At the age of 9 years old, Erik Compton was diagnosed with cardiomyopathy, an enlarging of the heart that hinders its capability to pump blood. He got a new heart and started golf as part of his treatment three years later in 1992. That heart failed in 2008, and he had a new transplant.
He kept trying to make it to the PGA Tour, not as just the “guy with two heart transplants” who got the odd sponsor exception or made it through a Monday qualifier, but as a complete tour member.
The Miami player, who is 31 years old, once the top-ranked junior in the nation, pretty much wrapped up that membership Sunday in the rain-delayed Mexico Open, rallying to succeed in his first Countrywide Tour title, and first success since turning professional in 2001.
Compton said, “This tournament has kind of summed up my life,” as he was set to play the PGA Tour’s AT&T National this week in Pennsylvania on a sponsor exception. “There was a lot of adversity to overcome in this tournament just like what I’ve dealt with personally. To win this is everything to me. I never thought I’d play golf again, at least not at this level, and I proved to myself I’m more than just a guy with two heart transplants.”
Compton blocked with a 7-under 65 at El Bosque Country Club to end at 17-under 271, two strokes prior to Richard H. Lee. The two-time All-American at Georgia received $126,000 to jump from 15th to second on the money record with $215,709, closely guaranteeing a 2012 PGA Tour card as a top-25 finisher on the developmental tour. He as well has made $83,962 this year in four PGA Tour beginnings.
He said, “I do get a lot of opportunities to play in PGA Tour events because of my story. But now that I’ve won out here and I’ve pretty much secured my tour card and I’ll get into events on that alone. And I’ve been playing professionally since I was 20 years old and never won, so I feel like it’s a monkey off my back.”
Compton had eight birdies and a bogey in the last round. He birdied the par-4 16th to get to 17 under, and after that parred the final two holes for the breakthrough success.
Compton said, “The guys who see me inside the ropes see me as a regular golfer. But at the end of the day when I put my head down I realize how lucky I am. To be able to say I’ll be playing on the PGA Tour only four years after my heart transplant is unbelievable. I don’t really know what my future is in life. Hopefully, I can get a win out on tour now.”
Compton was only provisionally excused on the Nationwide Tour at the start of the season, yet immediately received special-temporary membership. He tied for fourth in the season-opening Panama Championship and had one more fourth-place tie in April in the Fresh Express Classic.
Compton said, “To start off the season like I did set up the ground work. This win has put me over the top. This is exactly what I needed. To think of what I went through and to have all the support and love of everyone around me, it’s almost unreal.”
Compton shot a 68 on Sunday morning in the achievement of the rain-delayed third round to start the final 18 holes two strokes behind the leaders Lee, Matthew Giles and Peter Lonard.
Lee needed a birdie on the par-5 18th to force a playoff, however, bogeyed the hole for a 69.
Will Wilcox (68) was third at 14 under, a stroke ahead of Giles (71), Roberto Castro (65), James Nitties (68), Chris Baker (68) and Kyle Thompson (70). Lonard finished with a 73 to tie for 11th at 11 under.