GARDENS OF PALM BEACH, FLORIDA – Erik Compton is in for a fantastic Saturday.
He’ll play a third round at PGA National if he makes the cut at the Honda Classic. Otherwise, he’ll have to make do with the 30th anniversary of his second chance at life.
Compton, then 12 years old, received the first of two heart transplants on Feb. 26, 1992, after being diagnosed with viral cardiomyopathy, a condition in which the heart becomes inflamed and cannot adequately pump blood. Since then, he’s battled and battled, and his 1-under 69 opening round at the Honda Classic on Thursday was simply another reminder that he’s made a career out of beating impossibly enormous odds.
“I’ve had more pressure in my life than I’ve ever had in the field,” Compton remarked.
Those aren’t exaggerations, and they don’t only apply to him playing golf. He loves to claim that he’s died twice. After having a heart attack in 2007, seven months before his second transplant in May 2008, he drove himself to the hospital. He’s been informed several times that his athletic career was over, and that he couldn’t play competitive golf any longer.
And we’re still having fun on Saturday.
“Obviously, 30 will be a significant milestone,” Compton added. “I’ve always commemorated the dates of both my second and first transplants. You recognize the donor by recognizing all of the accomplishments that have occurred over the years.”
Since 2001, the 42-year-old Miami native, who still calls Miami home, has been a professional golfer. He’s mainly on the Korn Ferry Tour these days; he’s only made one PGA Tour cut in four tries since 2016, and he’s on a sponsor’s exemption at the Honda this week.
He has never won on the PGA Tour; his best finish was a tie for second at the 2014 U.S. Open, which was the highlight of a year in which he earned $1.8 million, or almost half of his total PGA Tour earnings of $4.1 million.
“I’m starving,” Compton said. “It’s possible that a lot of guys my age aren’t as hungry as I am because they’ve made a lot more money.” I’ve had a decent career, but I haven’t made as much money as some of the other guys. As a result, it keeps you hungry. And I don’t see why I shouldn’t keep going after my dream.”
There’s a belief that goes along with the hunger. It has shifted in recent years, but it is still present.
Compton claims he feels wonderful now that he’s lost 20 pounds. He claims that his clubhead speed and ball speed are good enough to compete with the best. A good round on Friday means a berth on the weekend, which means a check and possibly a chance to compete.
“There have been periods in the last few years where it’s been difficult,” Compton added. “I enjoy playing, but there have been a few folks who have stepped up to help me keep playing.” So, this year, I’m going all out, and that’s exactly what I’m trying to do: put one foot in front of the other.”