LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. – Before he sets out to try to keep his PGA Tour card, Erik Compton received an award Wednesday that was just as meaningful.
Compton, a two-time heart transplant recipient, was selected for the Mildred "Babe" Didrikson Zaharias Courage Award by the United States Sports Academy. The award is given to a person who shows courage in overcoming adversity to excel in sport.
Zaharias, among the greatest ever in LPGA Tour history, won her 10th and final major one month after surgery for colon cancer in 1953.
"She did something that I've never dream of doing — winning a major," Compton said. "I guess I have dreamed, but it just hasn't come true yet."
Compton received his first heart transplant at age 12. He went on to play for Georgia and compete on the Walker Cup team in 2001. He had a major heart attack in 2008, drove himself to the hospital and was fortunate to survive before getting a second heart transplant.
Just six months later, Compton was given an exemption to the Children's Miracle Network Hospitals Classic at Disney and made the cut. He returns to Disney this year as a full PGA Tour member, having earned his card last year. But he is at No. 163 on the money list, and would need a runner-up finish to keep his card.
Along with playing a full schedule of 25 tournaments, Compton has been on a campaign to raise awareness for organ donations through "Donate Life" and a program called "Play Through with Erik Compton."
"Being able to do the hospital, being able to educate the local communities, even being able to speak to some of the doctors and the patients, it's just been a great year," Compton said. "I feel that my calling off the golf course will continue to grow even after my playing days are done. So you know, it started with the two lives that I have. On and off the golf course it's very comforting and I feel very confident of what I've done and what I'm able to do as a person."
PGA CEO: Golfweek magazine reported Wednesday that Pete Bevacqua has been offered the job as chief executive for the PGA of America and could be introduced later this week in Baltimore at the PGA's annual meeting.
Bevacqua, 41, had spent 11 years with the U.S. Golf Association as a lawyer and as the first chief business officer in 2007. He was in the running for LPGA Tour commissioner in 2009 (the job went to Mike Whan), and he resigned from the USGA in 2011. Bevacqua now works for the golf division at CAA Sports.
Joe Steranka announced in April that he would retire as CEO of the PGA of America at the end of this year.
The PGA of America, which has some 27,000 members, is to formally elect Ted Bishop as its next president this week at the annual meeting. It continues to discuss the U.S. captain for the 2014 Ryder Cup, though a decision is not expected this week.
ALSO AT STAKE: More is at stake this week at Disney than full PGA Tour cards this week.
Chris DiMarco is at No. 151 on the money list by $1,388. While he would need a runner-up finish to get into the top 125 to earn back full status, he would need to get into the top 150 to avoid the second stage of Q-school. Others outside the top 150 include past champions Joe Durant and Stuart Appleby.
Higher up the latter, William McGirt is at No. 70 and needs to stay there to be eligible for invitational events such as Bay Hill and the Memorial. And even higher up is No. 30 on the money list, which is worth an invitation to the Masters.
That mainly affects Jonas Blixt of Sweden, who won the Frys. com Open to move up to No. 35. Winners of the Fall Series event do not get an automatic exemption to the Masters, so this would be the best shot for Blixt. He is about $278,000 out of the 30th spot and likely would need to finish second this week.
Tommy Gainey won at Sea Island last month, but that only moved him up to 56th on the money list. Nothing short of a win at Disney would get him to Augusta National for the first time. Gainey feels any win on the PGA Tour should be worth a spot at the Masters.
"Never complain about a win," he said. "Although I'm disappointed that I didn't get in Augusta ... I'll just have to win another tournament and get in that way."
BAD TIMING: Heath Slocum is in danger of losing his card at No. 141 on the money list, which he can chalk up to bad timing.
The PGA Tour is moving toward a system in which cards will be based on the top 125 in FedEx Cup points instead of money (both lists will be used in 2013 during a transition year). That means anyone who qualifies for the FedEx Cup playoffs will earn a card for the following year.
Slocum was the last man into the playoffs at No. 125.
He's not the only one in that spot. Kevin Chappell was No. 104 in the FedEx Cup standings going into The Barclays. He's now on the bubble at No. 123 on the money list. Rod Pampling, at No. 124 on the money list, starting the FedEx Cup playoffs at No. 116. Gary Christian (No. 127) was at No. 111 in the FedEx Cup.
Christian is used to bad timing. He recalls one year in Q-school he lost in a playoff to advance. A year later, the tour eliminated the playoff and took everyone who tied for the last spot.
"I've heard players moaning and whining about the system changing," Christian said. "The fact of the matter is if you play good, it doesn't matter what system you're in. If you play mediocre or poorly, it doesn't matter what system you're in. So that's probably the easiest way to look at it."
DIVOTS: Scott Verplank, who has been bothered by injuries most of the year, felt good enough to tee it up at Disney. Verplank was an assistant captain at the Ryder Cup. ... The Children's Miracle Network Hospitals has said it will not renew its title sponsorship of Disney after this year, putting the tournament in doubt for next year. It was scheduled to be part of the fall start to the 2013-14 season, but likely would not be replaced if a title sponsor cannot be found. ... Nicolas Colsaerts of Belgium is about $57,000 clear of 125th on the money list, making it likely he will be able to become a PGA Tour member next year.