PGA Master Professional Kevin Compare, who brought us Divot the Clown, preps during a Pandemic for a Cross-County Bike Ride to benefit Charities
By Bob Denney, PGA Historian
For 36 years, PGA Master Professional Kevin Compare has made it his mission to go the extra mile to entertain audiences as golf’s premier left-handed trick shot artist.
He’s a guy who keeps orthopedic surgeons in business by smashing a golf ball while doing the splits. He’s performed more than 1,700 exhibitions spanning 46 states and nine countries.
Now, Compare, whose alter ego is Divot the Clown, is training for something that’s neither fantasy or magic with a club and ball. Call it an outgrowth of Compare’s passion to push his limits at age 62, and it is happening as the world deals with a pandemic.
Prior to the COVID-19 outbreak, Compare was in his 17th season as a PGA Teaching Professional at The Breakers in Palm Beach. Compare has picked June 15, to begin “Divot’s Drive for Charity” – a 3,100-mile, 36-day cross-country ride across eight states. The goal: to support nine charities that have been embraced by the Compare family.
It’s a challenge; but it’s not beyond Compare.
Joined by his daughter, Amy, 25, they each will mount Jamis T-6 road bikes, and will be followed in a motor home by Compare’s wife, Joan. The bikers will dip their respective back tires in the Pacific Ocean on the shores of San Diego and close the trek by dipping their front tires around July 20 in the Atlantic in St. Augustine, Florida.
They’re also being assisted by Compare’s son, Kyle, who turns 23 in May. About to complete his Master’s Degree in Geology at Florida State University, the former four-year tuba player in the FSU “Marching Chiefs” will drum up public awareness for the ride on social media.
“It’s a whole new world to me,” said Kevin, who planned the ride well before the COVID-19 outbreak. “I think the easiest thing will be the pedaling. The toughest part will be fundraising.”
Compare will attempt to raise $100,000, based upon attracting 1,000 donors of at least $100. The Compare Family Foundation, a 501 (c)(3) tax-exempt charitable organization, will manage donations.
The bike ride targets nine charities, which are a tapestry of Compare’s past and present:
• Martin County Special Olympics
• The South Florida PGA Foundation
• The Arc of Martin County, which benefits individuals with intellectual developmental disabilities.
• Urban Youth Impact, which empowers inner-city youth in West Palm Beach.
• The Breezy Foundation, which gives scholarship support to Martin County college-bound students studying to become Education Service Contracting (ESC) instructors.
• The Edna Fraser Athletic Scholarship, named after a legendary women’s sports trailblazer at Compare’s alma mater, Foran High School in Milford, Connecticut.
• The Neil Sheriden College Fund, named after a late greens superintendent at Breakers West who succumbed to cancer, and benefits his small children’s college aspirations.
• The South Fork Scholarship, which the Compare family will present to a recipient at his children’s high school in Stuart.
• The Michael Compare Scholarship, named in honor of his late nephew, a police officer in the Milford Police Department who was a pillar for city youth before passing at age 36.
It’s one thing to attempt a cross-country bike ride and another when you consider Compare has had more than his share of physical issues. Last November, he crashed his bike into a bridge. Last Feb. 14, he underwent his 11th surgery, the fourth on his right knee, to repair a torn medial meniscus – commonly called a “shock absorber.”
“Nothing hurts when I’m riding,” Compare insisted, who has endured two back surgeries, insertion of two stents in his heart in 2007 to offset 99 percent arterial blockage; neck and shoulder surgery, and one procedure he will never forget – to repair a hemorrhoid.
Mapping the ride is like navigating a massive golf course, Compare explained: You have to allow for elevation, constant weather changes, curves and depend upon your equipment.
“We plan to ride 58 miles the first day and then put in 100 each day from there,” Compare said.
“If we are on schedule, we plan to spend 10 days riding from San Diego to El Paso, Texas, and then 14 days to ride through the Lone Star State.”
He received support researching the trail from the Adventure Cycling Association of Missoula, Montana, which touts its slogan, “Your Adventure Awaits.”
Daughter Amy is an environmental educator with a degree in Environmental Studies from the University of Central Florida and a Masters of Education degree from the University of Washington. The furthest she’s ridden a bike is 50 miles training for the trip. But, she’s made of Compare “stock.”
Like her dad, she enjoys challenges. A four-year piccolo player in the UCF marching band, Amy tried out for the rowing team her freshman year despite never having rowed a day in her life. She made the team and during her final two years at UCF, helped the Knights earn their first-ever American Athletic Conference (AAC) Championship and a berth in the NCAA Championships.
One of her goals is to complete walking the Appalachian Trail. She already has made two “sectional” hikes on the famed trail and during one of those journeys helped raise funds to offset medical expenses for a friend who was undergoing treatment for breast cancer.
“It’s a quest for adventure,” said Amy. “Having just graduated from graduate school and in transition between jobs, I knew this may be the last time for a while that I might be able to do something on this scale with my dad. The fact that my mom is coming, too, makes this trip even better. I’m excited to spend time with my family while helping to support the community where I grew up.”
Said Joan Compare, “This bike ride has always been something he wanted to do, so I’m happy that he’s finally getting the opportunity to achieve this goal. We’ve been planning this trip for a while. There is a lot of uncertainty in the world right now, but we’re going to do what we can to make this trip happen while looking out for the safety of ourselves and others.”
Born in Milford, Connecticut, Kevin Compare lived 10 miles from Yale University, and attended Foran High School, and the spring blended both prep baseball and golf seasons.
“We lived near a big field where we played baseball and where other kids were hitting golf balls,” said Compare. “I did everything left-handed. At age 12, I saw a set of left-handed clubs that my father had and started playing with them. I began caddying and practicing. My first year with the clubs I broke 100, then was scoring in the high-80s and then low 80s.”
Compare moved to Stuart, Florida in 1976, then searched for five years for a niche in the golf industry. He found his footing in 1981, as an assistant golf professional at Heritage Ridge Golf Club in Hobe Sound. He spent the summer of 1984 at The Towers Country Club in Floral Park, New York. From 1985-87, he was an assistant at Martin County Golf and Country Club in Stuart, with an emphasis on teaching.
Compare was elected to PGA Membership in 1987, the year he began a three-year term as a PGA Head Professional at Miles Grant Country Club in Stuart. He was 29 years old at a club where the average member age was 72 and had no practice range. In his first year at Miles Grant, Compare gave 762 golf lessons.
From 1991-92, Compare was the PGA Director of Instruction at the Golf and Racquet Club in Palm Beach Gardens. In 1993, he worked for two seasons under future PGA Hall of Famer Don Essig III as a Head Professional at South Grove Golf Course in Indianapolis.
From 1995-99, Compare was the lead instructor at the Total Performance Golf School at Woodlake Country Club in Vass, North Carolina, just 13 minutes northeast of Pinehurst.
In 1999, Compare joined the PGA Center for Golf Learning & Performance staff in Port St. Lucie, Florida, and remained until 2003. He became a road warrior in 2004, traveling with his branded trick shot golf exhibition firm, Divot the Clown Corporation. From 2004 to the present, he has been an instructor at The John Webster Golf Academy at The Breakers in Palm Beach, Florida.
“I’m currently riding between 20 and 50 miles a day,” said Compare of his training. “I think, wow! I will be doing two to five times this distance each day for a month. Sometimes it seems overwhelming, but I think of the funds we will be raising and the individuals we will be helping.
“The mission statement of The Compare Family Foundation: ‘Using God’s Given Ability to Help those in Need.’ This helps me focus on the goal.”