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January 11, 2012

Erik Compton


CHRIS REIMER:テつ We welcome Erik Compton to the interview room here at the Sony Open in Hawai'i.テつ Your thoughts on being here and playing this year?
ERIK COMPTON:テつ It's competition.テつ I always strive for the competition.テつ I think, you know, a new year, I'm just excited, for one, to be healthy.テつ I think it's exciting because it magnifies so much more, there's so many more people that are around the PGA TOUR.テつ Obviously you get to play against the best players in the world, and you know, being at home, it's sort of funny because quote, unquote, you're a PGA TOUR player but in my mind, I always thought it was.
I think for me to be here it means so much for the people around me.テつ You know, when I'm at home practicing where I grew up playing, or with the Charlie DeLucas of the world, the family over there, for them to finally see me as a PGA TOUR player; when I go to Doral and see Jim and spend time over there, they see me as a TOUR player and so you get a little different treatment, so that's kind of neat.
I think you know, starting the season, you see the interest in Titleist and you see the interest in the people that want to be involved in the story, and I think that's exciting.テつ I think in the off‑season, I spend a lot of time not so much practicing but just getting my mind clear.テつ Did some fishing and I knew just from experience, that if you get your card right off the Nationwide Tour, you're so jacked up that during the whole holiday season, you can wear yourself out.
I feel like now is the time to slowly get in the season and work your way into playing form and sometimes you play your best, like I did last year, early in the season.テつ So hopefully I can get off to a good start and go from there.

Q.テつ Have you ever been approached by Hollywood for a movie or something to tell your story.
ERIK COMPTON:テつ You know, any time you achieve something at that moment, there's always a lot of type.テつ But that's kind of worn down a little bit, which is nice.テつ There's people that contacted me to do book deals and when I was younger, people wanted to do like a lifetime story.テつ But I think obviously the story is great, the agreement to get to the TOUR.
But I want to be out here to win at this level, and I don't think my story is quite done yet.テつ I think sometimes Hollywood wants an ending and something that's going to sell is never good enough.テつ You have to win a PGA event and then you have to win a major and then you have to win a Grand Slam, and then you've got to be the President of the United States.テつ So it's like, at what point does the story‑‑ it's just a tough story to write, because it's still in the process.
So I've slowed things down with that.テつ I just really want to be able to compete and be able to make a difference.テつ And now, on a national level, I think each week I have an opportunity to do that.テつ I've teamed up with a pharmaceutical company, Genetec, and it's just an easy fit.テつテつ We are trying to promote more organ donor awareness and trying to get more people to donate organs because there's a shortage.テつ By me playing and being able to share my story, I think people will realize that it really is a real thing and it affects normal people every day.
So I think that's kind of the two sides of me, the player, and also the transplant side to it.テつ So I've done a good job of being able to balance that when I get on the golf course.テつ I just feel like a regular person, and being able to play successful and good golf for me is just being healthy.

Q.テつ You talked about the end of this story. If your story had ended with you waking up from your second heart transplant, or with you just being able to play golf again, would that have been enough for you? Would you have been satisfied with that ending?
ERIK COMPTON:テつ With that ending?テつ I think at that time it would have been.テつ I'm always pushing and pushing and pushing so that at that time when I was in the hospital, you know, I was pushing myself to get on the bike and pushing myself to go and practice, to teach, pushing myself to get involved in the community.
I think, you know, it's a very slow process, but I think that those slow processes happen when people tend to take on more and push themselves to be more.テつ So that's why I advocate for transplants or any person, to be able to get the maximum amount of your potential in life, and you know, I just love to compete.
I think the competition is what keeps me from sitting on the couch and listening to my heart.テつ I talk to a lot of younger kids that have had transplants and you know, sometimes I sound to myself like I'm a little over the top trying to push them to do something more than they want.
It's not what‑‑ I don't want to hurt anybody to push more than they have, but sometimes you need a good kick in the butt to be like, hey, I can be more than just an average person.テつ I think that comes a lot from how it was raised, and both my mom and dad are inspiring people that made it very clear that they were going to push me to be‑‑ not just sit home and feel sorry for myself.テつ I guess the more success you have, the more you want to push yourself to become even better.

Q.テつ What have the doctorテや冱 said during the process. Were there ever any doctors who told you not to push too hard?
ERIK COMPTON:テつ And then there's doctors that say push, push, push. テつThe doctors say, maybe it's not a great idea that you get on an airplane and maybe it's not a great idea to be putting that much stress on yourself.テつ But on the other hand, you know, I'm doing so well, so maybe that's what it is.テつ It's really hard to compare transplants because in each case it's so different.
I've done a good job of understanding my body and knowing my body and I think that's part of the reason why I've started to play better as I've gotten older.テつ Probably not as good as I was in my early 20s physically‑wise, being able to hit the ball 330 yards like some of the young guys coming out now.
But being able to know how to manage my life makes a big difference.

Q.テつ What are the three scariest moments you have had in your life?
ERIK COMPTON:テつ I've had a bunch of them.テつ You know, it's kind of funny when you say scary, because scary and exciting at the same time; the birth of our daughter was kind of scary and exciting at the same time.テつ I think having a heart attack and driving myself to the hospital and knowing that that was pretty much the end, that was pretty scary and sad at the same time, because life's not like the movies where you tell everybody good‑bye.
So that was pretty scary.テつ I think I've had some scary moments, even when I was a kid waiting for the helicopter to land and then they are going to open me up, that was scary.
So it's kind of an adrenaline rush, the second time, I was pretty excited because I came to grips that it was my only option, so that was exciting.

Q.テつ Do other players talk to you about it --
ERIK COMPTON:テつ Yeah, I mean, there's really‑‑ when I go in the locker room, they just look at me like I'm a regular player.テつ None of the players ever ask me, and I kind of respect, that because they understand that I'm getting that on the only end, you know.
But I kind of blend in.テつ I'm not like a superstar that like people think‑‑ I'm just a regular guy and I look like a regular guy.テつ So people don't really know my story.テつ So it's not like overwhelming at all.

Q.テつ How much medication do you have to take now?
ERIK COMPTON:テつ It's just an adjustment with the medicine, it's always kind of changing.テつ I take a handful in the morning and a handful at night I've been doing that for 23 years.テつ So could be anywhere from five to ten in the morning, and you know, maybe two or three in the afternoon and then in the evening about the same, yeah.

Q.テつ When was your last setback?
ERIK COMPTON:テつ I've had some setbacks over the holidays, but just kind of deal, you know what I mean.テつ I started the season at‑‑ or ended the season at 163 and I got down to 145 at one point over the holidays and now I'm probably back to 155.テつ I'm like an accordion.テつ I honestly don't want to get into every detail because then when I hear myself, I sound like somebody who always has issues and I hate that.テつ It's like‑‑ to your question before, sometimes I'll see something on the TV and I'm like, you know, I'm sure guys are getting tired of hearing this.
So there is some point, yeah, I want my clubs to do the talking and be able to play and talk about and win.テつ But even if I did win, with you guys‑‑ you guys know, you probably ask me how I was feeling or how the heart was feeling.

Q.テつ Is your condition something that you are constantly thinking about. Is it always on your mind or is it just a part of life that you deal with?
ERIK COMPTON:テつ Yeah, just deal with it.テつ I mean, some months are tough.テつ Some months‑‑ some months I don't have any issues and that's always an adjustment.テつ That's a problem, the protocol with transplants recipients.テつ You've got to drink a lot of water, you take medication, and also with me travelling and doing competing, there's really not been any research on how the medications and all that affect competition and adrenaline and all that kind of stuff.
So I'm constantly trying to keep up with the doctors and hounding them.テつ I'm sure they are tired of hearing from me, because I want to make sure that I don't end up getting an issue with being under‑medicated or over‑medicated.テつ Being over‑medicated can be just as bad as being under‑medicated.テつ I want to make sure that when the race starts, my engine is finally tuned so I can compete.テつ My finally tuned is probably 70 percent.テつ And you know, I've got to figure out how I can win with that.テつ So I've been doing that for most of my life.

Q.テつ Will your donorテや冱 family be watching you this week?
ERIK COMPTON:テつ Yeah, we are friends, we talk, we talked during the holidays.テつ So I'm sure that they watch‑‑ I'm sure they are not watching over me like a‑‑

Q.テつ Do you feel like now you are making your debut on the PGA TOUR?
ERIK COMPTON:テつ No, I have not.テつ I think when I played‑‑ I feel like I am making my debut, but I've played so many PGA events, it's kind of like the regular deal.テつ So I think some of the early events that I did play, you know, it was a really big deal when I came right off the transplant.
And so I think to them, it doesn't matter whether I play or just a regular person, because you know, they get it.テつ They know that their son is here and they have been a part of saving my life.

Q.テつ How many invites did you get last year?
ERIK COMPTON:テつ Last year I four‑spotted Riviera, let's be honest, most of them have been on sponsor's invited.テつ I didn't try to four‑spot a lot on PGA TOUR events, mostly Nationwide and I probably four‑spotted between ten and 15 of those over my career.

Q.テつ Did it feel different when you Monday qualified for an event over getting a sponsorテや冱 exemption?
ERIK COMPTON:テつ I don't think it makes a difference.テつ When you go through what I have in life, I don't think you ever feel like somebody has given anything to you.テつ I mean, maybe some other people I think spot somebody on the TOUR or whatever, but by no means individual a hand out.テつ I think had I not gone through two heart transplants and been a regular guy, I don't know what my career would have been, but a lot of what I have been through has defined me as a stronger person to be able do some of the mental part of competing.
At the end of the day, you look at young guys that come out on TOUR, it is all about being athletic and being physically fit to play this game.テつ Starting to get like women's tennis where guys are coming out 15, 16, 17 years old and they are that good.
I played with a Georgia guy, a practice round I played with Harris English and Brian Harmon, and they are like veterans.テつ And it's hard for me to believe that I'm ten years older.
CHRIS REIMER:テつ Any event you're looking forward to playing this year?
ERIK COMPTON:テつ Obviously I look forward to playing here.テつ I think the golf course is really a good track.テつ You can shape it around the golf course.テつ I look forward to playing events that I have not played in the past.テつ You look forward to events where you're playing well that week, right.テつ That's what it's all about.テつ Just in general, the whole year.テつ It's just going to be an exciting year.テつ You don't really know how good of a time you have until it's gone, right.

Q.テつ Is there any part of you that feels like you missed out on valuable time?
ERIK COMPTON:テつ Maybe a few percentage, you feel that way.テつ You know, like playing with some of the younger guy, I feel they keep you young and I am a young guy, but I feel that I went from 27 to 30 real quick in those years.テつ But if you still look at the average of the PGA TOUR, those guys that get to the TOUR, I'm right there on the average, so really haven't fallen too far behind.
You know, I think the biggest thing that I need to do is play my own game and not really get caught up in what other guys are doing.テつ And that can be hard, because I always try to push myself beyond what I have been.
I'll tell you, it is pretty neat to see, you see all of the best players in the world, the Strickers and the Zach Johnsons and Luke Donalds and guys that are just plodders and they are not out all world‑ball leaders, you know what I mean.テつ So it's just basically doing that, playing a game of chess and hit it there and get it on the green and the media and everybody makes it more complicated.

Q.テつ What has been frustrating about this process?
ERIK COMPTON:テつ I got frustrated when I was playing on the Nationwide, I would make cuts, just before I had the transplants.テつ I would make cuts and get on the green on Saturday and just felt like I ran a marathon the night before and that wasn't too easy, so that was frustrating.テつ I started to kind of lose interest in the game a little bit.
You know, I think that now, I don't really lose interest in this game because I don't burn myself out.テつ I don't devour myself in this game, so I have a good, happy medium how I handle it.テつ That makes it fun to go out and practice, and I enjoy doing other things.テつ When it comes to playing throughout the season, I'm ready to play.

Q.テつ Did you play golf before your first transplant or did the transplant kind of force you to start playing golf?
ERIK COMPTON:テつ I played a little golf before.テつ I played all the sports.テつ One thing about golf was‑‑ other kids, especially between nine and 15, everybody had colds and I had to be real careful with that.テつ When I first had the transplant inテつ '92, I was basically a guinea pig for medications.テつ They would never give medications to me now as they did back then.
So I was completely wiped out and I would go to Redlands andchipped and putt with my dad.テつ And the medications and side effects were so unbearable; I looked literally like an egg with two sticks.テつ He had to help me on the tee boxes and I had a moon face.テつ For me it was great, I was away from people that would make fun of me.テつ So, you know, I think a lot of the character and things I dealt with at a young age, made even more of an impact on me now than even just recently.
If you saw me, I looked like a very athletic kid.テつ I had a perfect body and then I get the transplant but I looked like the most non‑athletic kid but if you had to pick 30 kids, I would be the last guy you kicked.テつ I still had the hand‑and‑eye coordination that I have today, so I can remember being at a baseballgame and playing in right field because the coaches didn't think I had any skills at all, and within the sixth I think I was pitching in the game and I was striking guys out.テつ I looked like a butter ball.
I was not as strong as the other kids, for sure.テつ I could get on base.テつ I remember the umpire making fun out of me whether I was going to take the bus to steal second base but I had the hand‑eye coordination and I think that's why I fell in love with golf.テつ I didn't have to be so strong.

They have videotape of when I was wheeled out of Jackson two weeks after my first transplant and I said I wanted to be a professional baseball player.テつ So in my mind I always wanted to be a professional athlete.テつ That's what I live for.テつ But you see an athletic kid that runs around the park, that's what I did.テつ There was no school.テつ There was no time for a lunch.テつ I lived in died for sports.
CHRIS REIMER:テつ Thanks so much for coming in.

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