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June 29, 2011

Erik Compton


COLIN MURRAY: Erik, thanks for joining us here in the interview room at the AT&T National, fresh off your first professional victory last week on the Nationwide Tour, competing this week on a sponsor's exemption, I believe. Just give us a quick recap of the last couple days for you, obviously moving to No. 2 on the Nationwide Tour Money List in great position to earn your PGA TOUR card.
ERIK COMPTON: Well, you know, I don't even know where to begin. Obviously my story has been pretty wild the last few years, but it just couldn't have happened at a better time. I played really, really well this year starting with the qualifier for Riviera. My caddie Phil had said I already bought you a ticket so we're going out to California. I was like, man, that's a long way to go to Monday qualify, and I won the qualifier there and then shot 64 on Sunday and got a lot of confidence from that and then took that to the Nationwide Tour and was leading in Panama with a few holes to play and didn't finish it off. That really kind of sparked the season.
I felt like I was close to winning, and my health was really -- the whole package had finally come together after about three years, you know, and then this year we've had really tough times with the weather on the Nationwide Tour, and last weak was a perfect example. We had, I think, seven or eight rain delays. I had found out that I had gotten into this tournament before the tournament had started, and I figured, well, maybe playing in Mexico is not a good idea, I should just come out here and play.
I was real patient, and when the rain started on Sunday, we had eight holes to play, and it's hard not to think what a win would do. I knew a win would definitely secure a card for next year out here. You know, you put -- it's hard not to think of the white elephant in the room. I know this is what I need to do.
And I got out there and started hitting good shots, made a couple good putts, and next thing you know I had a putt on the last hole for 64, and I was fortunate to win the event.
COLIN MURRAY: I know you traveled most of the day Monday, played nine holes, I believe, yesterday. Just thoughts on the golf course here at Aronimink and thoughts on this week.
ERIK COMPTON: Yeah, I mean, this week is -- it's always hard to play after you've won, especially with a big emotion of traveling and what the win means to me and my family and those who have been around me, so this week is like a bonus. I am tired, but I am up for the challenge. I think as soon as Thursday starts, obviously I have a pretty marquee tee time with Hunter Mahan and Jim Furyk, so once I get on the tee I think I'll be ready to play and excited. I'm just trying to take it real slow.
The golf course is awesome. This is an older style, traditional course, which I think most of the players on TOUR enjoy playing, and you've got to keep on moving forward. That's basically the sport that we play. Once Thursday starts, last week is kind of in the past.

Q. How do you feel about the attention you received all these years for the things that have happened to you away from the course as opposed to the things that you've done excellent on the golf course?
ERIK COMPTON: Well, I mean, I think I'm used to the attention now. Everybody knows I'm the guy with two hearts, and that outspeaks the golf; it always will. It's such a crazy, crazy story. And I'm real comfortable with it. I think my message of organ transplant and what it does for other people that are waiting and people who are going through it, it just speaks volumes.
From the golf standpoint now, obviously I'm still getting more recognition because I'm going to play on the TOUR but also because of my surgery, so it goes kind of hand in hand.
But I'm ready for it. I'm up for the challenge. Obviously there's going to be more -- I need to be more disciplined about my time and how I handle it with people because it can be overwhelming, and the biggest thing that I've done differently in the past is now where I think I have been more successful is getting a lot of rest so when the tournament starts I'm ready to play.

Q. You talked about what it means to you and your family. Now that it's sunk in a couple of days, what does it mean?
ERIK COMPTON: Well, I mean, it means the world. You know, I made a call four months after my transplant to just about everybody in the country in golf and said that I was going to make a comeback, and there were very few people that were willing to take a chance on me. And just to be able to make it to the TOUR, obviously I've played on sponsor invites, but to be able to play next year with a card and that nobody can take that away from me, the people that have seen what I went through, my wife, my parents, my friends, you know, I would not be here if it wasn't for them. I mean, they've all supported me.
One of my best friends, Michael Hanson, who's in Miami, he's supported me financially through the whole thing, basically helped me get a house, a car, and believed that I would get a TOUR card. So now it's like I get chills thinking about it, but these people all invested in me and all trusted that I would be here, and now I'm doing it. So it's just awesome.

Q. You alluded to it a little bit. What does it mean to earn it as opposed to being given a sponsor exemption?
ERIK COMPTON: I think everybody coming out of college and anybody in amateur golf, when they earn a TOUR card it's the most special moment, and I think -- I thought I'd be a lot more emotional about it, but now I'm just -- I thought I'd be in tears about getting a card, but I'm so excited and happy it's hard for me to even get emotional about it because maybe it hasn't hit me.
I'm 31 years old right now and I've had chances close to winning on the Nationwide Tour, but now winning and getting your card, it's -- from where I was, you know, I was -- I mean, you're sitting there. I saw what I went through. You were there doing stories on me right when I had the transplant. You've seen the transplant. It's not something that is easy. You know, the doctors are shocked and people in the transplant world are shocked. I'm shocked because I always said I would be on TOUR and play, but now it's a reality. My dream is finally coming true, and it couldn't have happened at a better time.
I'm three years out, I'm healthy. I was upset that I didn't have cards when I was 20, 25, 26, but that wouldn't have helped me because I got sick, so now I'm like -- I have a new life and I have a bright future, and it's just -- I mean, it's just crazy. I can't even explain it.

Q. When we talked to you last year at the U.S. Open you mentioned fatigue being a factor being so soon after the second transplant. What is the issue now with fatigue? Is that still a problem for you, or has your health gotten to the point where you can play more and practice more?
ERIK COMPTON: Well, I think the fatigue is always going to be an issue, but it's just how I handle it to overcome the fatigue. This year I was -- was a huge adjustment starting the season playing in pro-ams. You have to play five rounds of golf, so it seemed like last year I figured I had to play four and now I've got to play five. It took a toll early. I felt like I was running out of gas.
But I've just got to be very careful. I only hit balls usually 20, 25 minutes before my tee time. I don't hit balls after I play.
When I'm at home -- I was at home three weeks before I went on a four-week trip. I didn't even take the clubs out of the suitcase. I went fishing, enjoyed time with my wife, the baby, Petra. Like my friend Kelly, he says, be a four-quarter man, 25 percent golf, 25 percent with your friends, hobbies, just be a more well-rounded individual. And I think that helps. I think it would help a lot of people because people at this level are very athletic to play a sport for a living. Sometimes you can overanalyze it and work on things that are unnecessary, and when you let your true athletic ability come out, I think that's when you're at your greatest.

Q. I figure at some point someone is going to make a movie about you and your amazing story. What actor do you think will play you or what actor would you like to see play Erik Compton?
ERIK COMPTON: My friends joke and say that I look like Paul Giamatti, but I saw Paul Giamatti in the airport coincidentally before I went to Mexico so maybe everything is coming together. He looked at me and said, "I don't think you look anything like me."
You know, I don't know. I don't think there will be a movie. I think movies tend to -- you have to have something that's maybe a little bit more unrealistic. But maybe if they make a fictional story and have me winning three U.S. Opens or something. Maybe I will win -- we were joking last night, everybody says they want to win 19 majors. I'd just like to play in 19 majors.

Q. If you can take us to that day, that point when you win and you know the card is -- who's around you when it ends? What did that day feel like? Who were the people? How did it play out?
ERIK COMPTON: It was bizarre because I was on the driving range warming up thinking I was going to be in a playoff. The score was a little bit messed up from the group behind me, so I actually won by two shots, and I was thinking I only had won by one.
You know, they said, you won. I couldn't believe it because it seems like everything I've ever had in my life I've had to work for, chip in to win on 18 or birdie the last hole to win. So to sit there and have a good round like 65 and watch the field come in the last two groups and then the official say, hey, you've won the tournament, you know, I was there with my great friend Phil Smith who's taken time off to caddie for me this year. He's a paramedic firefighter and he's been traveling with me the whole way. I think he was very emotional because he's seen me from the different perspective. He's seen me when I was in the hospital.
I'm the one living it so I'm just enjoying playing golf and getting the victory, but for those others that have seen me in different lights, he just kept on telling me the whole week, and he's told me all year, you don't have to do anything special, all you have to do is play Erik golf and that's good enough to win, and I think I bought into that. I stopped worrying about what everybody else is doing and tried to do what I do best.
Obviously when you win you have to have a little bit of things go your way, and I guess it's my time now.

Q. Going back to college, could you give us a list of tournaments you've won, like how many in college, and did you win any other professional events before Sunday?
ERIK COMPTON: I won a few junior golf tournaments. When I went to college I was ranged No. 1 junior in the country and I had some different schools I could choose to go to, and I went to University of Georgia and I red-shirted my freshman year, and then I won my first college tournament in -- I think it was in South Carolina. It was a strong field. I was playing in the last group, I think, with Jonathan Byrd and Adam Scott was in the field, Charles Howell and Matt Kuchar. We all grew up together, Bubba Watson. All these guys, we've all played together. So it's almost like playing now is like coming back to college.
And then I played on the Walker Cup team, and I won -- I lost in a nine-hole playoff to Luke Donald at the Northeast Amateur, which is one of the biggest amateurs in the country. I lost in a playoff at Sunny Hanna that year and then I won the Monroe and the Dixie Amateur.
And then I decided to turn pro after that. My biggest paycheck was I won the Trophee Hassan in Morocco. That was $200,000, and I still have the sword that they give for the trophy, but I think that's a European Tour event now. I won a couple times on the Hooters Tour and won the Canadian Tour Order of Merit, won a couple times out there. You know, I lost in a playoff a couple times on the Nationwide before all this, before I had the second transplant.
But nothing is like it is now. I've been more consistent this year, and then this win is just really, really special.

Q. I was wondering, have you kind of started to reset your goals now after the victory, and I was wondering if you could also tell the story about your wallet, what kind of happened there.
ERIK COMPTON: I mean, my goals now obviously are to really pace myself. I want to be fresh and ready to play golf, so I'm a little bit beat up now. I played five weeks in a row, or this will be my fifth in a row. This week is going to be a challenge. My goal is to get through and play well this week.
But you can put goals and you can have them way out here in front. People say I want to win a major, I want to do this, I want to do that. Realistically my goals are the tournament I'm entered into is to try to be ready to play that tournament, so whether that's on the PGA or Nationwide or a major, I don't know where it's going to be, but I just want to be ready to play that event. So that's a goal is just to be healthy and ready for those events.
As far as my wallet, that wasn't a very good way to be healthy for this event because I didn't have any money to buy a bottled water or any sandwiches on the airplane. When I got here I didn't really get a chance to celebrate that much because I was scrambling and wondering who's getting in my wallet and spending all my paycheck from Mexico.
I was able to call the credit card companies and cancel my cards and get some new cards here. Now I get a chance to get back to everybody. It's been pretty crazy the last few days. My mom and dad are in Norway right now. I'm half Norwegian, so they're all over there on vacation, and everybody is kind of spread out. So it's nice that my wife Barbara and my daughter Petra have been here this week. They got in, and we can enjoy a great week together.

Q. Where did you lose it, your wallet?
ERIK COMPTON: At the airport in Mexico. Not a good spot, right?

Q. What are your plans for the rest of the year?
ERIK COMPTON: Well, next week I have to go in and do a cardiac procedure just to check that everything is good. It's my yearly checkup. So I'll be on rest for a few days there. You know, I've just got to -- I really need to get rest here in the next few weeks, and then I might play in Ohio for the Nationwide event, see how I feel, if I'm ready for that. And I'd like to play a little bit out here, as well.
Like I said, the events that I play in, I want to be ready to play. So whether it's a Nationwide or a PGA event, I don't know where I'm going to be promised to play out here. I have to get a sponsor invite for the remainder of the year, or if I win three times on the Nationwide I'd get a battlefield promotion.

Q. What would be the appeal of playing out here as opposed to fortifying or advancing through the Nationwide?
ERIK COMPTON: Well, like I said, I think I'd like to win, so if I can get in a tournament on a PGA event, when I get ready to tee it up, I want to try to win those events. So obviously winning on the PGA TOUR is something that would be great. I've won on the Nationwide Tour, I've won on the Canadian Tour, I've won on the Hooters Tour, and now I want to win on the PGA TOUR. So any time you have a chance to play a PGA TOUR event, that's obviously an awesome thing to be able to do. It's the same numbers, it's just different names.

Q. Was there any activity on your cards? Did you hear anybody was trying to charge a Cadillac or anything?
ERIK COMPTON: No, there wasn't anything.

Q. What has been your success rate on sponsor exemptions over the last couple of years?
ERIK COMPTON: It's been pretty good. You know, I get a lot of -- some of the guys on the Nationwide say, how do you get into so many PGA events? I said, well, if you film a major surgery and you send it into the tournament director, I guarantee you'll get a spot. (Laughter.)
I mean, obviously my story -- I'm very comfortable with what I've been through and who I am as an individual, and I know that I'm going to get attention because of having the two heart transplants. I'm not so much of a sideshow freak anymore. I've proved that I can play on the TOUR, so that does give me a lot more confidence.
When I go to tournaments and play on the PGA TOUR I think it makes a huge impact for people in the community. People find out about my story, and I think that's what the TOUR is all about is helping and giving back to others. So if there's a kid in the hospital or somebody that can be affected by me playing, I think that that tournament wins every time. You know, it's such a unique story.
With that said, I hope to be able to play more PGA events throughout this year and be able to give back and help and visit the hospitals. I did stuff with the Arnold Palmer Hospital, the Children's Miracle Network, so they're all fitting for my story.

Q. Lastly, you may be able to fill me in on some health issues I'm unaware of, but as you look at your college, amateur career, turning pro, up until four or five years ago and you couldn't get your card, how debilitating was that to think after the latest heart transplant that you could still do it?
ERIK COMPTON: Well, the years that I did play towards the end, I remember working really, really hard, almost too hard, training in the gym, trying to figure out why I wasn't winning, why I wasn't getting through the TOUR, and I think I overdid it. Who knows how long that heart that I had towards the end was really working 100 percent.
And I think now, and everybody on the TOUR could probably say the same thing I'm saying, but when you get in your 30s, you may not be as strong as you were when you were in your 20s, but I think you think and you have a lot more control of your game, you know what you can and can't do, and I think I gained a tremendous amount of confidence going through the second transplant knowing that I survived that.
I wouldn't say it's -- it's just a confidence thing. I know that when I walk around and I walk onto a golf course, if I've overcome what I did as an individual, as a human being, golf is like -- it's not that big of a deal. So I think that's the difference, that when I came back I just had a lot of confidence.
COLIN MURRAY: Erik, thanks for your time. Play well this week.

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