We profile PGA Tour star Erik Compton and bring you his story on receiving two heart transplants, his route to professional golf and his determination to raise awareness of organ donation.
Erik Compton is thoroughly enjoying life on the PGA Tour having secured his full-time card for the 2014 season, something which seemed undeniably out-of-reach six years ago. Erik suffered a heart-attack in 2007 and somehow managed to drive himself to the hospital with his heart slowly failing. He even called several close friends and family during what must felt like the longest drive of his life - just to tell them goodbye. He made it just in time, his life was saved and his road to recovery was complete six months later when he received a heart transplant from an organ donor. A miraculous story in itself, but even more miraculous when you consider that this was not the first time Erik had received such a transplant.
As a child, the Floridian was diagnosed with viral cardiomyopathy - an irreversible condition which gradually stretches and weakens the heart muscle. A devastating time for Erik's family, no doubt, but hope was provided in the form of an organ donation which became available in 1992; perhaps the best 13th birthday present a boy could wish for. As part of his physical rehabilitation, Erik took up the sport of golf since all contact sport was ruled out by the medical professionals. Six years later, he became the top ranked junior golfer in the USA and won the 1998 Junior Player of the Year on his way to accepting a golf scholarship at the University of Georgia. It's not difficult to see where Erik picked up the drive and determination to succeed; receiving an organ donation would leave absolutely anyone with an overwhelming sense of gratitude.
Erik Compton, a former Walker Cup player, turned professional in 2001 and enjoyed spells on the Nationwide Tour and the Canadian golf tour - winning the PGA Tour Canada order of merit in 2004 amongst a handful of other victories. Since that traumatic period with the failure of his original heart transplant in 2007/08, Erik's golf achievements have accelerated somewhat remarkably. A qualification for the 2010 US Open at Pebble Beach, 2011 Nationwide Tour qualification and subsequent PGA Tour qualification following a stellar year would all suggest that Erik is not one to pity himself over his health troubles.
Continued success in 2012 set up the Hugo Boss endorsed star for a great 2013 season on the PGA Tour. Four top 25 finishes, including a T4 at the Honda Classic, led him on the way to finishing in the top 125 of the FedEx Cup standings and thus secured his place on the tour for the third straight year. He clearly isn't taking his PGA Tour status in 2015 for granted though; already this season Erik has mustered three top 25 finishes and a single top 10. Compton enjoyed even more success this past weekend, finishing T5 at the Zurich Classic of New Orleans behind eventual winner Seung-Yul Noh!
Having received recognition for overcoming his health setbacks (the Ben Hogan award at the 2009 Masters, above, amongst others), it is evident that Erik is not one to dwell on the past. Inevitably, Compton gets asked about his story in every other interview, but each time he handles it with grace and nonchalance - recognising his fortune to be back in good health and invariably grateful for the two opportunities he has had to receive an organ donation. In fact, it is this latter point which spurs Erik Compton to do all he can to raise awareness about the importance of organ donation (one donor could save up to seven lives); equally aiming to provide hope for the patients and their families who find themselves in such a terrible limbo. Erik Compton is a true hero of the game and, whilst his story should rightfully be recognised, perhaps his form on the course will be what makes headlines in future and not the ill form he had to overcome to get there.
Hugo Boss star Erik Compton is a true inspiration and you can follow all of his progress on the PGA Tour this season with the GP Blog!