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February 29, 2000

Erik Compton


LEE PATTERSON: We certainly do appreciate you joining us. I know this is a special week for you. We are going to open it up for questions. But first off, maybe just a couple of comments about receiving sponsor's exemption to the Doral-Ryder Open and I know you played a little bit this morning. You said it felt pretty good. So if you just can share a couple of thoughts about that then we will open it up for questions.

ERIK COMPTON: I guess it is dream come true to play a PGA TOUR event and especially the first one to be at home here, it really means a lot to me. I am playing in front of my family and friends. I am just going to have a good time this week, enjoy it, look at all the guys that I look at when I was young. And these guys are role models to me; hopefully we can learn stuff from each other.

LEE PATTERSON: Very good. Any questions?

Q. When did you know you were going to play?

ERIK COMPTON: I found out I was going to play in the tournament probably three weeks ago to a month ago and I was hysterical on the phone I was at school and my parents had called and Jim McLean, he let me know that I was in the tournament and I didn't really know how to react; I was sort of in shock because I never thought I would be playing in such a big event like this so early. I just pray the Lord that I am here.

Q. How many times do you come here watch this tournament; for how long, how many years?

ERIK COMPTON: I have been playing golf now -- picked up a club after when I was about twelve years old, played a little when I was younger. I have been here I would say eleven years, I have been out here watching everybody.

Q. Favorite players or favorite memories from Doral?

ERIK COMPTON: I guess I always enjoyed watching Greg Norman play here. Favorite memories? Gosh, you know, just being out here with my friends and running around getting autographs, you know, trying to find balls in the lake and just watching all the guys hit the ball. That is my memories here, running around with my friends and watching the big guys play.

Everybody out here that I have seen this week they all hit the ball the same; they are all great guys. I mean, I guess one role model would be I have always liked Paul Azinger and with his story and my story kind of being similar, I tend to think that he is a good role model for me because he has overcome a lot of obstacles and he just won a tournament. I compare my life a little like sort of to his. I'd say he is a good roll model for me.

Q. I remember when you were at Elk Hill a couple years ago, there was a kid that was there that kind of a similar situation, you were with him and how often has that happened where somebody comes up to you like that and says either I or my family or somebody?

ERIK COMPTON: It happens once in a while when I play in turn it is always nice to get a feel for somebody saying they have been through something that I have, I can remember last year playing a tournament on the last hole I think I was 3- or 4-under par and I knew it over the green it landed in somebody's wheelchair and it happened to be somebody who had been watching me at Oak Hill and I sat there and talked to him. Just puts everything in perspective.

I am just like any normal 20-year-old; I go out there and say the wrong things and jump around and can be a punk but when I look at the perspective, everything at the end of the day, I really realize how long, how far I have come with my golf game and my life. And as a matter of fact, the kid that you met that was there that had the heart problems, he is coming -- he is flying in on Thursday to come watch. He has been a good friend of the family and he has been a roll model for me as well. It is swung both ways. It will be fun for him to watch me this week.

Q. Name?


Q. Last name?

ERIK COMPTON: My mind is going blank right now. Gilbert.

Q. Can you just tell us the rest of that story the background of that story; Daniel's story?

ERIK COMPTON: Well, I was at in Rochester for the U.S. Amateur and everyone was making a big deal that I was playing the tournament. I managed to make it through to Match Play and this boy named Daniel came up was talking with my parents and he was sharing his story and he was watching me and apparently he had seen me in some articles right after his surgery and he was ready to give up and he lost hope. He had lost a lot of weight and he was very depressed about his body and just going through a lot of things that I went through and he saw that I was on the golf course and making something happen and starting a new life and he'd always wanted to meet me. It just happened the U.S. Amateur was in his neighborhood and so he invited us over for dinner, my whole family went over there. My caddy, Hank, was there over there with us. Unfortunately my brothers and cousins couldn't be a part of it. They are back there right now, so it was something very special. I mean, I have met a lot of nice people through golf and for him to be here it is going to be very nice.

Q. I am quite -- I know you had a heart transplant, but I am very ignorant about the story behind that. Would you just run quickly through it?


Q. How old you were that sort of thing?

ERIK COMPTON: I was playing baseball and soccer just about every sport any normal kid was playing and was very athletic played for nine yearsand some freak thing happened, went for a physical and they found out that I had a virus that was attacking my heart, my heart was enlarged and it wasn't beating normally. I was continuously going to get worse they said. And I had a heart transplant and now I am playing golf and I try to put the story behind me right now because I am trying to focus on playing in a big tournament here. The story is more special for me and my family I guess because and the person who is with me here this week you know, that -- I am taking on a very nice journey I would say. It is very hard to talk about it. I don't know how to explain but it is something that I am going to have with me for the rest of my life and I am just glad that I am here focusing on golf this week and being here with my family. I don't know how -- I don't know where to start with the story. You can write 12 movies about it, but.

Q. Are all the problems over with? Do you take medication?

ERIK COMPTON: I take a few pills in the morning, a few at night. Try to drink a lot of water work out, have fun. I do everything that anybody else would do except I take medicine in the morning and medicine at night and just try to manage my body and try to stay fit. I think you are seeing a lot of golfers doing that now. Fortunately with the medicine I am taking it does do harm to my body. I have to overcompensate with lots of working out and trying to stay fit because the medicine does do some damage to my body, but I am compensated keeping my body healthy with not doing other things that maybe normal 20-year-olds would do.

Q. How does it damage your body?

ERIK COMPTON: It is anti-rejection medicine which lowers my immune system, has a lot of side effects. They try to lower it as much as they can to keep it at a good level, but it just has some side effects just like any other medicine. Tylenol, anything, has side effects. You take it for eight years like I have, it is going to have some side effect but I haven't -- I don't know -- do you see any side effects yet?

So I mean, I feel great. I feel like I am in the best shape of my life right now and I don't have any restraints. I am hitting the golf ball as far as I want. I get out, I exercise and run and do everything just like anybody else on my golf team does.

Q. Did you know the donor? Do you know the background or anything about the donor at all?

ERIK COMPTON: Yeah, I know some background about the donor. Like again it is something that, my family and I, we share and they will be with me throughout this week and there will come a time and place where I will eventually meet the donor family, I think, but I think that would be hard on both me and the donor family and my family and, you know, like I said, it is something that I just try to keep to myself.

Q. How about your game, how is your game?

ERIK COMPTON: That is the most exciting thing. My game has really come around in the last year, this starting season I registered last year at school and I was playing really good, came off a hot year, winning AJJ Player-of-the-Year and you know, this season I played four events for college; I won the last one at the Golf World Rolex, and shot 13-under par - I don't care what course you are playing on, it is a pretty good score in three rounds.

I am just trying to do the same thing out here. The course is tough. Depending on the wind out here at Doral, I played it so many times, it is playing a lot different than it is when I normally play it. The greens are right up my alley; nice speed, I like playing on bent grass greens and I am hitting the ball really solid. I played the front 9 today. I don't think I missed a green in regulation. I am putting really well, so I look for good things to happen this week.

Q. What do you mean the course is different than you ever played it; faster?

ERIK COMPTON: The greens -- fairways, the course is in the best shape I have ever seen it.

Q. Is it tournament ready?

ERIK COMPTON: Yes. The fairways are running out. Your ball is going -- I am hitting some drives out there 300 yards that I didn't know I could hit. The greens are holding the ball and to be able to just stroke the ball and roll it, the greens are so pure right now, that is the kind I like. And I know every break out here. I know which way the grain is going and that is to the point where sometimes I don't even know I don't even have to look at yardage, I just know where I am at the golf course and know which club to hit. I am going to go out there, have a good time like that.

Q. Hard not to be in awe, is it, because of the fact that you watched this tournament for so long and then here you are with them?

ERIK COMPTON: No, I am in awe, I am in awe about these guys. I am sitting here on the, I guess, the 3rd hole and Norman's helicopter is flying over and I am sitting in the locker room and these guys are running around in their boxers or whatnot and it is different. It is a lot different. It is something that I have never thought I would see.

Q. Still put their boxers....

ERIK COMPTON: They are all the same. They are all the same. It is really exciting. It is something that I want to -- I want to sleep out on the golf course. I just want to stay out here as long as I can and let everybody know that Eric is playing in Doral. This is special. And I know that I am here not only because of my heart transplant; I am here because I am a good golfer and you know, I just hope that good things happen this week. This is going to be the experience of a lifetime, I will never forget it.

Q. In view of what you have been through, how important is golf been to you because of what you have been through to come through and make a success of such a very difficult sport?

ERIK COMPTON: Well, I never really put pressure on myself in the beginning to be this good a golfer. I was talking with my neighbor today and he and my dad taught one of my friends, our neighbor, to just go out and play golf and let it be a sport that we know when we are older, maybe break 80 or something every once in a while. I don't think my family had any idea that I would be excelling in golf this much. Golf is a serious game to me. I respect it and I do get mad when I hit bad shots and everything but like I said, the perspective of my life on this game doesn't make huge amount of difference if I miss a small putt, you know, to lose a tournament or to miss a cut. Yeah, I will be mad if I miss 3-footer to win the tournament on Sunday, but I don't think -- I think anybody in the right mindset would be.

Q. Expectations this week?

ERIK COMPTON: I think the golf course really sets up good for me. Like I said, I am hitting it really good and it remind me a little bit of the course the way it was set up at the Western Amateur which I played over the summertime and I finished fifth in qualifying. The way I am hitting the ball and putting the ball, I feel really confident. I think that I have a good chance of making the cut. And these guys are so good out here it is scary. These guys are going to shoot 20-under out here if the wind is like it is, and I think the best I have ever shot in four rounds of competition is maybe 16-under at a tournament, you know, who knows what happens. It could swing both ways I could go out there and be nervous and shank it all around the golf course or I could be so nervous and be fired up and go out there and make a lot of birdies and play my game.

Q. Who are you playing with?

ERIK COMPTON: I am not sure who I am playing with.

Q. Anybody caddying for you?

ERIK COMPTON: I have right now a friend of mine, Brian, who is first assistant of Jim McLean is caddying for me right now. I don't know if I am going to stick with him or have Jim caddie for me. Jim was supposed to caddy for me on Thursday and Friday. That is the plan for him to caddie for me right now. But we will see what happens. I feel real comfortable with the guy who is carrying my clubs right now. We are on a roll right now. We have played the Pro-Am, what was it -- yesterday - I am losing track - and I played really good. I think I had four birdies; couple of bad holes; ended up with 72 and I am just -- I am confident this week. I am just going to go in there and be confident.

Q. Have you worked with Jim for a long time?

ERIK COMPTON: I have worked with Jim for -- I have had several coaches. When I began, I started with Charlie Deluca who is a coach over here that I had when I was younger. He helped me get started with the game. Then I worked up. I came over here and worked with a lady named Marie and she got my game down to about a scratch after when I came in here with a four. Jim and I have worked on my grip and worked on some swing things, but I am not very technical with my game. I like to just go out there and feel it. He works a lot with mental stuff and he is a great guy. I really like him.

Q. What is your best round here?

ERIK COMPTON: I don't think I have ever played a full round under tournament -- I know I played the Doral Junior here. Last day I think I shot 2-under 70, but I don't honestly recall ever playing 18 holes of any pressure tournament out here. If I come out here with my friends, you know, I am hitting around, making birdies, and stuff, making bogeys, just joking around. That is the kind of guy I am. If you ask my friends, I like to go out and joke around and play golf; not take it too seriously unless I am in a tournament. I consider myself a tournament golfer. It is a lot easier to score when I am in a tournament, I feel.

Q. Run into anybody else in golf anywhere that has had a heart transplant in any of your travels at all?

ERIK COMPTON: I went to the U.S. Transplant Games in Utah. There was a bunch of people playing golf that had a heart transplant, liver transplant, you name it.

Q. When was that?

ERIK COMPTON: 1992 and I was six months post transplant and I think I shot 92 or something and I was thrilled to death. Like I said, I am not the only person that is doing well that has had some kind of transplant. Yeah, I am getting notoriety here because I am playing in a PGA TOUR event and I have excelled in golf, but there are many people in this world that have had transplants that are doing other things that are remarkable; whether it is in business; whether they are studying in school or whatnot. I praise anybody that has had to go through something that I have had to go through and is excelling and leading a normal life. I just -- I hope that my story can be inspiring for other people that are going through the same thing that I am going through and never to give up and to know that they can do just as well as I am in anything.

Q. When you were recovering was that important for you to know that there were other people excelling after this?

ERIK COMPTON: That is exactly why I went to the Transplant Games because I was six months post transplant; I was a little depressed. I was high on all the sorts of medicine that I was taking. I have had a lot of friends that have -- that I have met that have had transplants and to see what they looked like four, five years down the road really meant a lot to me. To look forward to knowing that I am going to be better and get stronger and that was very inspiring for me to see somebody that has gone through something and excelled and -- there were swimmers; people running marathons, bikers, you name it, there is people that are very athletic that have heart transplants, they bounce back. I think that a lot of it -- anything with sports or anything is your mind. I have convinced myself that I am normal and that I can do anything. I have often said I am competitive in any sport I play. My brother, anybody knows that I go out there, I am going to beat your brains in whether it is baseball, basketball, football, soccer, anything. It just happens that I love the game of golf. It is an individual sport and I take it out with me on the course and I celebrate with it myself. After a round I feel pumped up that I did something. That is why I love this game; that is why I chose to play golf, you know, rather than -- I played baseball a little after my surgery. It was fun, but it wasn't the same. I wasn't as strong and as big as some of the other kids that were my age because I was a late bloomer so I took up golf and here I am.

Q. You want to play professionally?

ERIK COMPTON: Yeah, I am looking to play professional golf. I don't know when that time will be. It could be tomorrow. It could be four, five years down the road. I am having -- I am enjoying school right now getting used to my second year and meeting a lot of nice people. When my golf game is ready then I think -- that is when I want to go. But you just never know when anything is going to happen. My life is living proof that you never know when anything is going to happen. I just take it one day at a time.

Q. (inaudible)

ERIK COMPTON: They are in Puerto Rico right now. He is flying down to Miami on -- I might have a joke with him about that. I don't think that I would do that, no.

Q. That is what Couples did.

ERIK COMPTON: He did that. I look forward to just playing this tournament as an amateur and it's obvious you look at the people that are excelling in golf right now, they are all my age - starting to accelerate. I played golf with Sergio Garcia who is a friend of mine and we played the U.S. Amateur together. We were putting, joking around and teasing one another and Aaron Baddeley, my brother, and I were eating dinner with him and his dad at the Publinx. He didn't happen to make the cut there and I did, I was playing well. It swings both ways. There is a lot of strong amateur players that are out there and it is very hard to get to the next level and we all wish that we can be out here and I am just going to try to make something happen. But I like amateur golf. It is fun. We have our own guys. We have our own Tour. We play in the summertime. We travel around and the courses are set up just like this, sometimes they are set up even harder. So it is fun to see that my friends are accelerating in professional golf right now that are my age and if they can do it, maybe I can do it. So that is why we will see this week.

Q. Is it your ambition to play on the Walker Cup?

ERIK COMPTON: Yeah, we have the Walker Cup and that would be a great thing to do. That is something that my dad and I talked about. You don't want to go too early. You want to play amateur golf, enjoy that, and the Walker Cup team is a very hard team to get onto. It takes -- they take a team every two years and you have a good year; you have a bad year and you get off, you are not on the Walker Cup team. There is a committee that selects you. I don't know how that works with the point system and whatnot, but hopefully I can be on the Walker Cup team in a few years; maybe bring the Cup back to the United States.

Q. How far do you hit the ball?

ERIK COMPTON: I don't know. Today I played with Keith Clearwater. He and I were neck and neck off the tee and I guess he is in the top 50 in driving distance he told me, I would say that I probably hit it like an average Tour player out here, maybe 280, 285.

Q. Was it a little overwhelming being the first person having a heart transplant and was first to go to U.S. Amateur; now first to go play on the PGA TOUR. You talk about you are normal kid; is that hard sometimes to -- (inaudible) ....

ERIK COMPTON: One of my friends said, his famous line is "Why not." It's got to be somebody. Somebody's got to go through it. Somebody's got to be the first in everything. There will be a first liver transplant playing in the PGA TOUR soon. There will be a first kidney or whatnot. It just happens that I am the first heart transplant. I haven't really gave it much thought that I was the first college athlete to get a scholarship. I say it once in a while. I don't walk around - it is like I say -- I have lived eight years with a new heart and I don't know how much time I really gave it much thought that I am really walking around with someone else's heart; deep down inside when I go to bed every night, I am not thinking so much about the golf that I am with somebody else's heart, I think about somebody is not here and I am here right now and, you know, like I said that is something special that I keep with me and I think that is what keeps me driving to keep on doing better.

Q. You are in with Tour pros this week and obviously got to be a lot of fun. I am curious what kind of amateur rules, so to speak, govern you being here in terms of -- I mean, you have got a couple of dozen balls waiting in your locker like they do?


Q. You are allowed at amateur events?

ERIK COMPTON: We are allowed to get certain things in college. That is the difference between amateurs and professionals. . We don't get the stuff for free.

Q. Go through the bag of balls and drivers out there?

ERIK COMPTON: No. I got my equipment. I don't need to be fooling around. I saw Scott Hoch in the locker room today. I turned around he had 50 drivers in his hand. I didn't see it was Scott Hoch, his shoulder was turned. I said you are going to hit, all those clubs. He is like, you better believe it. He is out there pounding every single one of them away. I don't fool around with clubs. I have my clubs that I have used now for a year.

Q. No courtesy car, I take it?

ERIK COMPTON: No, none of that. I got my own car. My parents drive me here and there is no reason for me to be fooling around with stuff here. I am an amateur; that is the difference.

Q. You are around this nice life that they have, courtesy cars, the oodles of balls....

ERIK COMPTON: Best thing was going in the locker room and shaving with a Mach III razor. That was pretty nice. These guys, they got everything and I am up there eating some of the cake and in awe, they got -- somebody is cooking stir fried for the guys.

It is unbelievable the stuff that they have here. There is a person in every corner waiting to help you, waiting to do something for you and there is no hassle and this is top deal right here; doesn't get any better than this.

End of FastScripts….

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