Compton gets invitation to final full-field event of PGA Tour season

Updated: October 28, 2008, 7:47 PM ET
By Bob Harig | ESPN.com

Erik Compton is going to the perfect place to try and make more out of his dreams: Walt Disney World.

Just five months after a second heart transplant and a week after a miraculous final-round comeback at a PGA Tour qualifying event, Compton has accepted a sponsor exemption to next week's Children's Miracle Network Classic at the Walt Disney World Resort near Orlando.

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

"I'm really excited," Compton said from his home in Miami Beach. "It's here in Florida, it's a great place to make my real tournament debut. And with the way Q-school went and everything ... It's just great."

The Nov. 6-8 tournament is the final full-field event on the PGA Tour schedule. The 128-player field includes four spots for the sponsor to choose. Along with Compton, two-time U.S. Open champion Lee Janzen, former PGA champion Bob Tway and Scott McCarron received the other invitations.

It is also fitting that Compton would get a spot in a tournament sponsored by the Children's Miracle Network, a non-profit organization that seeks to raise funds for children's hospitals with the hopes of saving lives.

"I'm really looking forward to going out there and being an example for them," Compton said.

Compton, now 28, received a heart transplant at Miami's Jackson Hospital in 1992, when he was 12 and at the time the youngest such recipient.

He went on to become the nation's No. 1-ranked junior golfer -- he had a memorable 1997-98, when he was player of the year at the Disney venue -- and starred at the University of Georgia before turning pro.

But a little more than a year ago, Compton suffered a near-fatal heart attack, and it soon became apparent he needed another heart transplant. That operation took place on May 20, and most believe it is incredible that he is even playing golf again so soon, let alone competing.

Last week, at the first-stage PGA Tour qualifier in Key Biscayne, Fla., Compton was seemingly out of the running for a qualifying spot at second stage. He had rounds of 76-75-77 and was seven shots removed from the top 23 spots needed to advance. But he shot a 4-under-par 68 to advance to second stage next month. That event will help determine if he will have any status on the PGA Tour or Nationwide Tour next year.

In the meantime, the Disney event offers another opportunity for competition.

"If I can calm my emotions and play the way I played the last round [last week], I think I can play well and have a good chance," Compton said. "I'm playing against a lot of guys I know from college. It's just another tournament. Obviously there is money involved. It would be great to have a good showing and play well and have some Christmas money and also get ready for Q-school in the second stage."

Bob Harig covers golf for ESPN.com. He can be reached at BobHarig@gmail.com.

Bob Harig | email

Golf Writer, ESPN.com

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