THE HEARTS OF A TRUE WINNER
A few hours after his runner up finish in the U.S. Open Erik Compton sat in a packed interview room at the TPC River Highlands talking about his experience at the Open, his expectations for the Travelers Championship and the life and responsibilities of a two time heart transplant recipient. At least it seemed that way. “It doesn’t feel like last week”, Compton said of the Open, “It feels like it was just a few hours ago. It was a very exciting four days of golf, a lot of congratulations from people who have supported me around the globe.”
When Compton was nine years old he was diagnosed with a condition that keeps the heart from pumping as hard as it should. In 1992, at the age of 13, he recieved a heart transplant. In 2008 he recieved his second. Today the experiences of his youth serve him well on the golf course. “I think I was able to perform at that level with such intense competition because of what I went through as kid”, he said yesterday of his runner up Open finish, “I feel like I’ve been groomed my whole life to handle a big pressure situation like we had at the U.S. Open. I just think the mental toughness of things I went through as a kid prepared me for tough moments. The U.S. Open is tough, but it’s not like it’s a life threatening situation.”
What Erik Compton has dealt with in his life, and what he has accomplished in spite of it, has earned him a lot of fans among his peers. “Keegan Bradley wrote me a nice note on Sunday”, he related a story about his fellow touring pro, “That was kind of cool for him to be encouraging on my game before the round.”
He also heard from an old friend with UCONN blue blood in his veins. “I spoke with Ray Allen a little bit. He and I talked a little before I went to the U.S. Open about just visualizing shots. He’s one of the greatest three point shooters of all time and I’d been struggling with the putter.”
Compton’s preparation for the U.S. Open included a lot of extra time with coach Charlie DeLuca, “We shaved the greens at home and emulated the shots that I was gonna have at the Open”, and some advice from wife Barbara, “She said, ‘Go to the Open and make it a priority to rest, go back to your room and just chill out.’ That’s basically what I did, I turned the phone off and focused on my game.”
From the day he arrived on Tour Compton has been giving back, “When I first got my PGA Tour card I teamed up with Genentec and we had a goal in mind to be able to share my story and help others and spread the word about organ transplantation and donation.”
Wherever Compton goes the word about giving, recieving and giving back goes with him. This week he visited hospitalized patients awaiting heart transplants before conducting a junior golf clinic and doing a number of media events to spread the word. It’s a normal week in the life of Erik Compton who feels grateful for the opportunity two generous donors have given him. “I’m just enjoying it”, he says of life on Tour, “Every year I’m getting slowly better. We still have a lot of golf to be played so I just feel like it’s a dream come true and a blessing. Every piece of the puzzle has led me to where I am today.”
Where he is today is more established on the PGA Tour than he was just a week ago, with a hefty U.S. Open paycheck in his bank account, an invitation to the Masters and a return trip to the Open. More than anything he has a healthy appreciation for the opportunity life has given him.
Erik Compton plays golf for a living. More accurately, he lives for a living.
With a comment from the sports world, I’m Scott Gray.