LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla.(AP) The story going around is that Erik Compton jokingly told friends he wants a few mulligans when he plays in his first PGA tournament in three years this weekend.
“I didn’t say that, but I’ll take them if they’re offered,” Compton joked.
He’s already had two.
The 28-year-old, only six months after his second heart transplant, will tee it up at the Children’s Miracle Network Classic at Disney World Thursday through Sunday.
Compton, diagnosed with an enlarged heart as a child, received his first heart transplant at age 12. He became one of the top junior golfers, competing in the Walker Cup in 2001. He had his second transplant in May, and made it past the first stage of Q-school last month.
The irony of getting a sponsor’s exemption to this particular tournament was not lost on Compton.
“Considering everything that I’ve been through, I kind of know what kids are going through, because I’ve been there,” he said.
Coming at the end of the year, when many players take time off, the tournament features only five of the world’s top 20 ranked players, including only one in the top 10, Stewart Cink.
With the heart of a 26-year-old All-America volleyball player killed in a motorcycle accident beating in his chest, Compton said he has more confidence in his game than ever before.
“My body is in good shape right now,” he said. “I mean I’m not completely 100 percent like I was, but you know, that’s why this game is just (where) you could be injured and be swinging at it better.
Even his putting is better, which he attributes – in part – to teaching others the skill.
“Maybe my eyes got corrected during surgery, too,” he said.
Compton’s given other golfers a lift. Brad Admonis, a good friend who’s playing in the Classic, said he got a call after he won a tournament in Midland shortly after Compton’s surgery.
“He told me to just go out there and play,” Admonis said. “What did I have to lose, you know? He was in the hospital, so that was inspiring to me.”
Only five months after his second transplant Compton survived windy and wet conditions to advance to the second stage of Q-school qualifying next week.
“This is going to be very, very stressful on my body, but if I play really well here, I won’t have to go to Q School,” Compton said.
The PGA granted an exemption for Compton to use a golf cart and take banned medication he needs to prevent rejection of his new heart. Compton takes doses twice a day and has to undergo biopsies regularly to make sure the heart is sound, but he said otherwise he lives a normal life.
“Obviously, now I’m using a golf cart, so that’s the only difference, which hopefully will change in the next few months as I get stronger,” he said.
Compton is the second tour player to be allowed to use a cart. Casey Martin sued the PGA in the 1990s because a degenerative leg disease kept him from walking 18 holes. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in his favor in 2001, clearing the way for Compton.
“He used to ask me how my heart was, and I used to ask him how his leg was,” Compton said.