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November 5, 2008

Erik Compton


CHRIS REIMER: All right. We want to extend a special welcome to Erik Compton here at the Media Center. First off, talk about the sponsor exemption from the Children's Miracle Network Classic, and obviously I think your story embodies what the Children's Miracle Network Classic stands for. Can you talk about what it means not only to get a sponsor exemption into a PGA TOUR event, but to a tournament with a sponsor like that?
ERIK COMPTON: Yeah. Obviously it was a great call that I got. I was at Q School, and to get through Q School and to get an exemption like this was great. I have to thank a lot of people that pushed me to get out here and to get a spot here.
Obviously it's a very fitting event, the Children's Miracle Network, and considering everything that I've been through, I kind of know what kids are going through, because I've been there.
So you know, I hope to have a good week here, and it's a great opportunity for me to be here with my wife and my family and to show off my talent and show that I'm still alive. (Laughs).
CHRIS REIMER: Probably in more than one sense of the word, I would imagine. If you could maybe we'll go through a few different moments, maybe go back to about a year ago when you started having some complications and maybe talk about the next transplant itself and maybe through Q School and everything that led to that, if you could.
ERIK COMPTON: Yeah. I guess everybody knows, you know, that I had some issues in September of last year and that I needed to have the transplant in order to get through and further my career in golf, and in life.
You know, I mean going through Q School was obviously something that I did because it was at Key Biscayne and it was close to the house. Had it been anywhere else, I probably would have not gone to Q School, and waited for the following year.
But you know, God works in mysterious ways and for whatever reason qualifying was in Miami, and it was very fitting. So I was able to have another miracle round, just another crazy ending to a golf tournament and story of my life, so no, it was very exciting.
Obviously, even last week probably was more stressful than this week. This week's more of a family event, even though it's the Tour. I'm very confident about my game, very confident based upon the results I had last week and how I've been playing.

Q. Thinking of the round at Gold Palm and the final round. (Inaudible)
ERIK COMPTON: Yeah. You know, golf's a crazy game. I mean everybody knows playing the Nationwide and mini tours and also on the Tour that a lot of guys are beat up right now playing five, six weeks in a row. And you get into this route where you're missing putts or missing the same shot. I'd forgotten all of that. I took a year and a half off, really, or whatever, a year since September, and I did a lot of teaching over at International Links. Charlie DeLucca, who basically is a father, second father to me, we had a lot of fun teaching a lot of people from around in the Miami area, and I think through that my golf swing got a little bit better.
My body is in good shape right now. I mean I'm not completely 100 percent like I was, but you know, that's why this game is just completely -- you could be injured and be swinging at it better.
And right now I feel more confident about my game than I ever have. I don't know if that's based upon confidence or also, you know, taking the time off and maturing a little bit as well. So you know, when I have gone out and played, I have shot very low scores, and it seems like wherever I go, I'm shooting just low scores.
I don't really know what to base it upon, but making more putts -- I think having, like I said, teaching a lot of people how to learn how to putt taught me the basics of what to do, and maybe my eyes got corrected during surgery, too. (Laughs).

Q. Got a little Lasix while they got you under. Do you think having been through what you've been through has made you not worry as much about the stress of golf? Do you have a more relaxed attitude about the game and about the course that other players might not have or is there any connection there at all?
ERIK COMPTON: I mean I think the difference between the real great players and the guys that are even great players and just not the top of the world is how they deal with stress.
You know, I deal with stress medically probably just as good as the best. I think if I can do that with the golf, I think my game will continue to get better.
You know, I still stress, though. I still have troubled times sleeping during competitions and stuff, even after the transplant, because I want to perform, and it's exciting for me to get back out. If I was so relaxed, I think that would actually be a negative for my game.

Q. Could you tell us when was your first transplant? I don't have the background. And this most recent was that in May?
ERIK COMPTON: Yeah. The first transplant was February 26th, '92, and the second was in May of 2008.

Q. Do your doctors consider the fact that you're back on your feet doing what you're doing this quickly and have been doing, is that a miracle in and of itself or is that what they anticipated?
ERIK COMPTON: I don't think any doctors anticipated me playing a Tour event five months after.

Q. Erik, what do you know about the donor of your second heart? I mean was the person a golfer? Do you know much about them?
ERIK COMPTON: I mean we do know as a family. It was a very strong guy. Obviously, I always say the first heart I got the heart of a champion and the second heart I have the heart of a champion as well.
This wouldn't work if it wasn't for the great donation, the organ donation and people that make a decision to further somebody else's life. And you know, I'm a firm believer that he's looking down and watching over, you know, what I'm doing, and also the donor that I got before.
I think this life that we have here is just a temporary life, and you know, I think it's a tragedy, but I think he's in a better place.

Q. Can you tell me about the background of the donor, like age and that kind of thing?
ERIK COMPTON: The donor was a 26-year-old, and from what I know, he was an all-American volleyball player, and you know, that's pretty much --

Q. Motorcycle accident?

Q. Erik, I talked to -- I don't know if you've met Matt Cooper, but he was here the media day. He's the 16-year-old golfer who golfs blind, and I want to ask a similar question. Why golf? How did golf become your sport? He took it up after he had his problems. Were you just a junior golfer and going along when you had the first transplant?
ERIK COMPTON: I've played pretty much every sport you can think of. I've always been an athletic kid and wasn't the one to sit inside and do homework. I was always outside running, doing football, baseball, soccer, basketball.
I even played baseball, which a lot of people get wrong. They think I turned to golf just because I couldn't play the other sports. I pitched baseball, played shortstop actually four or five months after my first transplant.
That's when I fell in love with the game of golf. I did the pitch, putt and drive and I was kind of was in between whether I was going to go to the baseball game or a golf tournament.
Golf was an individual sport. At that time a lot of the kids were stronger than I was, and being able to shoot low scores with the health condition I was in made me able to prove that I was stronger than some of the other kids.

Q. So both transplants you were playing golf within four or five months?

Q. Wow.

Q. Erik, I was looking where you were playing on the mini tours, Canada and Nationwide. One of the things you won the event in Morocco, Hassan II trophy. What was that experience like, and how did it feel having your name along the names of Nick Price, Payne Stewart, etc.?
ERIK COMPTON: You know, that's actually a great time in my life. It was a very, very exciting win for me. I remember the tournament was almost rained out, and to finish I was saying, well, if I finish second, I'll still make $100,000, and I came out and shot, I think, 66 or 63 or something on the final round and beat some really good players and made my first big check.
And also, that was a really meaningful win for me knowing that the first heart transplant was performed in Africa. And you know, it was kind of an event that I was out there by myself with one of my friends, and meanwhile everything was going on in the U. S. Nobody really knew that I was playing over there, and I think I was actually a fill-in for D.J. Trahan.
You know, it was a very exciting win, and obviously some big names, I think Pádraig Harrington won last year. That was a great win.

Q. Who was in the field, do you remember?
ERIK COMPTON: I beat Gregory Harvett, Jose, I think Phillip LeMay and Frances Jacklin.

Q. What was the prize on that, in addition to the sword?
ERIK COMPTON: The sword and also, it was the 200,000 for the win.

Q. When you had your first heart transplant as a 12-year-old, was there anything said at that time that we may have to do this again or is that something you knew might happen or is it just a surprise that that one failed and you had to go through the whole thing again?
ERIK COMPTON: Right. Well, I mean you know, it seems that there are a lot of people after a certain amount of time having to get retransplanted.
Even after the first transplant, I always felt that I was, you know, different and that I would live to be 100 with that heart. So unfortunately, that wasn't the case, and you know, these hearts and the medication are pretty demanding on the body.
And you know, look, when I had the transplant, I was 12 years old, and I was just happy to get back out and running with the guys. So I don't really read statistics, because you know, I don't believe in statistics.

Q. What, if any, limitations do you have just in your life, traveling around, going to golf tournaments? What kind of regimen do you have to go through that a person that hasn't had a transplant wouldn't have to go through?
ERIK COMPTON: I live a pretty normal life. I take medication in the morning. I take medication at night.
I have some routine biopsies that I have to do, which will slowly disappear, but I travel. And I was working out before, and you know, I hope to get back into that.
Obviously, now I'm using a golf cart, so that's the only difference, which hopefully will change in the next few months as I get stronger. But obviously, having two transplants, it's not just the heart that has taken its toll. The human body takes time to heal, and you know, that's what I'm working really hard to do.

Q. Erik, was there a round or, you know, a moment Jim Maclean maybe said to you that made you feel, why not, let's tee it up, see how it goes at Q School? What made you send in the entry form?
ERIK COMPTON: I don't know. I mean I'm just dumb enough to think that I could win the tournament. (Laughs). You know, I thought going into Q School, I should win that tournament, you know.
I feel like I have a really good golf swing. I feel like I can putt the ball just as good as anybody. If my stamina is good and I can control my emotions, I just don't see why not.
I mean, you know, it's not like we're out here boxing in an arena. We're trying to hit a golf ball in a hole. So you know, I even was able to shoot 66 three months after the heart attack, and I could barely even get out of a golf cart to get onto a tee box.
So you know, I mean you still have -- it's like -- it's a skill, you know, and I think if you have your hands and your eyes working, you can play the game. And you know, I just thought that Q School was right there at home and I could play.

Q. Next stage is when? Next week, have you thought about, well, after you got the exemption here, maybe a week off and a rest before that next grind starts or was it just as soon as you got the exemption, it was a done deal, gonna go?
ERIK COMPTON: Yeah, I mean -- well, I was supposed to go to Callaway Gardens, but since I finished 23rd at Q School, I'm going to Brookstone, which is in Tampa.
And I got the call to come here, and obviously this is two weeks in a row, so this is going to be very, very stressful on my body, but if I play really well here, I won't have to go to Q School. (Laughs).

Q. Potentially two really stupid questions. How often do you think about -- I mean what does it feel like and how often do you think about the fact that you have somebody else's heart inside of you? Are there days when you don't think about it?
ERIK COMPTON: I think about it all the time. I mean you're -- you know, every heartbeat that you take, you know, you tend to think about it, you know. It's something that's there for me. It's who I am, and it's something that I don't want to forget because it reminds me that I'm alive.

Q. And second question, I mean do you want to be known at some point just as a golfer or -- I mean you've been given this platform, I guess, for awareness, but are you worried that you're always going to be the guy who's had three hearts?
ERIK COMPTON: Well, I mean if I won this week, what would the headline be?

Q. "Guy with three hearts wins."
ERIK COMPTON: Right. (Laughs). So I guess you guys dictate that. I don't think I'll ever be -- you know, I'll have notoriety if I play good golf, but having two heart transplants is probably a much bigger story than if I ever won a major.

Q. (Question inaudible).
ERIK COMPTON: Yeah, he used to ask me how my heart was, and I used to ask him how his leg was. He's a good guy.

Q. Here's a simple nuts-and-bolts question. If you were to describe your game, are you a go-for-the-flag-charger type of guy, a careful, manager type player? When you're playing the way you want to play, what sort of player are you?
ERIK COMPTON: Yeah. Depends on the day. I mean you go to Q School, I shoot 77 and the next day I shoot 68. So I'm a little bit all over the place, but I definitely like to play very aggressive. That's just kind of how my -- I think it's enjoyable to play fun and aggressive. It's exciting.

Q. You mentioned the stigma -- that's not the right term, but that people look at you and obviously they see a golfer and a guy who's had medical issues. You can understand the newsworthiness of that; right? You can see why people are looking at you saying five months ago his heart was (portions inaudible). Do you understand?
ERIK COMPTON: Yeah. I have absolutely no problem with it. I think it's -- you know, there's two kinds of people in life, one that actually will look at me and be like, wow, you know, this guy's actually had his heart out. And there's people that look at you and it goes in one ear and right out the other. You know, so I think it depends on the person and how it hits them.
I think personal experiences in their life will change the way they look at me and also the same way when I look at other people as well.
CHRIS REIMER: Anything else, guys? Well, Erik, best of luck this week. I think everyone in here is not only rooting for you, but a fan of yours. Again, best of luck and we'll see you on Sunday; right?
ERIK COMPTON: Yep, I hope so.

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