I became a fan of Erik Compton after reading about his quest to get his PGA tour card at Q-school last year. But Compton isn't new to golf. The 29-year old was a two-time All-American at the University of Georgia (‘00-‘01) before turning Pro in 2001. He played on the Nationwide and Canadian tours on and off, and last fall was actually his 7th attempt at the PGA Qualifying School...but his first attempt while carrying a third heart in his chest.
But like so many golf stories, the road of this professional golfer was not an easy one be on when it's crowded with hundreds of others who carry the same dreams of success. Going on www.pgatour.com, I found that Compton played in a handful of PGA tour events over the years and had several full seasons on the Nationwide Tour. It was eye-opening to see the small paychecks compared to the guys on the "big tour". But he endured and kept working towards his dream.
In October of 2007, Erik had a massive heart attack and doctors determined that he would need to get another new heart...and in May of 2008, that new heart came. Five months later Q-school was in session and Compton found himself passing through round 1, tied with 6 others for the last spot, carding a 68 on the last day while others struggled.
That's when I became one of his many followers. An invite to the Children's Miracle Network PGA event at Disney came before the 2nd round of Q-school and a Friday 68 was just enough for Erik to play the weekend, and a T-60 finish.
It was then off to round 2 of Q-school in November and after 3 rounds he was tied for 13th, with the top 20 and ties advancing to the Q-school finals in Califorina. I followed his progress on the internet and could see he definitely had a chance to advance if he could card one more solid round. Unfortunately for Erik, a few too many bogeys meant a tie for 22nd, 1-stroke from qualifying.
I remember being a little heartbroken for him that day - which I suppose seems a bit odd since I hardly knew anything about him. But at the same time I was totally inspired by what he had accomplished. And I know I'm not the only one he has impacted by his courage, determination, and drive to succeed.
In March, Erik was given a sponsor's exemption into the Honda Classic. Two rounds of 69 were just enough for him to play on the weekend and card a T-44. A few more sponsors exemptions have come his way so far this year, and the latest news is that Jack Nicklaus has invited Erik to play in the Memorial the first week of June. I'll definitely be rooting for him!
Jeff Shain, from the Miami Herald, also reported that Erik was the recipient of the Ben Hogan award for staying active despite an injury or illness. The award was given the Wednesday night of Masters week at the Golf Writers Association of America dinner. This quote from Erik, taken from Shain's article, gives a pretty good picture of who Erik is and what he's learned on his life path so far... ``My future may not be winning majors. It may just be making cuts, trying to scrape together a living. Maybe it's inspiring kids, [or] helping the next guy facing a lonely night in the hospital.'' And it's also one of the reasons I'm a fan.
When the opportunity came for me to have this little place to write about all of my favorite golfing things, I knew I wanted to write about Erik. I have slowly ventured into the world of technology and found a way to write to him. I contemplated not writing but then figured the worst that could happen is that he just doesn't respond (rejection builds character, right?). But on the off chance that he would write back I sent along a note with a few questions and shared my admiration of all that he has accomplished.
I checked for a response for a few weeks and finally figured that my note was probably in electronic heaven someplace...and that was okay. I cheered for him in the tournaments he played and then got caught up in Masters euphoria for a few weeks.
And then a funny thing happened...there in my inbox was a short note from Erik - he apologized for not writing sooner and said that he hadn't checked the account in awhile. I had asked what was in his bag and he said he uses Titleist for all his shots. He said he also plays the shortest clubs on tour...for more control.
I also asked him about his putter (since I believe it's the most important club in the bag), and he said he is currently using an old Scotty Cameron Ping Anser style putter, but has been trying some other custom putters that Cameron has made for him. My final question was if he had set any goals for this year and his response was, "...to win an event by the end of this year!" I like the way he thinks!
I'm feeling a little inspired again now as I think about setting some of my own goals for the golf season. And I'm also feeling thankfulness well up in me as I realize how lucky I am to have golf in my world...Erik reminds me that no matter what challenges lie in front of us, we have to dig deep inside ourselves and do the best we can to make those challenges opportunities. Opportunities to succeed, to learn a lesson, or to find other possibilities we might not have seen before.
So Thanks, Erik, for being an example of what golf is all about. And THANKS even more for taking time out of your life to brighten mine. And the next time I'm out on the course I'm going to take a little Compton character out there with me.
Filed under: character, Honda, Erik Compton, heart transplant, Memorial, Q School