Erik Compton, who has endured two heart transplants and kept his golf career going, won on the Nationwide Tour Sunday and looks like a cinch to earn his PGA Tour card. An amazing story of perseverance tied to talent.
Here's a piece I did on Compton at the U.S. Open last year:
Newsday (New York)
June 15, 2010 Tuesday
Ready? In a heartbeat;
Despite two transplants, Compton an Open qualifer;
Never one to give up, he is now living his dream
BYLINE: BY MARK HERRMANN firstname.lastname@example.org
SECTION: SPORTS; Pg. A48
LENGTH: 573 words
PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. - Erik Compton is proud to say he is a dreamer, and prouder to say that his dream of making the U.S. Open kept ticking after he was given someone else's heart for a second time. Besides, he points out that the family of the second donor keeps telling him, "It is your heart now."
It was beyond a dream last week when the 30-year-old golf pro, with his third heart, withstood 39 daunting holes of a sectional qualifying tournament and made his first Open. He did it near Columbus, Ohio, where the donor, motorcycle-accident victim Isaac Klosterman, was residing at the time of his death. Klosterman's relatives were rooting for Compton, as was just about anyone who ever heard his story.
That's the story of a very active boy who developed cardiomyopathy before he was 10 and needed a heart transplant at 12. He didn't have the energy to play other sports, so he took up golf. And golf always gave him something to dream about as he became a junior champion, All-American at Georgia and a mini-tour player.
Golf kept him going after he suffered a massive heart attack at 27 while he was fishing at a golf course, luckily only five minutes from a hospital in Miami.
"Had he not been that close, he would not have survived," his father, Peter, said yesterday at Pebble Beach, after Erik's practice round for the U.S. Open. The elder Compton mentioned that his son had the presence of mind to drive himself to the emergency room, averting construction.
"As a matter of fact, we have a picture of him running through the toll booth because he didn't pay," the golfer's father said. "Of course he got a ticket, two days after."
Within the next year, he needed the transplant from Klosterman and the dream was temporarily in intensive care. "I pretty much had come to grips that I wasn't ever going to play golf again," Compton said. "I sold all my golf equipment."
Still, he never did stop believing that something good was going to happen. After all, he had recently married Barbara, a young Argentine who was studying fashion design and working in Miami, and living in the same condo complex. They met at the gym.
"I love sports, so we both have the same passion," she said yesterday. "I didn't know at the beginning what he had, but then later when we were dating, he told me what he had. I chose to go along with the ride. I was going to help him as much as I could."
That included telling him to keep working at his golf, that he was going to make the Open one day. She was as overcome with emotion as he was when it actually happened last Monday.
"Oh my God, I was praying," said the golfer's wife, who gave birth to a daughter 14 months ago. "I really think he deserved this opportunity."
Compton counts golf as one of his many blessings. "I feel better when I'm on the course than I do when I'm at home watching TV," he said. "When you're home, you think about every heartbeat you have and every little tick that you have.
"So golf has helped me overcome a lot of the scars that I do have. I have had a lot of traumatic things and those don't go away. But I have been able to put them in a box. Sometimes the box opens up and I deal with it on a day-to-day basis. But it's not overflowing and interfering with my life."
It's no match for his dream.