My Five: Golfers Who Overcame Disabilities

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My Five: Golfers Who Overcame Disabilities

June 27, 2011

Photo By: Scott Halleran/Getty Images

Photo By: Golf Digest Resource Center

Photo By: David Mills/The Ledger/AP Photo

Photo By: Lennox McLendon/AP Photo

Photo By: AP Photo

Erik ComptonCompton at age 9 was diagnosed with cardiomyopathy, which enlarges the heart and inhibits the pumping of blood. He underwent a heart transplant at age 12, and went on to become the No. 1-ranked junior in the country. He made All-America at the University of Georgia and turned pro in 2001. But Compton failed to make the PGA Tour and fought fatigue on lesser tours. In 2007, he suffered a heart attack after missing the cut at a Nationwide tournament, and had a second transplant in May of 2008. His play has steadily improved and last week at 31, he won the Nationwide Tour's Mexico Open with a closing 65, all but assuring him a PGA Tour playing card next year. He said the victory "sums up my whole life."

Photo By: Scott Halleran/Getty Images

Charles OwensAs a paratrooper in the 82nd Airborne in the early 50s, Owens on a night training operation landed in a forest and badly broke his left leg. The joint was eventually fused in 1966, and while in the VA hospital Owens picked up a golf magazine and decided to return to the game, where as a child, he had learned hitting bottle caps with a 4-iron using a crosshanded grip. The 6-3 Owens had been an excellent athlete, and with his same grip was soon good enough tee to green to make the PGA Tour. Poor putting was his undoing, but after joining the Senior Tour in 80s, Owens invented the long putter, a hand-built 50-inch model he called the "Slim Jim," and won two tournaments in 1986.

Photo By: Golf Digest Resource Center

Casey MartinMartin was born with Klippel-Trenaunay Weber Syndrome in his right leg, a circulatory ailment which causes bone to severely atrophy. After attending Stanford, where he was a member of the 1994 NCAA championship team, Martin turned pro and was granted permission -- pending a lawsuit -- to use a cart in competition. In 1998, the long-hitting Martin won the Lakeland Classic on the Nike Tour, and the next year, by finishing 14th on the money list, qualified for the PGA Tour. Also a poor putter, he finished 179th on the money list, failing to keep his card. Although the Supreme Court ruled in his favor, after five more years on the Nike/Nationwide Tour, Martin retired from competition to become the golf coach at the University of Oregon in his hometown of Eugene.

Photo By: David Mills/The Ledger/AP Photo

Calvin PeetePeete broke his left arm in a childhood fall from a tree, an improper setting leaving it bent and inflexible. He did not take up golf until the age of 23, but soon developed a homemade swing that while short on power, was relentlessly accurate. He made the PGA Tour at age at the age of 32, and four years later won in Milwaukee by five strokes. Peete led the Tour's driving accuracy category 10 straight years beginning in 1981, as well as greens in regulation three straight beginning that same year. He won the Vardon Trophy in 1984, and played on two Ryder Cup teams. He won 12 times on the tour, including the 1985 Players Championship, before back and shoulder injuries essentially ended his playing career.

Photo By: Lennox McLendon/AP Photo

Ed FurgolFurgol as a child fell from a playground swing, and much like Peete, his poorly mended broken left arm was left shorter, withered, crooked and stiff in the elbow joint. Still, Furgol developed into a long hitter and accurate iron player whose biggest weakness was putting, along with an explosive temper. He won seven times on PGA Tour between 1947 and 1975, with a best finish on the money list of seventh. His crowning achievement was winning the 1954 U.S. Open at Baltusrol, where in his final-round 71 he hit 16 greens in regulation while missing eight birdie putts of 15 feet or less. He beat Gene Littler by a stroke.

Photo By: AP Photo

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