor heart in 2008 when the first one failed.

Compton took up golf after his first transplant as a way to exercise. "This game has been such a rehab for life for me, where I could go out and not think about the issues I have," he said.

Compton had another setback this summer after playing in the PGA Tour's AT & T National last July when his body rejected his heart, something doctors got under control with additional medicine. He took several weeks off and struggled to find his earlier form until recently.

 

In other tournaments * 

U.S. Open champion Rory McIlroy won $2 million in the Shanghai Masters, beating Anthony Kim with a par on the first hole of a playoff.

The $2 million first prize is the richest in golf. Because the event isn't sanctioned by a major tour, there were no ranking points at stake.

* Bo Van Pelt ran away to a six-stroke victory in the Asia Pacific Classic in Selangor, Malaysia. Van Pelt finished at 23-under and earned $1.3 million.

* Sergio Garcia held off fellow Spaniard Miguel Angel Jimenez by a stroke in the Andalucia Masters in Sotogrande, Spain.