NEWTOWN SQUARE, Pa. - Erik Compton thought he'd be more emotional. He thought memories of the two heart transplants and the recovery that followed would consume him the moment he earned his PGA Tour card.
But when Compton won last weekend's Mexico Open - which vaulted him to No. 2 on the Nationwide Tour's money list and all but assured him a PGA Tour membership next season - he didn't cry. Instead, excitement was the prevailing emotion as Compton jetted from Mexico to Philadelphia on Monday for this weekend's AT&T National, where he is playing with a sponsor's exemption.
When asked Wednesday about the emotions of his last couple of days, Compton said, "I don't even know where to begin."
Compton, a former All-American at Georgia, had an enlarging of the heart called cardiomyopathy that led to a transplant in 1992, when he was 12. He needed another transplant in 2008 when that heart failed.
Compton was admittedly fatigued heading into Thursday's first round; the AT&T National marks his fifth tournament in as many weeks.
Wearing a violet shirt and showing off his wide, toothy smile, Compton didn't seem the least bit worried about fatigue affecting his play. This will be his fifth PGA Tour event of the season and his 17th since having his second heart transplant in 2008. His best finish came at the Northern Trust Open in February, where he tied for 25th.
"Once I get on the tee, I think I'll be ready to play and excited," Compton said. "I'm just trying to take it real slow."
As his PGA Tour career starts to take shape, Compton will remain realistic with his goals. His heart will continue to limit his energy level and playing schedule.
He only hits balls for 20-25 minutes before a round, and his off-weeks aren't spent practicing, either. Sometimes, he doesn't even take his clubs out of the suitcase at home. He relaxes, goes fishing, and spends time with his wife, Barbara, and baby, Petra.
After leaving Philadelphia, Compton will have his annual cardiac check-up and take some much-needed time off.
Compton is cognizant of the fact that he'll always be known as the guy who is on his third heart. As he says, "It's such a crazy, crazy story." But after last week's victory, he has a new title that's nearly as meaningful: card-carrying member of the PGA Tour.
"The doctors are shocked and people in the transplant world are shocked," Compton said. "I'm shocked because I always said I would be on Tour and play, but now it's a reality. My dream is finally coming true, and it couldn't have happened at a better time." (Photo: Adam Davis/Icon SMI)