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April 6, 2015

Erik Compton


MODERATOR:  Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen.  It's a pleasure for us to welcome Erik Compton to our interview room.  This is an incredible guy with a wonderful, inspirational story.
In 2014, we watched Erik's career soar to new heights when he secured three Top‑10 finishes on the PGA TOUR, including a second in the U.S. Open in just his second start in that championship.
Would you take a moment, please, to share with us some of your thoughts on your first Masters experience and what this moment means to you.
ERIK COMPTON:  Yeah, obviously to be here, it's the mecca of golf.  It's every boyhood's dream to play in the Masters.  I'm glad it's here.  I've been working hard ever since I found out that I was going to be here to get my game ready for this golf course.
And you know, all the expectations are already met:  When you drive in to registering, getting to the first tee, seeing all the fans, and really appreciate the golf course.  It's almost like Disney World for a golfer.  You get this, like it's too perfect, you know.
For my caddie and I just to be able to soak it all in.  I played with Furyk for nine holes, and you know, felt very comfortable out there.  Obviously I'm here for the great play that I had at the U.S. Open, and you know, got to try to get my game back into that kind of form.  I haven't really had the form that I wanted to starting the season, and had some other things going on off the golf course that have made it difficult.
So right now, things are starting to move in the right direction and just happy to be here.

Q.  Can you just talk about the process coming in?  Obviously when you got in, just the times you visited, the experiences coming down Magnolia Lane for the first time and how you prepared for the course, getting ready for the tournament.
ERIK COMPTON:  I played here a couple times in college playing at the University of Georgia, and then I came here three weeks ago and flew in for the day.  Played 17 holes and then flew out.
You know, with the schedule that we have on the TOUR, I wanted to play as much as I could coming into this event.¬† So the golf course plays a lot different than what it does today, so I didn't want to wear myself down.¬† I felt like if I‑‑ last week I felt like my game was starting to get into form, and there's really only one missing piece right now in my game.¬† And I feel like if I get that figured out, I should have a great week.

Q.  You mentioned the Bulldogs; the contingent here this week, Bubba, Russell, just talk about the Bulldog fraternity that's taken over the last 18 months on the Tour?
ERIK COMPTON:  Yeah, you said it.  There's a lot of great Georgia golfers here.  We're proud of that, and the University of Georgia is here, close to Augusta.  You'll have a lot of fans and people screaming, "Go Dawgs."  Very happy to be part of that and hopefully all of us will have a great week.

Q.  Players always talk about the value of contending at a major; so what do you think is the most important lesson you took away from the U.S. Open?
ERIK COMPTON:  Yeah, there definitely is a different feeling when you play in a major championship.  I think it enhances my awareness in my game and makes me focus a little bit better.  I think it puts a premium on one shot at a time.
Pinehurst was a course that really suited my game.  I really enjoy the pressures that majors bring to the game.
I've been playing this game a long time, so even though I haven't had some of the success that some other people have had, I've been playing this game long enough to know how to handle pressure, and that's what we play for.  Venues like this just make the pressure that much greater.  Sometimes in a regular Tour event, I've been known to lose focus and fall asleep.  Here, I think I'm happy with my form.  I was a little concerned about the length of this golf course and how hard it is to walk, but when you have adrenaline and you have people rooting you on, it makes the week easy.
I mean, for a normal Tour player to come out on a Monday after playing two weeks in a row, they think that you're crazy to go play on a Monday.  But when you're playing here, it's just so spectacular, and I feel fresh.

Q.¬† Talking about your Georgia teammates, this is such an independent contractor kind of sport.¬† Are there any of those guys out there that have done this first‑time thing before here that you consult with or do you just have to show up and do your thing?
ERIK COMPTON:  We all root for each other.  You know, we all have our own schedule and our own times.
I think if you were to ask some of the Georgia guys, we wouldn't know what Georgia guys are playing this week because there are a bunch of us.  But, you know, we all have our own schedule, and we're happy to be part of a Georgia golf team and what Chris Haack has done for all of us, to be good college players and to prepare us for the PGA TOUR and to prepare us for majors.  There's other golfers that are coming up behind us.
Happy for the other guys that are playing and hopefully we will all have great weeks.

Q.  Is it safe to assume it was always a dream of yours to play the Masters?
ERIK COMPTON:  Absolutely.

Q.  For how long?
ERIK COMPTON:  I've been watching the Masters since I was eight, nine years old.

Q.  So eight or nine?
ERIK COMPTON:  Yeah, it's kind of hard to believe that my first Masters is at 35 and everything that I've gone through; and there's times where I never thought I would ever play in the Masters.
And so, I think it's interesting, I saw my dad on the third hole, I haven't seen them in a few weeks.  He was kind of emotional, but he was there to watch me play in the U.S. Open.
I think it's a real treat to get an invitation to play in this tournament just because of how hard it is to get in here.  And then you need to focus on having a great week and playing good golf.
When I qualified for the U.S. Open, took me a hundred holes to get into the U.S. Open, or whatever.  It took me 38 holes and winning a playoff to get into the U.S. Open; I didn't have much time to think about it.  I've definitely had a lot of time to prepare for this and it's definitely something I'm looking forward to.

Q.  You touched on this a second ago.  Curious, if it's been pretty much a lifelong dream, how much has your belief in getting here wavered over the course of those 27 years, depending on what's going on in your life?  Trying not to mention the word heart.
ERIK COMPTON:  Yeah, definitely been an a roller coaster of emotions.  I think there was times where it was tough to watch it on TV, as a player but not as a fan.  I think all of the players that are not in the field will watch the Masters this week.  And they love to watch who is coming down the stretch.
For me, it was a bit difficult to watch so many years and think, I'm never going to play in the Masters, just because of other issues that I've had.  But yet, I just love to watch the Masters.  So it's going to be weird not watching the Masters this year (laughter).

Q.  Could you talk about your involvement with young heart transplant patients?  I know you've had a history of that and I'm sure you're still involved with that.
ERIK COMPTON:  Yeah, I've been very blessed to be a spokesperson for Donate Life and to be a part of a bigger thing than the game of golf.  To be able to save lives and to make a difference in kids' lives and also in adult lives; being able to speak to donor families, and there's so many of them out there on the golf course right now as we speak.  It's a growing community, and one that I've been involved with for 23 years.
So to be able to be out here playing in the Masters, this is Donate Life month, an awareness for our cause, and you know, very cool and fitting that Augusta is all green and our foundation is green.
So you know, when I was growing up as a kid, I didn't have many people to look up that had transplants.  Now with the community growing and people being able to see that I'm able to walk up these hills and compete at a high level, I think it's just great for everyone.

Q.  Was there any interaction this morning with those kind of people?
ERIK COMPTON:¬† Yeah, I have interaction every day; whether it's through e‑mail, through a phone call or through somebody who sees me at the airport.¬† There's a bunch of us out there.¬† It's an everyday thing for me.

Q.  You kind of answered this before, but were there any years that you maybe didn't watch the Masters, and if so, why?  And when you played your practice round here a few weeks ago, who did you come up with?
ERIK COMPTON:  I'll answer the last question.  I came up here on my own.  Was fortunate to have a friend of mine to fly, and he flew the plane and then walked 18 with me and we flew back.
The second question, or the first question, I've always watched it.  So I can't really answer the second part.

Q.  You had mentioned the challenges of walking this course.  Is there anything in addition to your normal routine that you might do to get ready that you'll have to do in order to walk these hills?
ERIK COMPTON:  I think it will be easier in competition to walk.  Like I said, have adrenaline and every shot counts.  I walk some pretty big golf courses on TOUR; Congressional is a huge course; Pinehurst is a pretty big course.  There's some tough hills.
I think I just have to pace myself, and I don't have to‑‑ I mean, it's Monday.¬† I don't have to try to exert myself and try to figure out how to win the Masters on Monday, but I've been pretty good at that.¬† You know, this will be a harder tournament to try to pace yourself because people get excited to play here and I think maybe you overshoot the scene, and there's probably a lot of guys that do do that.¬† There's no reason to prepare any differently this week than you would for any other tournament.¬† I think it's still golf, and you need to do the things‑‑ everybody has their own stuff that they do.¬† I should do the same.

Q.  Just curious, go back to the final day at Pinehurst.  When did it all sink in, finishing second?  And what you got out of it and the Masters, where did that factor into it?  Was it almost immediate?
ERIK COMPTON:  Yeah, Pinehurst was a strange week, which I'm trying to do this week, as well, I think it was more golf course, back to the hotel, sleep, stayed away from a lot of the extra phone calls and extra stuff that goes along with a major championship.
I didn't know that my second‑place finish got me into the Masters until Mark Rolfing told me when I signed my scorecard and I came back out.¬† You know, I just‑‑ I was kind of oblivious the whole week.¬† That's probably the best state of mind to be in when you want to play great golf.

Q.  As far as your regimen, taking pills and whatnot, is it the same every day, or does it get disrupted when you're actually in a tournament?
ERIK COMPTON:¬† That's a good question.¬† I think it only gets disrupted when I travel different time zones.¬† Like playing the British Open can be tough because it throws me out of sync.¬† But as long as I‑‑ this week is the normal stuff, meds in the morning and middle of the afternoon and at night.¬† I've been doing that for 25 years, so it's nothing abnormal for me.

Q.  Are you still working with Jim McClean, and if so, how did you two prepare for this tournament as far as what you were working on?
ERIK COMPTON:  Right, actually I worked with Jim in my earlier career.  I worked with him a lot in college and a little bit there as a pro.  The last seven, eight years, I've been working with Charlie DeLucca, and he's here this week.  We're doing the same stuff that we did preparing for the U.S. Open.  He was there with me.  He's at the house where we are staying this week.
I spend a lot of time with him when I'm off.  We have The First Tee of Miami where I'm involved with the foundation and it's a place where we hang out and we're pretty much best friends.  It's not something that we're not trying to overly shoot the scene or change my swing.  My biggest focus right now is trying to get the ball in play, and if I can get the ball in play, I'll have a great week.

Q.  I think there was a half dozen questions before anybody got to your heart element.  Are you glad about that?
ERIK COMPTON:  I lost a little bet on that one (laughing).

Q.  And you mentioned some things off the course and some things about your game you weren't thrilled about.  Can you expound on that a little bit?
ERIK COMPTON:  I had some bad breaks off the golf course that I don't think it's necessary to go into, but just kind of the nature of what I deal with.  Those are for every golfer.  We all have things that happen behind the scenes; it's how you deal with it and move on.
I think learning how to do it each year; each year, there's always new things that are thrown at me, and sometimes they are hard to deal with.  But I've been resilient through this whole process of what I've gone through as a kid, and I don't think it's nothing I can't handle.
I look forward to this week because I feel healthy and I feel good, and things are starting to bloom right here at Augusta, so hopefully I'll have a great week.

Q.  How hard is it to enjoy the moment for taking you so long to get here and realize this lifelong dream to flipping the switch and competing in the tournament and doing what you do for a career, as opposed to just being happy to be here, so to speak?
ERIK COMPTON:¬† It is hard, because I'm extremely hard on myself.¬† And I go through battles with my emotions just based on how I play.¬† I'm an emotional person and sometimes‑‑ like I'm standing here talking with you guys today and I know I'm not here because of my play.¬† I haven't played that great this year.
I want to be one of the better players on the Tour, and it's difficult, because there's only a few that can do that.  But I do know that when things are going well for me, and I'm in the right place, I can play at a very high level.
So it's very difficult when your chips are down and you have other obstacles that you're dealing with and you're not playing your best; to keep your head up and kind of trick yourself into playing good golf.
Last week was a great week for me.¬† I think I played extremely well.¬† But I hit a few loose shots and that score doesn't really reflect on how I played.¬† So I think if‑‑ I'm looking forward to having a great week this week.¬† There's no reason why I can't have a week here like I did at the U.S. Open.

Q.  You said that you know that you're not here because of your golf game; but what is it like to, regardless of how you shoot this week, you're a part of something bigger than that.  How rewarding is it to be a role model and you're not viewed as just a golfer?
ERIK COMPTON:  It's hard, but it's also a great thing.  There's two sides to me.  I'm a competitor and a sports person, and I'm also the recipient of two transplants, and I know what that involves.  So when you put them together, it does make a little bit of spaghetti in my mind sometimes.
But you know, I'll take it.¬† I'm here in the press room at the Masters, and that's a great thing.¬† You know, I don't look at myself as somebody who is a role model or somebody who is‑‑ I just don't look at myself that way.¬† I look at myself as a golfer who has used golf as a means to maybe put some of the tough stuff that's happened to me in the past.¬† Golf's been very therapeutic for me over the years.¬† As I'm sitting here today, I view myself as somebody who is going to try to do the best he can to compete in the Masters.

Q.  Curious, when you met Barbara, how much did she know about golf, if any, and how would you describe her growing understanding of the game and what it means to be here?  What does she think about this place, in other words?
ERIK COMPTON:¬† Yeah, when I met Barbara, she didn't know anything about golf.¬† She loves sports.¬† She doesn't‑‑ I think she knows about the Masters now because of me and because she understands how hard golf is.¬† And she hears the venting that I have explained to her over the years when things are not good.
They are coming this week.  She was not at the U.S. Open.  I was not able to share that with them, but she was able to watch on TV.  I don't think she really cares whether I play well or not.  To her, it's just that, you know, our child is healthy and that I'm healthy.

Q.  Masters rookies have done pretty well around here lately.  Is there something about that that maybe you would be able to draw on no matter your age?
ERIK COMPTON:¬† Yeah, I mean, if you told us that‑‑ I don't know the difference because I don't really look at that kind of stuff.
I would tend to think that maybe because a lot of the rookies are really good right now, and guys are getting better and better each year.  You know, when guys get here, they are ready to play.  And if guys are here, it's because they've won.
So end of the day, the golf ball doesn't know which course you're playing.¬† It just responds to big, strong, athletic kids.¬† It's like my dad was saying, hey, you know, he has an interesting way of inspiring me.¬† He was joking saying, "Well, you're 5‑8, 155 pounds and you're old and you're probably not as talented as the young guys."¬† (Laughter).
So as I'm yelling at him on the phone, he says, "Go out and do what you've got to do."
It's the truth.  You look at the kids that are coming out, they all hit it 300 yards plus; ball speeds have gone up.  This is a big golf course and rewards people that hit the ball a long way and rewards guys that can have good short games and these kids all have it.
MODERATOR:  Thank you so much for spending this time with us, and good luck to you this week.

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