by Jeff Skinner
Recently we have had several interesting stories in the world of golf. Rory McIlroy’s amazing win at The U.S. Open, Yani Tseng’s historic victory, Patrick Cantlay’s wild ride through big time golf, Sergio Garcia’s recent resurgence, Harrison Frazar’s win and The Golf Boys crazy video even caught our interest for a bit. But this week we got to witness an emotional story that involves much more than golf.
Erik Compton’s victory on The Nationwide Tour isn’t just your ordinary story of a golf pro breaking through. Yes, a win on any professional tour is reason to celebrate but Compton’s win represents so much more.
Compton is a walking miracle on the golf course, or anywhere else for that matter. He is walking around with his third heart. After his heart began to fail he was given his first transplant in 1992 and started playing golf as part of his rehabilitation. He was good enough to play at the University of Georgia and earned his way onto a Walker Cup team and also played in a Palmer Cup.
With his first transplanted heart failing he had another transplant in 2008 and amazingly he played in a PGA Tour event five months later. Professional golf was going to be the way he earned a living; it was this sports fanatic’s calling. But it’s an everyday battle for Compton just to survive no less play and win at professional golf. He needs to take medication daily that affects him, walking four rounds saps his strength and his “normal” day is anything but normal.
For me, it is stories like Compton that make this game so compelling. Yes, winning majors and shooting record scores is great. Watching history happen before our eyes and following the players on all the tours is interesting, but it is the people that make this game what it is.
From the historic figure of Old Tom Morris to the trials of Bobby Jones to the flamboyance of Walter Hagen to today’s players and everyone in between it’s the people in this game, their stories that draw us in and touch us. Compton is one of those people.
As much as he would like to be known as just Erik Compton the golfer, he realizes that he’s more than that. He is active in the transplant community and an active proponent of charities that support transplant activities.
He says he has been a bit unlucky with his health but so very lucky in his family life, “I’m 31 years old and have had a rich life.” After his win he reflected on where he has come from, “This tournament has kind of summed up my life. 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.”
With his win he probably has earned his PGA Tour card for next season and we’ll get to see him on the big tour as much as his body will allow. It is his story and his undeniable spirit that makes Compton a gripping personality. He is living an unbelievable life and next season we’ll get to see a lot more of him. That will be great for us, for golf and for Erik Compton. But he needs to know this: he’ll never be just Erik Compton the golfer, he’s so much more than that.