You don't have to be a golf fan to appreciate the life and times of Erik Compton—although it helps.
You just have to appreciate hard work, perseverance and the will to live.
This 34-year-old man is walking around planet Earth with his third heart beating inside his chest. Yes, his third. Not only is he walking, but he's also competing quite well on the PGA Tour, thank you very much.
If you don't know, he finished in a tie for second in the U.S. Open at Pinehurst, North Carolina, on Sunday. Think about that. Compton finished in a tie for second after having gone through two heart transplants.
I've not had one, nor do I know anyone who has, but knowing the little I do, it is a very difficult procedure from start to finish.
For him to have done the rehab twice and be able to perform at a high enough level to be on the leaderboard in our nation's championship, the word "remarkable" doesn't suffice.
History tells us that Ben Hogan, at the age of 36, was crushed in a February 1949 collision with a bus. Even though he was told he might never walk again, he returned to the PGA Tour at the beginning of the 1950 season.
Hogan would go on to win six of nine major championship titles from that point on.
That is an awe-inspiring, real-life story that has helped make his already immense legacy even more impressive.
But now comes the big question: Was Hogan's comeback more impressive than Compton overcoming two failed hearts? Can such a question even be answered?
To be perfectly honest, I'm not really sure I have the answer.
How can you pick between the two, actually?
Both are historic achievements, and both men deserve everlasting credit for going through all they did to get back to the PGA Tour. Then, you get down to a double-fractured pelvis, a fractured collarbone, a fractured ankle and nearly fatal blood clots versus two heart transplants.
For certain, Compton will not have the kind of career Hogan did. He has struggled much more than he's succeeded, and the finish at Pinehurst was the best of his career.
This is a guy who could have died in 2007, when the first of his two transplanted hearts began to fail. However, the transplant process worked out in his favor, and he got a third lease on life.
At nine years of age, Compton was diagnosed with viral cardiomyopathy, which caused his heart muscle to be inflamed and kept it from pumping properly.
But there he was, in his 100th start on the PGA Tour, playing Rickie Fowler straight up late on Sunday afternoon at the U.S. Open.
"I’m not just the guy with two heart transplants," Compton told reporters after his spectacular week.
No he's not. He's a guy who was so sick on two occasions that he told his family and his friends goodbye. He's also rebounded twice and has become something of a cult hero. Yes, because of the transplants, but also because he's overcome the uncertainty of a transplanted heart and what it might able to handle.
As you watched Compton make his way around Pinehurst No. 2, you wouldn't have known he was any different than the other 155 competitors in the field.
He put up rounds of 72, 68, 67 and 72. He hit the ball in waste areas and figured out a way to get the ball close to or on the greens, just like everyone else did.
What made Sunday afternoon even more special was how Compton was treated by the thousands of fans who were on the grounds of the historic course. You could hear and sense it through the television broadcast.
They loved how well he played, they were thrilled that he was high on the leaderboard, and, yes, they were in awe of him doing so with his obvious physical condition.
“I’ve never had that feeling because I’ve always felt I was the underdog,” he told reporters. “There’s always better players and better stories.”
Compton is an inspiration to untold numbers of people—and not just those with heart issues like his. He's spoken many times over the years about those issues and has directly and indirectly raised money and awareness.
On Sunday afternoon, however, as the sun went down, he did something that may have been more important than anything he's done before.
He showed the world that obstacles can be overcome—even obstacles as serious as failing hearts.
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