PGA TOUR golfer and two-time heart transplant recipient Erik Compton holds the distinction as being the only professional golfer in the world to compete with a transplanted heart. The 33-year-old has had three different hearts in his life but that hasn’t stopped him from achieving his dream of earning his TOUR card and playing on the PGA TOUR.
Compton was diagnosed when he was nine-years-old with viral cardiomyopathy, a condition where the heart muscle is inflamed and unable to pump as hard as it should. His first heart transplant came in 1992, when Compton was 12. Compton had his second transplant following a major heart attack in 2008.
Erik Compton, a two-time heart transplant recipient and PGA Tour player, receives the United States Sports Academy’s Mildred “Babe” Didrikson Zaharias Courage Award from the sport university’s Duwayne Escobedo at the Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals Classic Wednesday, Nov. 7 in Orlando.
Despite the heart transplants, he reached his goal of earning a PGA Tour Card for 2012 and has now earned the United States Sports Academy’s 2012 Mildred “Babe” Didrikson Zaharias Courage Award. Zaharias, too, wasa golfer. Zaharias was diagnosed with colon cancer in 1953, and one month after undergoing surgery, she won her 10th and final major with a U.S. Women’s Open championship.
The Courage Award is presented annually to an individual who demonstrates courageous action in overcoming adversity to excel in sport. This individual should exhibit the qualities of courage, perseverance, grace, and strength in sport achievement.
On the PGA TOUR this season, Compton has made the cut 16 times in 25 events, has one top 25 finish and has earned nearly $360,000. He finished 137th in FedEx Cup points. In addition, he has spent his spare time helping to raise awareness and educate Americans about organ donation.
“I hope that by sharing my experience others can see the importance of finding out more about organ donation,” Compton said. “After my second transplant, I knew I wasn’t done with golf and consider when I made the cut in the 2008 Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals Classic less than six months later to start my comeback. That makes receiving this award at this tournament all that much more meaningful to me.”
The PGA TOUR honored Compton for coming back from heart surgery during The Masters in April 2009, awarding him the Ben Hogan Award.
Prior to this year, he played in 30 PGA TOUR events as a non-member from 2000 to 2011 through sponsor exemptions and qualifying, making the cut 18 times. His best PGA TOUR finish was a tie for 25th in the 2011 Northern Trust Open. Compton has played in one major, the 2010 U.S. Open.
In 2010, Compton advanced to the Tour’s final round of qualifying school. He finished tied for 100th, which granted him conditional Nationwide TOUR status. In 2011, Compton won the Mexico Open—his first win on a major golf tour. Compton finished 13th on the money list that year which was good enough for a PGA TOUR Card for 2012.