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June 3, 2009
MARK STEVENS: I'd like to welcome Erik Compton to the media center. Erik, if you could kind of talk about your game right now. I think your last event was maybe at Puerto Rico. Just kind of talk about how your game is coming into this week and talk about the sponsor's exemption and your thoughts on Jack giving you that.
ERIK COMPTON: I guess the last time I played was Bay Hill at Arnold's tournament. It's neat to play Arnold's tournament and then Jack, obviously two greats of the game.
We just came back from the hospital, which I got a chance to see Arnold's hospital when I was in Bay Hill. And I played with -- you know, obviously it's neat because you have two guys that do so much off the golf course and their ability to be able to help out children and put together awesome hospitals, and just their name and the people that follow that along to be able to give money and stuff. That's probably bigger accomplishments than they have playing golf.
So I think, if you ask both of them, they're really proud of that. Obviously, what I've been through, I can relate to a lot of the kids that are in the hospital and things like that. So it was a good sponsor invite.
I got to play with Jack on Sunday with Jackie, his son. We had a good time. I did that. I guess I played with him in 2002, so it was neat to play with him again.
Talked a little bit about golf and tennis and some of the stuff he's interested in doing now. You know, he just -- he's always shocked about how much I've been through, having two transplants. You know, we had a good match. I got to hit some of his iron shots and talked about putting and chipping and just a regular -- he's just a regular guy.
Q. You know, a lot of people go to hospitals and offer charity work and stuff, but having gone through what you've gone through, is it especially -- do the kids know? Maybe not necessarily children's hospitals, but when you go, do they know your story and know that, when you say keep your head up, you know, things are going to work out, in many cases, in your case, it really does? Does it have extra weight?
ERIK COMPTON: I don't think kids really know who I am. I think, you know, this situation that we met this week, we met kids that had had accidents and had severe brain injuries. So they were just happy if anybody came out and gave them a hat or a ball.
And I think, you know, any Tour player gets the opportunity to do that and put themselves in the shoes of kids and adults that have disabilities, it's a good experience for them. It's kind of a wake-up call.
The unfortunate thing of me having to go through what I have, it's all the suffering and pain, but obviously it's given me and my family a great deal of -- I don't know the word. But, you know, maturity or an understanding of life.
Sometimes it takes a loved one or even yourself to go through something to be able to realize how lucky you are. All the guys out here on tour are very good at that, I think. You know, every week they're playing for millions and millions of dollars. You're treated like royalty.
When you can be put in your place and realize how unlucky some people are. I don't care if you're the best player in the world or the second best player in the world, you do have to be lucky in life to be there.
Not everybody is born with those opportunities. That's a blessing.
Q. Considering that perspective then, how often, when you're out playing a tournament and maybe this weekend, do you pinch yourself and, I guess, give thanks or step back and realize just how lucky you are, as you said?
ERIK COMPTON: I think, when I compete, I'm just as stubborn as anybody else. But I think during the weeks, I'm obviously always reminded. My accomplishments, like I've always said, my medical accomplishments are much higher than my accomplishments in the game of golf.
You know, I haven't had the accomplishments that a lot of the guys here have had on tour, but yet I'm probably just as recognized as guys that have had won Majors and things like that because of my accomplishments in the medical room.
You know, I'm always reminded of it. Basically, every heartbeat that I have. I mean, I know it's a blessing. It's not an everyday experience for me, but it's an experience that I've lived most of my life with. So it seems normal to me.
But, you know, when I get on the golf course, I'm able to balance the two of them and somehow figure out how to play some good golf every now and then.
Q. I understand, among the reasons you wanted to get in here to play here was because the donor's from this area. Could you talk about that a little bit. I mean, how much are you aware of that person? Did they give you a lot of information? Did they tell you? Is that standard?
ERIK COMPTON: I do have a lot of information actually. I think this week we've had had some contact, and they're well aware of who I am, and I'm aware of who they are. It's a family. I haven't met them. I haven't spoken with them. We've done some e-mails and stuff.
I think that, from my take on it, the family is a very, very strong family. They're very spiritual family. And they're very understanding of what I'm trying to do and trying to live life and what their son would have wanted.
I think -- it's been a year, and the opportunity will come that where we'll meet, but I think it would be better off in a situation where it was done in a proper manner privately because there's just so many emotions that are involved. For me to play this week, you know, I wrote them a letter and said that I'd be honoring him and making this a memorable week because, you know, it is ironic that I do have a heart from somebody who's in this town and this tournament is the Memorial and it happened to be around the same time as I had the transplant.
You know, but I -- this week I want to perform as best as I can and keep that the focus. I want to maybe spend some time with them, you know, this week after the tournament is over with.
Q. Do you know, would his accident have occurred in Florida?
ERIK COMPTON: Yeah. His accident was in Florida.
Q. How are you feeling right now? Just when you go out and play around? Do you get tired, or you're stronger? Just I don't know how you feel now in the grind of a tournament.
ERIK COMPTON: I feel good. I really do feel pretty normal, I think. Certain holes out here obviously are uphill. I think everybody has to catch their breath.
But I feel pretty good. I feel like I did a few years ago when I was playing and feeling pretty good. So the heart that I have obviously is a very, very strong heart. It was a very good match to my body.
I mean, I think the only setbacks that I do have are -- it's not the one day endurance, but it's maybe the three or four days in a row.
Q. You've made the most of this year since you got a new heart. I mean, you got married, have a child, back playing on the Tour. What did you say, I'm going to do everything right off?
ERIK COMPTON: I think that's -- yeah, obviously, it's been awesome. I think that's part of the gift that God has given me is to be able to take a dramatic, bad experience and continue my life in a positive, great direction.
Barbara and I, my wife, we met in, I think -- you know, I believe God had a huge hand in putting us together because it was a perfect match. And being able to be around somebody that basically, when you have nothing and to stay with you through something like that, there's probably not a 1% person in the world that would do that. And then to be where we are now with a baby, playing the Tour, healthy, both of us, have a beautiful child, and to have sponsors and people that are willing to invite me to tournaments.
And not only that, to make a difference in other people's lives. So I think, like I said before, I don't think there's coincidences. I think everything happens -- if you expect them to happen and you hope for them to happen, I think God has a big role in that.
I could have easily not ever met Barbara and started all this if I just decided to quit when the chips went down, when I was in the hospital with a heart attack in September. I think everybody has a choice, and you kind of dictate your own outcome if you're able to have a vision.
You know, like I envisioned myself playing in this tournament a year ago, when I staples like you have on your ring of your notebook there, all over my body. And I was 130 pounds, and the only enjoyment I could get was putting my feet into a jacuzzi that was next to my parents' room when I stayed there for two or three weeks to recover.
Couldn't sleep, but I was able to watch the Memorial, and I knew I'd be playing here. Not only to be playing here but also to play, you know, and enjoy a practice round like I did with Mr. Nicklaus and to play with Ernie Els. I think it would be interesting to ask him what he thought of my game.
I think it's just as good. I think my game's just as good as some of the best players as far as being able to hit the ball, but I obviously have limitations and adversity that they don't have.
That's what is exciting to me is that there's a new beginning for me now at 30 whereas maybe some careers are ending at 30 for other sports people. If I'm healthy and I continue the progress that I am now, I don't see why I can't permanently get a card out here and compete every once in a while.
I think I have the ability.
Q. Along those lines, have you thought ahead then to going through Q-school again this fall and all of that stuff? Do you have any kind of a schedule through the summer?
ERIK COMPTON: I think after this tournament I'm going to try to get into some more tournaments. I'd like to play seven. I'd like to get a few more exemptions and then really start getting ready for Q school. If I get some opportunities to play in Europe.
I'd like to qualify for some of the events that I'd maybe not get into. From a golf standpoint, I know tournaments that I have competed and won in the past, and I feel like my game's better now than it was before. So I'm excited to know that I could hit the ball better than I did when I used to be okay.
So I'll start putting together more of a strategic schedule as far as playing tournament ins a row. I think this year was, like you said, having a big year with the baby and having the transplant and everything, I didn't want to overdo it.
Q. Will you try to get into the Open on Monday?
ERIK COMPTON: That's part of the plan. I didn't even try -- I knew that it would be too much to play 36 and then after this tournament. So it wasn't even a goal of mine to play in the Open this year or to even try.
I have some commitments that I've committed to early in the year, and that will be during the U.S. Open. So there's a lot of other tournaments to get geared up for.
Q. You still do stuff down at Melreese yet?
ERIK COMPTON: Yeah. That's basically like my stomping ground, where I went and taught when I didn't have much. So I have a lot of friends that are out there. It's a beautiful public course. Charlie DeLuca, who's like a grandfather to me, he runs the city of Miami and the Dayton Amateur Golf Association.
So the days I am at home, I spend a lot of time over there practicing and playing. Obviously, I don't get the same conditions that I would playing out here in a tour event. So I think that will be the only setback as far as every tournament I play in is like a Major.
I take time off, and I'm not playing week in and week out. Sometimes that's where your game really gets sharp, you know. Especially the short game. I can't emulate the Tour at home. The conditions at home are not nearly as fast or firm as they would be out here.
Q. Medically speaking, are you kind of 100% with this heart, or do you gain strength with it? Do you know what I mean? Or is it like -- is there a two-year plan?
ERIK COMPTON: I think right now I'm pretty much healed. I think, like six more months and I'll be stronger than I am now. I think the strength that I do myself and the hard work is what will make me stronger, but, I mean, as far as physically, I think I'm pretty much healed from the procedures that I went through.
Q. What was your life like between the time when you had the heart attack until may 20th when you got your new heart? Six months or whatever that was in there. You couldn't do much or what?
ERIK COMPTON: Yeah. I mean, it sucked. The only good thing that I had was that I met -- obviously, I met Barbara in between that time of my life. You know, we were able to go for dinners and watch movies and things. And then I kind of slowly started to decline, which was part of the process that they had said would happen.
So it was just kind of sleepless nights and just trying to be positive and wait for a new heart.
Q. Did you panic in that time? I mean, I'd start to like as one month turns into two and three, I'd sort of go, oh, shoot.
ERIK COMPTON: I don't know. I think probably the time that I had the heart attack until the time I had the transplant was probably the strongest I've ever been mentally. Because I think I was really prepared for the fact that maybe I was going to die.
I probably was stronger mentally then than I am now. Now your mind can heal like your body heals, and I think at that time I was -- you know, I was in the worst shape of my life, and I didn't really complain. I was basically content with what I had achieved.
I think maybe subconsciously I had a vision of maybe getting back, and that's why it made it easy. But either way, I was pretty -- whichever way it went, I think I was pretty strong mentally. I was prepared for it. I don't know, I was kind of in the zone, I guess. I don't know how to put it.
Obviously, God had a big role in making me feel that way.
MARK STEVENS: Thank you very much, Erik. Best of luck this week.
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