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July 29, 2010

Erik Compton


JOHN BUSH: We'd like to welcome Erik Compton into the interview room at the Greenbrier Classic after a spectacular 7-under par 63. Erik, tremendous play out there.
If we can just get some comments on your round.
ERIK COMPTON: Yeah, it was a difficult start. I felt like I hit some good shots early, and I bogeyed the second and I three-putt the third, which was a pretty difficult pin there with the big ridge in the middle.
I have a good buddy of mine caddying for me this week. Trying to make as many birdies as I can for him so he can go to Q-School. We really enjoyed the day. It's been a great week.
The golf course sets up a lot like a Florida course, even though you feel like you're in the -- up here in the Northeast with the trees, the Norwegian Spruce trees. It's really pretty. I think those are the trees that are growing out here.
Um, you have to have drive it good. If you do, you can definitely take advantage. You know, I hit some really close shots, a couple good putts, and just -- I guess the round just kind of developed like that.
JOHN BUSH: You're playing this week on a sponsor's exemption. This is your seventh start of the year on the PGA Tour. You had a couple good finishes: T30 at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, and also played well at Mayakoba.
Talk about the season and the state of your game.
ERIK COMPTON: You know, out here it's hard when you play and you don't know when you're gonna tee up. I found out I was gonna play here on Saturday, and I was doing gardening work for about eight days, so I hadn't touched a club. So I went and practiced the next morning and then flew out here.
I think it probably did me some good, because I had been pushing myself since the U.S. Open. You know, a lot of requests, especially with the cameras following me around when I was doing the HBO thing. It was good to get home and just unwind.
I feel like it's been a good year. I think it's tough, like I said, to play on sponsor's invites. I've made some cuts, and I haven't performed as well as I would have liked on the weekends. I think a lot of that has to do with just not being maybe as sharp as playing every week.
And also, I think somewhat of my stamina has been, you know, not as great as some of the other players. That is also due to the golf courses that we've been playing. You know, they're tough. The heat actually doesn't bother me as much as walking up and down the mountains of the courses we've been playing.
JOHN BUSH: Questions.

Q. I have a two-part question: First of all, were you surprised by your score today?
ERIK COMPTON: No. I think I played pretty well in the practice round. I think I shot 4- or 5-under in the Pro-Am. I've been playing very well.
You know, golf is a funny game. The last three weeks, even though I have been playing on sponsor's invites and I am a two-time heart transplant recipient and I'm supposed to miss cuts and shoot bad scores, it wasn't really the way it was playing out. I was getting some bad breaks, and it was hard to take advantage of plugged lies and things like that.
You know, some guys miss, six, seven cuts in a row and then win. I know I'm a good player, and I have a lot of the adversity in front of me with the game and health. But I always feel like if I stick in there and keep trying, something eventually good is gonna happen.

Q. The other part of the question is: a lot of the guys out here are trying to secure spots in the FedExCup playoffs or get into the PGA at Whistling Straits. What's the motivation right now?
ERIK COMPTON: Well, I mean, I'm trying to get a PGA card out here. If I can string in some good finishes and then Monday qualify after that, in the fall series I might have a good chance to at least get a Nationwide Tour card or something out here in those lines.
You know, I'm just trying to enjoy the opportunity. It's one round. Today there's gonna be a lot of low scores, so I have to try and continued to do that and hopefully feel good all week.

Q. You were talking about stamina and walking courses. I take it this course is as nice to walk as any on the tour.
ERIK COMPTON: From events that I played, yes. Doral was a great event to play; it was very flat.
I think this is an extraordinary event due to the -- the whole place is awesome. The setup here from when you go to the room and getting shuttled to the golf course, you're not having to look around and walk miles to get to your car.
The Open was very difficult. Everything was spread out and it was hard it bring the family there. You know, I definitely look forward to playing out here again. I think the players are really looking forward to continuing this week and having a great tournament here.

Q. You were mentioning your caddie. Can you tell us who he is and what kind of a player he is?
ERIK COMPTON: Well, he's right there. His name is Victor Bilskoog, and his brother and I went to school together. His brother caddied for me when I won my -- the tournament in Morocco, which was a great event for me.
I figured I would bring him out this week. He needs to get ready for Q-School. He just turned pro, and every time we play he puts some pressure on me. I feel like if he's out here, he can see how the guys on the tour play. You know, hopefully he can follow in, you know, in somewhat of my footsteps. I know if I was as strong as him I would probably be a lot better.
But it's good for him to see just the type of play, and especially even today, how the round developed. You don't need to do anything extra special. Just get it the green and keep plugging away and save the shots that you can. And seeing how the other players handle their rounds as well.
So, I mean, it's been an exciting week. It's the first time he and I have ever worked together.

Q. How many sponsor's exemptions have you got, and how does that work? Did the big man, Jim Justice, call you up and invite you over here or what?
ERIK COMPTON: Pretty much. The tournament director or whoever is in charge of the event will invite me you to the tournament. I think I've used five this year, and I've Monday qualified for one and qualified for the Open.
So, you know, it's been great that the tournament directors and people have taken an interest in my story. And being able to help the community, visit the hospitals, and do whatever I can for the kids, you know, it's amazing how many people have reached out to me since the Open that have disabilities, that have lost loved ones, have been organ donors or recipients.
You know, it's just a great feeling to know that when I play, that I can maybe help somebody else get out of bed and push themselves to lead a normal life.

Q. Along the same lines, can you talk a little bit about your health right now.
ERIK COMPTON: Well, my health is great. I keep a good eye on it. I'm almost like a doctor now myself because I've been through so much and being able to manage medications and take it on the road.
So, you know, I wasn't feeling great. I'll be honest, I wasn't feeling great after the U.S. Open maybe due to a lot of stress and things. I just took it easy last week. You know, I feel great right now.

Q. How hard would it be if you get, say, a Nationwide Tour card and eventually a PGA Tour card and now you're playing 25 events a year, you know, taking a week off here or there? With your situation, how would you build up your stamina to be able to deal with that physically?
ERIK COMPTON: Right. Well, I don't necessarily think I have to play 25 events. I think even if I were to play the Nationwide Tour or play out here full time, you have to be very strategic about the courses that you pick and getting rest.
And I think that if you do that and stay patient, you can -- you know, through the whole course of a year, you know, just because you missed a few cuts, some guys will press and play six, seven in a row. I did that before. I don't think that's necessarily the best thing to do so. I think if you're well rested and you come out, you have a better chance of winning.
So with that said, I have to see what happens next year. That's pretty much what I planned to do. I enjoy my time at home and my time with my family. That's important.
Also practicing and working with, you know, my coach and being around my friends, which I would like it mention because the times I've been at home I've worked with Charlie DeLucca, who is like a grandfather to me. I spend a lot of time with him. I spend a lot of time with Jim McLean.
A lot of these people have seen what I've gone through, and they know how to deal with my situation and understand, Hey, look, maybe the best thing to do is not to work hard and maybe just rest.
It's been a team effort? I'm just happy that I finally got off to a good start in a PGA tournament. It's been something that I've been waiting for and looking forward to. Hopefully I can capitalize and keep playing well through the week.

Q. I'm sure you've been getting these questions left and right, but I've got to ask you, do you go through every day a little scared concerning your situation?
ERIK COMPTON: I mean, I've lived most of my life with the situation that I'm in. So, no, I wouldn't say I walk around scared. If you do that, you'll shoot 85 in a heartbeat out here. You know, it is what it is. I mean, I've had to deal with death several times. I would say you get scared when you're in a situation like that.
But day to day, I'm just enjoying the time and the good round that I had today. It's obviously different because I shoot 7-under and now we're talking about my health. And that is a bigger story than even if I shot 59, the fact that I'm playing out here with two transplants.
In the past I was maybe a little bit in denial about that, but I know it's a bigger story. It affects so many people.

Q. This is your job and part of what you do. How much of this is like medication or cathartic for you? When was the last time you led a tournament, Erik?
ERIK COMPTON: I don't even know if I'll be leading after this round.

Q. But you are now.
ERIK COMPTON: Yeah, I've led some tournaments when I played the Canadian and the Hooters Tour. I've led some tournaments -- I think I've led a couple Nationwide events in years past. Yeah, granted, they might have been three or four years ago. To me, they don't feel like they're that long because, because I lost about four years of my life playing professional golf, from 26 to 30, or to 29 since I've been back playing two years.
In some aspect I look at myself as an old guy. I also look at myself as a young guy in a career playing golf.
What was the second part of your question?

Q. Is it cathartic?
ERIK COMPTON: Oh, yeah it is. I feel great when I'm on the course. That's why I go home and garden. I can't stand to sit around the house and listen to my heartbeat. I drive my wife crazy because I don't sleep. I walk around the house and do handyman work and plant trees, whatever I can.
I feel great when I keep on moving. If I sit down and don't do anything I don't feel good. I think that's healthy medicine for everybody.

Q. Just curious, because I'm a big gardener myself. What are your favorite things to do in the garden, vegetables or flowers?
ERIK COMPTON: Well, we have a new house now, so we just planned some palm trees. We planted some Italian Cypress trees, some oak trees. We redid the whole grass. We're pretty much doing the whole lawn. I've done flowers before, but nothing will grow in 150-degree weather in Miami.
This place is immaculate. That's why it's so neat to see the landscaping here. As a golfer, you like to have your yard look nice.

Q. You're 30.
ERIK COMPTON: 30, yeah.

Q. And your last transplant was when?
ERIK COMPTON: About two years ago. May -- yeah, May 20th, 2008.

Q. Take me through the 17th hole. You had an eagle putt.
ERIK COMPTON: Yeah, 17, there's a bunker out there about 300, and, you know, it was downwind when we get to the tee. I was gonna hit a 3-wood to layup in front of it and then hit a 3-wood on the green.
The wind just completely switched around, so I hit a driver and ended up being 15 yards short. I think I had about 283 to the pin. I hit a 3-wood to the back of the green. I had kind of funny lie. I was thinking about maybe even putting it from behind the green. I just chipped it up. I don't know how it didn't go in. But it seemed it hit the center of the pin, and then I had a foot and a half left.

Q. If you find yourself in contention, how much will that U.S. Open experience help considering the extra level of anxiety and tension that's present during that event?
ERIK COMPTON: Yeah, that's a good question. The Open, there was -- you know, every move I made there was a camera around me, and it was difficult. I'm not gonna lie. I tried to ignore it, but it was difficult.
I think this week will help. Obviously if I do get in contention, I'm used to having a lot media attention and having a camera in your nose all day.
But with that, I have to play well. I have to play good golf. It's just the first round. I've played this sport long enough to know that tomorrow I tee off at 2:00 and might be 7 back.
So I just have to be patient. I'm just trying to -- I'm not thinking about winning. I'm just thinking about, you know, shot at a time and get through the weekend.
I would like to get myself in a position on Sunday. I think that's what all players try to do.
JOHN BUSH: Let's go through a few of holes. Bogeys on 2 and 3. Take us through those.
ERIK COMPTON: Yeah, 2, I hit it down the middle of the fairway. I had a little bit of mud on the ball. I tried to get too cute with a 9-iron and I hit it in the bunker and hit it up there to about ten feet. Still couldn't clean the ball because I was on the fringe, so I missed that.
I had 212 to the pin on 3. I hit a 5-iron good. Hit it right in the middle of the green and three-putted that.
That's when I got off to a good start. I hit driver and a 60-degree wedge on 4. I hit it about a foot from the hole, and had about three feet; spun back.
5 I made about a 30-footer.
6, what was 6?
JOHN BUSH: 7 was the next birdie.
ERIK COMPTON: 7. Yeah, it was pretty much a blur after that. I was taking one shot at a time. I really don't know what holes I birdied, to be honest.
JOHN BUSH: Thanks fine. That takes care of it. Anymore questions?

Q. What's the most difficult part on your heart: the stress of golf or the physical activity of playing golf?
ERIK COMPTON: I think the stress of -- everybody has some sort of a stress level out there playing. I mean, the difficult part for everyone, for every human being, is how they deal with their own body.
I've had to learn how to deal with the body that I have. It changes, you know, with this new heart that I have as opposed to when I played when I was younger. Stress and fatigue is definitely gonna be a factor.
But, you know, your mind is a powerful thing. If you can convince yourself that you're in better shape than you are, you can maybe have some more strength. I keep myself pretty lean so my heart is not having to work overtime. I've been blessed to be lucky to heal well.
You know, every day, you know, there is adversity that I deal with. But I believe that everybody has something, whether it's an injured neck or foot or whatever. You just got to make the best of it. That's what the best players in the world do.
JOHN BUSH: And you're off to a great start this week, Erik. Keep it going.
ERIK COMPTON: Okay. Thanks, guys.

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