Not everyone agrees that Compton should have cart in bid to reach PGA Tour

Should Erik Compton be allowed use of a cart in his effort to qualify for the PGA Tour? Our experts give their takes in this week's edition of Fact or Fiction.

Originally Published: October 22, 2008
ESPN.com/GolfWorld

Erik Compton, just months removed from having the third heart of his young life implanted in his chest, received permission to use a cart during the PGA Tour's first stage of Q-school.

But while many around the country are pulling for the former national No. 1 junior player to reach the PGA Tour, is it fair for him to have a cart while the rest of his competitors walk the course during the grueling qualification process?

Our experts ponder that question and more as they share their opinions in this week's edition of Fact or Fiction.

FACT OR FICTION?


Erik Compton should be allowed to use a cart for PGA Tour Q-school.

Bob Harig, golf writer, ESPN.com: FACT.
Unlike a decade ago, when Casey Martin caused so much consternation when he sought -- and won -- the use of a cart in PGA Tour co-sanctioned events, there should not be so much debate now.

If anything, Martin taught us that there are, indeed, rare instances when a person can be a world-class golfer while still dealing with a serious medical issue that might otherwise keep him from playing. In Martin's case, it was a birth defect in his right leg that was not going to get better and made it extremely painful to walk.

Martin, who played with Tiger Woods at Stanford and could hit the ball a mile, gained no advantage with a cart. It simply allowed him to get around and be on a somewhat even playing field with others. Just the amount of walking he did from cart to green to tee box was bad enough.

Now it's Compton's turn to get a cart at a first-stage PGA Tour qualifying event. Just five months ago, Compton, 28, had his second heart transplant. It is amazing to think that he can swing a golf club at all, let alone compete at a high level for the right to get on the Nationwide or PGA Tours. And yet, for Compton, walking at this stage in his recovery might be asking too much. He has enough issues to overcome that a cart does not give him an advantage over the other competitors.

Certainly this opens up questions about where you draw the line with golf carts. Nobody thought for a second that Tiger Woods deserved one at the U.S. Open, because injuries are part of sports. But Martin and Compton's cases are different. They qualify for the use of a cart under the Americans With Disabilities Act. If anything, we should be celebrating the fact that they have or will compete at all.

Jason Sobel, golf writer, ESPN.com: FACT.
These decisions are made on a case-by-case basis -- and rightly so. Tiger Woods and his torn ACL? No cart. The 95 percent of PGA Tour players with neck, back or shoulder injuries? No cart. But the guy who has undergone two heart transplants? Yeah, he certainly qualifies.

This isn't about giving one player an advantage over his peers. It's about setting a level playing field for all who seek to play at an elite professional level. Compton isn't receiving any undue assistance in his quest for a PGA Tour card. The simple fact is, without this ruling he'd be unable to compete in any way. All the tour is giving him is a chance to make that a reality.

There is a very fine line between which players deserve a cart and which do not. Injuries and other minor maladies are not cause for an on-course ride. But in Compton's very unique case -- as was the case with Casey Martin years ago -- the tour has made the right choice in opting to allow the use of a cart.

John Antonini, senior editor, Golf World: FICTION.
To be honest, I'm not sure how to answer this question. So to get a feel for what Compton went through I re-read Jim Moriarty's excellent article on Compton's heart-transplant surgery in the Sept. 5 issue of Golf World. And you know what? I'm still not sure. I really want to say "Yes, he should ride," but my gut tells me otherwise. The ability to walk the course is part of the requirement for playing professional golf at the highest level. Maximizing strengths and overcoming weaknesses should be among the determining factors in which golf tournaments, if not all sports competitions, are decided.

But it's really a moot point. The PGA Tour is doing what it must by allowing Compton to ride. When the Supreme Court ruled that Casey Martin be allowed a cart under the Americans With Disabilities Act, it opened the doors for others to follow suit. I don't know whether Compton qualifies under ADA guidelines. But the tour, perhaps not wanting another public-relations nightmare, gave Compton the keys to the cart.

The move does temporarily level the playing field for Compton, who is months removed from his second heart transplant and doesn't have the stamina to walk the course. But the difference between Compton and Martin is that Martin's leg will never allow him to walk a golf course in tournament competition. If Compton's new heart will never be strong enough to allow him to walk the course, he should be allowed to ride. But if doctors say he will be eventually have enough stamina to walk, he should be required to wait until he is able to do so.

I know heart-transplant surgery is the definition of "invasive surgery," but I can't help but think that others who just had hip replacements or knee surgeries will also request, and be allowed, carts because they can't walk the course during their rehabilitation periods. According to Moriarty's article, Compton requested the use of a cart upon the suggestion of his doctors. Here's hoping he eventually is healthy enough to continue his pro golf career while playing the game the way it's meant to be played. By walking.

Ron Sirak, executive editor, Golf World: FACT.
There is no problem with use of the cart, in my mind, as long as it is temporary and will be revoked when Compton is restored to full health. The Casey Martin precedent says that those individuals with established disabilities that impede walking should be allowed to ride. And I have no problem with that line of thinking.

That said, I also believe the PGA Tour -- and other sports bodies -- have the right to establish the rules of competition, and I support the definition of championship golf including walking. These are players competing at the highest level. A mere handful of the tens of millions who swing a golf club make it to this level of play. Can you imagine baseball or football making any similar concession to allow an athlete to participate? Compton should be allowed to ride until he is healthy enough to walk.

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