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June 29, 2011

Erik Compton

THE MODERATOR: We're joined this afternoon by Erik Compton who earned his first victory last week on the Nationwide Tour at the Mexico Open presented by Banamex. With the victory, Erik moved to No. 2 on the Nationwide Tour money list, and is in good position to earn his PGA TOUR card for 2012.
He's in the field this week at the AT&T National on the PGA TOUR on a sponsor's exemption. Erik, thanks for your time. If you could just start off by giving us a quick update on your year to date, and obviously what the last week's been like for you after your victory?
ERIK COMPTON: It's been a great year. You know, we were talking earlier, and it kind of started with the Monday qualifier at Riviera. Flew up there, won the qualifier, and had a nice 64 on Sunday which gave me a lot of confidence. Took that to the Nationwide event in Panama, and was leading with four holes to play. Unfortunately I didn't finish that one off, but it was a good start to the Nationwide Tour season.
I've been chipping away out there with a couple Top 5 finishes and a couple Top 15s. To go to Mexico and win the biggest purse of the year, you know, just put me over the top and pretty much guaranteed me a card on the PGA TOUR next year.
It's just a life-long dream. Something that I've been wishing and hoping for for quite some time. You know, it's just a great feeling. All my family and friends that have been supporting me through everything that I've gone through and being down in the dumps to just now turning it around, it's just a great feeling.

Q. You touched on this a little bit at the top, and I'm just curious. Obviously you're a great competitor. You love to win. Winning doesn't come all that often. But in a situation like you had on Sunday, what kind of was the bigger weight maybe lifted off of you? The fact that you won or the fact that you've all but gained a TOUR card for next year?
ERIK COMPTON: Yeah, great question. I think it's a combination of both. I mean, early in the year when I didn't finish off the one in Panama, I was disappointed because, you know, I think maybe I didn't know what I did wrong, if it was my emotions and how my strategy was to play. I played maybe too conservative.
I think in Mexico, I pressed on the gas and tried to birdie every hole coming down the stretch. I knew if I did that and stayed focused on my game, that winning would get me to the PGA TOUR. So I think it was hand in hand.
It's a huge celebration. I guess it's almost like the mini version of winning the FedExCup and then winning the event that got you over the top. I mean, I'm going to continue to play on the Nationwide some this year and still work on my game and try to get sharp. But I don't have to feel the sense of urgency of playing every week to get past that $200,000 mark. So I think it's a combination of both.
I'm just thrilled over the win and thrilled to be on the PGA TOUR. Because, as you know, Jeff, you've watched me play and watched me go through the surgeries and see what I've dealt with down in Miami, and you know it's been my dream to play on the TOUR. It's not just getting to the TOUR. I think I have a great chance of competing with a full schedule week-in and week-out. That I can do some great stuff and play like that like I am this year on the Nationwide.

Q. Again, you kind of touched on it at the top, but the times that you were down in the dumps, do you remember what the lowest was?
ERIK COMPTON: I think some of the low parts were talking to you over at Madison Hammock when I was thinking about quitting the game, and I knew I had to have a new heart. I knew what was going on.
The lowest times were waiting in the hospital and wondering whether I was going to get a heart transplant or not. Because at that time I wasn't so much worried about the golf, I was worried about living and worried about missing my family, and missing, you know, and having a child and doing the things that I'm doing now. It's just a dream come true.
Times when financially you feel like you're in a bad situation and you're worried about your health insurance and things like that, getting to the TOUR helps a lot of that stuff. I couldn't have done it.
I mean, you've met my parents, you've met my friends. Charlie DeLuca, Michael Hansman who helped me financially through the whole thing, helped me to get a house and a car in times when I didn't have anything. If I didn't have those people with me, didn't have a supportive wife who just, you know, married me when I was practically dead, I mean, went through everything, I would have never, ever had a chance to get to where I am.
Obviously, more people are going to know about my story now. I think it's a win-win, because I'll be able to help other people through my achievements. You know, people can see that they can live a normal life and do things. I'm used to getting a lot of the attention just from the first one and now the second one. Now it's almost like it keeps on going. I think God has a big plan for that.

Q. In light of everything you've gone through, is there anything on the golf course that scares you? Does going through the adversity you've gone through in your life kind of make -- as much as you may have struggled on the golf course, is a six-foot downhill slider or hitting a bunker shot into a tight pin or having to carry 200 yards over water, does all of that kind of pale? In any way, has that made you a better player, because what's out there on the golf course that can scare you?
ERIK COMPTON: Right. I think when I came down the stretch and when you come down the stretch of a tournament, your heart rate is always racing. It's sort of a great feeling, but also a sickly feeling. I think those that really embrace that feeling are the ones who win.
I've had a few wins in my career, and it's a feeling of greatness and it's also it wears you out. I can't speak for other people. I don't know what they feel when they're hitting a six-footer. But I can tell you when I have a six-foot downhill putt in the last nine holes of the tournament, I definitely feel a sense of urgency and a sense of anxiety.
Even with the transplant, my heart races and you get jittery and things like that. I think if I didn't feel that, I wouldn't be alive. It's a good feeling. It's not the same feeling maybe you have on the first 18, so I think it's human to feel nerves and to feel that.
In the grand scheme of things in perspective when I put my head down at night, I know that if I were to lose a tournament or win a tournament, it's really not that much of a difference. I mean, it's the most important thing is the perspective that I have and what I've been through and having a family and all of that.
You know, golf is a great thing. I'm lucky to be having great hand-eye coordination, and the heart transplant came along with it. To be able to play golf for a living is a very special thing, and to play at this level is a special thing. I don't know. I hope I answered that.

Q. One thing that you've talked about in this latest go round is that you don't practice much, you don't grind on the range that you've tried to keep yourself fresh for tournaments. Was that something that you made a determination of as soon as you could get back on the course after this transplant? Because with the first transplanted heart, you spent a lot of time on the range.
ERIK COMPTON: Yeah, I think that was a mistake that I did early in my career is when I got into tournaments I wore myself out before the tournament started. I look back more when I played college, and I played really, really good and I had a lot of confidence.
I didn't hit very many balls. I didn't practice as much as people thought I should, but that worked for me. Everybody has to find what works for them. But I don't want to be somebody who grinds and is worried about my swing. I think you get your greatest self when you believe in your ability and you just go out and make it happen.
I guess I could use the analogy of when you go fishing. You're not practicing your casting. You've either got it or you don't. You're more preparing of where the fish are. Same thing with golf - you've got to know where the pins are going to be, know where the conditions are going to be, and try to prepare more mentally than physically.

Q. Is that something that you changed kind of immediately when you started the comeback trail or did you kind of find yourself gravitating to working hard on the range and you kind of had to consciously tell yourself?
ERIK COMPTON: No, not really. I think I found what works for me. You know, my personality is I'd rather get out with less time than to be out there standing around. I don't want to be standing around. You really need to get your body loose and you're ready to go.
I think confidence is the number one thing that separates players from the Nationwide and the PGA TOUR compared to players that are trying to make it. You kind of can see who is going to play well and who is not. It definitely has to do with the confidence and how you handle yourself.

Q. Do you get to the course at all nowadays when you're home? Do you keep sharp or do you just show up?
ERIK COMPTON: I keep sharp when I'm playing in the winter. When you're on the TOUR and you're playing five, six weeks in a row and you go home for a couple of weeks, it's probably best that you take some time away from golf because then you're hungrier when you come back out.
Some guys might go home and work with their teachers and do something and have a quick look. But for me I like to just get away from the game so that when I come back, I'm ready to play. And that's what works for me.

Q. I was wondering, do you work with any organizations specifically that raise funds or awareness about heart issues?
ERIK COMPTON: Yeah, I mean, I'm involved with the Transplant Foundation of South Florida. We're a non-profit organization that raises money for people that can come in -- we have a transplant house. They can come and stay there while their loved ones are going through transplant.
We also have set up funds for people who can't afford some of their medications or things that go along like if they need to pay for a car payment or a house payment while they're going through a procedure or having some sort of transplant.
My family has been involved with that for a very, very long time. We do golf tournaments, bowl-a-thons, walk-a-thons. We have a thing called Emerald Nights which is like a dinner gala and auction. And I'm in the process of speaking with some pharmaceutical companies and trying to do some -- trying to get more organ donor awareness and the importance of donating organs and things like that.
So the more access I have to the PGA TOUR, I think the more access I have to helping communities and people that are in that environment.

Q. Also, I wanted to ask you about the rust factor. You said you like to take time off from the game and then you get back to it. Obviously, there was a lot of time off when you were going through all of your problems. How do you deal with getting back into competitive golf shape? And I know you can't speak for him, but what does that mean for somebody someone like Tiger Woods, who is not in a life-threatening situation, but will probably have a lot of rust to shake off?
ERIK COMPTON: I think it's going to help him getting away from the game. I think indirectly he's thinking the same. I can't speak for him, but I would imagine because he is such a great athlete and he has such great hand and eye coordination, I think he'll find himself being better if he just gets back to what he did when he was younger.
Sometimes when you take time off, you end up swinging like a kid again when you come back. You go back to the natural way and the natural movement of a golf club. I think when I came back after my surgery and I gave lessons and I started very slowly building my swing and just swinging it 50, 60, 70, 80%, and I was able to groove in and maybe take out some of the crap that I had on my swing before, excuse my French, but I think some of these guys tend to overanalyze their game and maybe do stuff that's not natural.
I know, for one, that sports has always come very natural to me, and if I ever tried to do something that was not towards what I was -- towards natural, it ended up hurting me. So that's part of the reason I don't go out and hit too many golf balls, because there is no reason to wear yourself out and maybe develop a bad habit.
THE MODERATOR: Erik, thank you for your time, and play well this week.

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