Compton allowed to use cart in Q-school after heart transplant

Updated: October 1, 2008, 11:36 AM ET
ESPN.com news services

Erik Compton has the heart. He just doesn't have the stamina. So the PGA Tour is going to help him out.

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

Just four months after the second heart transplant of his life, the former Georgia All-American learned that officials have granted his request to use a cart during qualifying school to earn his tour card.

The South Florida Sun-Sentinel first reported the story Tuesday on its Web site.

"I feel really good about the news," Compton said, according to the Sun-Sentinel. "It takes a lot of stress off me, and it gives me a realistic chance."

Compton, 28, will play the first stage of qualifying from Oct. 21-24 at Crandon Golf at Key Biscayne, Fla. He is a former No. 1 junior golfer who won on the Canadian and Hooters Tours and played on the Nationwide Tour.

Compton told the newspaper that he has also been granted a waiver to use a beta blocker, which is on the PGA Tour's list of banned substances, because he needs it as part of his medication protocol.

Heart disease caused Compton to have a heart transplant at age 12. Transplanted hearts last an average of 11 years, but his survived for 16. Then in October 2007, Compton suffered a near-fatal heart attack while fishing. He was stabilized, but it was only a matter of time before he would need a new heart.

[+] EnlargeErik Compton
Kevin C. Cox/Getty ImagesErik Compton, shown in an April 2007 tournament, is getting back into competitive golf.
In May, he was hospitalized again for observation and given medication to help his heart function. He was about to go home with a nurse that would provide 24-hour care when a new heart became available.

The Compton case stands in sharp contrast to that of Casey Martin. A birth defect in his leg prevented him from walking the course, but he had to sue the tour to use a cart.

While his case went through the courts, Martin was granted the right to use a cart at the 1997 Q-school. He played the Nike Tour in 1998 (won a tournament) and tied for 23rd at the U.S. Open.

He earned his PGA Tour card for 2000 by finishing 14th on the Nike money list in 1999 but failed to keep his card. In 2001, he won his suit that went to the Supreme Court which allowed him to use a cart under the Americans With Disabilities Act.

He's now the golf coach at the University of Oregon.

With his second new heart in his chest, Compton has begun playing golf and working out, trying to regain the strength the operation sapped.

"I've been busting my butt in the gym," Compton said, according to the newspaper. "Hopefully, I'll get stronger and stronger."

For now, he's not strong enough to compete while walking the course. But he's doing his part to get there.

"Nobody's going to hand me anything," Compton told GolfWorld in the beginning of September. "I'm going to have to go out and work and get good again, get my body in shape, and that's going to take some time, for sure."

ESPN.com golf writer Bob Harig contributed to this report.