PINEHURST, N.C. - Just about every golf course and tournament has a logo. Here at Pinehurst, it is the figure of a little golfer known as Putter Boy. At Oakmont, it is an acorn. At Bethpage, it is a silhouette of a golfer carrying his bag. For the U.S. Open in general, it ought to be a drawing of Erik Compton.
He is what the Open means to say by its very existence: You can make it if you just don't give up.
Compton has embodied that philosophy through much of his 34 years, with a condition that threatened his very existence and has culminated in two heart transplants.
He still loves playing the only sport a 12-year-old boy with a heart condition was allowed to play and he still keeps trying. He never has been a big winner on tour, but the U.S. Open allows him to keep striving and dreaming. It is the only major championship in which he has played, and now he has played it twice.
Saturday, he played an exceptional round on a particularly tough course, shooting 3-under-par 67 and moving into a tie for second place. Compton bore out what his parents had promised when he got someone else's heart for the first time, at the age of 12.
"We just said, 'Once you get a new heart, you're going to be a champion. You're going to have the heart of a champion," his mother, Eli, said Saturday.
Four years ago at Pebble Beach, Compton made his emotional Open debut. His story, which was pretty well known, was retold. But he missed the cut back then. When he was reminded of that Saturday by a television reporter, Compton said, "You've got to give me a break. I just had a new heart when I was at Pebble Beach."
That's true. His first heart, from a teenage girl killed in an auto accident, had served its purpose for the golfer who had been diagnosed as a boy with viral cardiomyopathy, a condition that prevents the heart muscle from pumping as hard as it should. From those early days, he just didn't give in.
"I'm the reason," Eli said Saturday, with a laugh. "Well, we didn't allow it. As he was waiting we promised him, with a new heart, he would have a new life. He was so young at that point, he really didn't understand the implication and the tragedy."
He understood it plenty by the time he was 27, though. By then, he was a mini-tour player, having been an All-America at Georgia. Compton was fishing on a golf course near his home in Miami when he suffered a massive heart attack. He drove himself to an emergency room, not bothering to stop at a toll booth (yes, he got a traffic ticket two days later).
A year after that, he received a second new heart, this one from Isaac Klosterman, a 26-year-old former college volleyball player who was killed while riding a motorcycle. The Comptons and the Klostermans believe in karma: Isaac was visiting Miami from his home in Columbus, Ohio at the time of the accident. Both times Compton has made the Open, he has qualified at a course near Columbus.
This week, Eli Compton saw that Klosterman's dad had posted a "Go Eric" note on Facebook.
There is a lot of pride going around about the fact Eric has survived to be a husband, father and contender to win the U.S. Open.
"I think there are times when I get emotional. I look over and see the crowd and see my name on the leader board and know what I've been through," said the man who is on his third heart and is 3 under. "But you've got to get right back to game mode and focus and try to hit the next shot."