Erik Compton: The Personification Of Courageousness

Michael FitzpatrickFeatured ColumnistOctober 30, 2008

Tiger Woods winning the US Open on one leg this past June was certainly impressive. 


Ben Hogan’s return to win the 1950 US Open at Merion a year after a car accident that nearly took his life is one of the greatest stories in the history of sports. 


But last week at Q-School there was one player whose mere presence at the event was more amazing than Woods and Hogan’s US Open victories combined.


Last Friday a player by the name of Erik Compton advanced through the first stage of Q-School. 


“There are six stages of Q-School.  What’s the big deal about a player advancing through to the second stage?” you may be asking yourself.


Well, nothing, unless you are Erik Compton and are only five months removed from your second heart transplant.


Compton, 28 years old from Florida, underwent the second heart transplant of his life on May 20th.  He is allowed to compete at Q-School with the assistance of a golf cart, thanks in large part to Casey Martin and the Americans with Disabilities Act. 


Casey Martin was born with a birth defect in his left leg known as Klippel Trenaunay Weber syndrome.  Back in 2001, Martin sued the PGA Tour for the right to use a golf cart in competition under the Americans with Disabilities Act. 


Martin’s case went all the way to the US Supreme Court where the justices ruled in Martin’s favor citing that the Federal law requires the leveling of the playing field for the handicapped, even in pro sports.


In recent weeks Compton has appeared in the news partially for being the first player since Casey Martin to play in competition with the assistance of a cart and partially because he was competing in Q-School just five months removed from his second heart transplant surgery. 


At the age of 9, Comptonwas diagnosed with cardiomyopathy, an enlarging of the heart that hinders its ability to pump blood.  Three years later, in 1992, he received his first heart transplant. 


Several years later, Compton was the top ranked junior golfer in the country.  He attended the University of Georgia where he was an All-American and a member of the 2001 Walker Cup team.


Comptonhas spent most of his time on the Nationwide Tour but has qualified for two PGA Tour events over the past few years. 


Recently Compton began to experience complications from his childhood heart transplant and was required to undergo a second heart transplant operation to save his life.


In May, Compton’s second new heart was put in place during a 14 hour operation. 


Most people take years to fully recover from a surgery as major as a heart transplant, but not Compton, he was back on the golf course within months and is now competing in the PGA Tour’s Qualifying school just five months later.


Just attending Q-School at all is a miraculous accomplishment in itself, but Comptonis not there merely to provide the golfing world with a nice feel good story, he is there to play his way onto the PGA Tour. 


The first round of Q-School is played in several locations throughout the country and consists of 72-hole tournaments where the top 23 and ties from each location advance through to the next round. 


Comptonattended the tour qualifying event at Crandon Golf Club in Key Biscayne, Florida.


After 54 holes, Compton was 12 over-par and well outside of the top 23 spots required for advancement to the second stage.


Playing in extremely windy conditions during the final round, Compton would need a small miracle to play his way into the top-23. 


But miracles are something Compton has become accustomed to throughout his life.  Undergoing two heart transplants while still remaining one of the nation’s best golfers would trump in comparison to the miracle Compton would need to advance to through to the second stage of Q-School.


Compton managed to pull off yet another miracle by shooting a final round 68, which was the low score of the day and good enough to move him into a tie for 23rdgaining him a ticket to the second stage of the PGA Tour’s qualifying school. 


Thrilled with his spectacular final round play at Crandon Golf Club, Compton received even more good news earlier this week when it was announced that he would receive one of the four sponsor’s exemptions to play in the Children’s Miracle Network Classic at the Walt Disney World Resort in Lake Buena Vista, Florida on November 6th-9th.


It is only fitting that Compton received an exemption to a tournament containing the word ‘Miracle’ in it’s name as Compton’s life and golfing career can only be described as a miracle itself.


Whether Compton makes the cut at the Children’s Miracle Network Classic, makes it through Q-School or ever even plays another round of golf, his unyielding quest to make it back onto the golf course despite all the massive speed bumps life has thrown at already him makes Erik Compton’s life and golfing career an undeniable success and a truly inspirational story.