MIAMI (AP) — Add another comeback to Erik Compton’s remarkable story.
Five months after receiving his second heart transplant, Compton shot a 4-under 68 on Friday at Crandon Golf Club on Key Biscayne to advance to the second stage of the PGA Tour’s qualifying tournament.
Battling gusty winds and light rain, Compton overcame a seven-shot deficit to turn in the best score of the day. He finished tied with six others for 23rd place to take the final qualifying spot.
“I’m jacked up. I’m excited. I’m almost in disbelief,” Compton said. “Everybody counted me out, and I survived again.”
Compton woke up at 6:30 a.m. and turned on the Golf Channel.
All the commentators had the same message: It was great that he was playing, but there was no way he could overcome seven strokes.
“It really motivated me,” said Compton, who received special permission from the PGA Tour to use a golf cart and to continue taking banned anti-rejection pills. “People always want to count me out.”
Compton made a 15-foot putt to save par on seven, his second to last hole. He made birdies on 2, 10, 14 and 17, and tapped in an easy putt on nine to end his day.
Then came the wait.
With winds still gusting more than 25 mph on the course, Compton sat with friends and family in the clubhouse and watched as others struggled. When the news came in that he had qualified, Compton’s father, Peter, was so overcome with emotion he had to leave.
Erik Compton and his wife, Barbara, who’s pregnant with the couple’s first child, hugged and kissed, embracing a moment that seemed impossible months earlier.
“I can’t remember the last time I felt this good,” Compton said.
Compton was diagnosed at age 9 with cardiomyopathy, an enlarging of the heart that hinders its ability to pump blood. Three years later in 1992, he received a new heart at Miami’s Jackson Memorial Hospital.
He was a No. 1-ranked amateur and a two-time All-American at Georgia before he turned professional in 2001, playing mostly on the Nationwide Tour but also qualifying for a few PGA Tour events.
But after a heart attack last October, it became clear he would need another transplant.
Compton underwent the second operation May 20 and has been rehabbing ever since. His swing is near full strength, but he doesn’t have the stamina to walk 72 holes.
Compton’s next test will be a qualifying tournament at Callaway Gardens-Mountain View Golf Course in Pine Mountain, Ga. The final qualifying tournament is in Palm Springs, Calif., where 25 golfers will receive PGA Tour cards.
Now, he has a chance to get there.
After struggling the first three days of the tournament – shooting a 76, 75 and 77 – it seemed his remarkable run would end.
“I wanted to show people I could still do it,” Compton said.