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The Amazing Spirit and Struggle of PGA Tour Pro Erik Compton

August 28th, 2013 at 7:48 AM
By Rick Siddons

The one thing about golf that any lover of the game knows is that the game truly is a metaphor for life.  At times there are days and even moments in life where one realizes that what's past is past, and all one can do is face the next moment, or hour, or day, or week, or year.  That's what a competitive golfer faces with every shot, round, tournament or tour season. They cannot worry what has just happened. They must face what is still in front of them.

PGA Tour member Erik Compton personifies this metaphor more than most. There are many professional golfers that have spent years struggling on mini-tours to realize their dream of one day playing full time on the PGA Tour. Their stories of persistence and perseverance are inspiring much of the time. Compton's story is a glittering example of this.

Erik Compton has never won a PGA Tour event. This past weekend he competed at The Barclay's with the confidence and knowledge that he'd earned his Tour Card for next year, ensuring that he'd be competing at the highest level for the third consecutive year. Last December he had to go to Q-School to keep his card. He won't be faced with that this year.

His tie for 43rd moved him from 117th to 94th in the FedEx Cup points standings, and qualified him to keep competing this week at the Deutsche Bank Championship in Boston. The one thing that can be said for Erik Compton is that he has heart.

In fact, Compton has faced a struggle over the past twenty plus years that most golfers haven't.  When he was nine-years-old, he was diagnosed with viral cardiomyopathy, a condition where the heart can't pump blood as hard as needed.  Since that time, he's undergone two successful heart transplants, the most recent occurring in 2008. The situation preceding the second transplant was so dire that in 2007 he began contacting friends to say farewell because he believed he was going to die.

In 2009, he was awarded The Ben Hogan Award during The Masters. The award annually recognizes a competitive golfer who has stayed active in golf despite physical handicaps. 

After graduating from the University of Georgia, Compton turned professional in 2001.  For most of the next decade, he competed on the Nationwide Tour (now the web.com Tour) and the Canadian Tour. He found his greatest success in Canada, where he won twice in 2004 and won the Order of Merit. He also managed to play in 30 PGA Tour events during this time either through sponsors exemptions or through Monday qualifying. He made the cut in eighteen of those events. That limited success kept him going through the years.

Finally, in 2011, Compton broke through with a win at the Mexico Open on the Nationwide Tour, and finished 13th on that tour's money list. It gave him automatic fully exempt status on the PGA Tour for 2012 for the first time in his career. And even though he didn't play well enough on tour last season to retain his card, his seventh place finish last December at Q-School gave it right back to him.

And now he's here, still playing during the season ending FedEx Cup race. While big names in the world golf arena, like Geoff Ogilvy, David Toms, Carl Pettersson, Aaron Baddeley have seen their years end, Erik Compton plays on.

It will take even better play than last weekend for him to move up to 70th or higher after the Deutsche Bank Championship to stay in the FedEx Cup race. But it wouldn't be smart to bet against him. 

Erik Compton likely won't win the FedEx Cup. He'll probably never stare down Tiger Woods or Phil Mickelson at a Major Championship. He may never even win a PGA Tour Event. What he is winning though is every moment, hour, day, week, and year in his life. He's faced a major health issue and carried on and forward, not looking at the past. He'll likely face another heart transplant in the future, but he's unfazed. No matter how many championships he does or doesn't win…..Erik Compton is a winner at the game of life and was born to play the game of golf.

Tags: Aaron Baddeley, Ben Hogan Award, Carl Pettersson, David Toms, Deutsche Bank Championship, Erik Compton, FedEx Cup, Geoff Ogilvy, Golf, PGA Tour, Phil Mickelson, The Barclay's, The Masters, Tiger Woods

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