Months after heart transplant, Compton cards 76 in first stage of Q-school
KEY BISCAYNE, Fla. -- Charlie DeLucca gets emotional when talking about the subject. How could he not? He was around the first time Erik Compton got a new heart and needed the use of a cart to play golf.
As Erik Compton attempts to reach the next stage of PGA Tour qualifying school from Oct. 21-24, join ESPN.com for daily updates of his journey. ESPN.com Golf Index
Few thought Compton would ever play again, much less compete, when he suffered a heart attack on Oct. 3, 2007. He went so far as to give all of his clubs away."He's in a hurry to do this now," DeLucca said. "He's driven, and sometimes that's taken as being cocky. But you don't know what his life is going to be or how long his life is going to be. "He pushes it to the edge, he's all golf, works hard, teaches to try and make some money. He's fighting to make it, and let me tell you, nobody is going to hold him back. He just has tremendous determination. And he's not afraid to work hard." At age 12, Compton was the youngest heart-transplant patient in Miami Jackson's history -- and he used golf to regain his health. He got good enough to become an American Junior Golf Association star, rising to the organization's No. 1 ranking. That meant college coaches came knocking at his door, and Compton eventually chose Georgia, where he was a second-team All-American and first-team All-SEC selection in 2001 and helped lead the Bulldogs to consecutive SEC titles. He played on a U.S. Walker Cup team, a Palmer Cup team, and finished 16th at the NCAA Tournament. Then he turned pro after his junior year.
Before Erik Compton could use a cart for PGA Tour Q-school this week, Casey Martin (pictured) took his case to the U.S. Supreme Court to earn the right to ride. Bob Harig
Last year, nine players made it through all three stages to earn their PGA Tour cards. Also, 69 players advanced through the first two stages to the finals, which assures at least conditional status on the Nationwide Tour."I saw him in August, and three months after the transplant, you wouldn't have known," said PGA Tour player Len Mattiace, who is friends with Compton and sees him at nearby Doral, where they work with instructor Jim McLean. "He looks normal. He's not tall, but he's solid. In the past, he's always been known to be one of the longer hitters. He's got some power punch. It's just amazing. Erik is surviving. He is upbeat. He's positive. He's courageous. Those are the kind of words that come to mind when I think of him. More people need to take a page out of his book. We all have our daily battles. He is on the right road." Compton petitioned the PGA Tour for use of a cart in the qualifier, and after PGA Tour executives reviewed his medical records and consulted with a tour doctor, they granted him the cart, which he will be allowed to use through all stages of tour qualifying and any tour-sanctioned events he enters through March, when he can reapply.
Change Of Heart
Erik Compton's tale of two (yes, two) heart transplants is a dramatic story of perseverance, tragedy and hope for a man who dreams of playing on the PGA Tour. GolfWorld
Bob Harig covers golf for ESPN.com. He can be reached at BobHarig@gmail.com.