Erik Compton enters this week’s Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals Classic fighting to retain his status on the PGA Tour.
Compton is No. 163 on the PGA Tour money list and is $260,196 away from a spot in the top 125, which would guarantee him PGA Tour status for next season.
But four years ago at Disney, Compton was hoping to accomplish something more meaningful — just making the cut. He was six months removed from his second heart transplant. With the use of a golf cart, he made it to the weekend, eventually finishing 60th.
"One of my greatest achievements was making the cut here in the cart,” said Compton, who was diagnosed at age 9 with viral cardiomyopathy, a condition where the heart muscle doesn’t pump properly. “I didn’t have the strength to walk but was here with my family. It was a very emotional moment for me on the 18th green to survive the cut.”
Compton, joined by wife Barbara and daughter Petra on Wednesday at Disney, was awarded the 2012 Mildred “Babe” Didrikson Zaharias Courage Award, which is presented to an individual who demonstrates courageous action in overcoming adversity to excel in sport.
Past winners of the award include former Tennessee women’s basketball coach Pat Summitt, former NFL quarterback Brett Favre and late auto racing legend Dale Earnhardt. The last golfer to win the award was Arnold Palmer in 1998.
"This is the last tournament of the year, a big week, and it’s been a very successful year this year on and off the golf course, and to be able to receive this award at the end of the year really reminds me of the hard work that I’ve done over the course of the year and the course of a lifetime," said Compton, who won the Ben Hogan Award in 2009.
Compton, who played 30 PGA Tour events via sponsor exemptions and qualifying from 2000-11, made 16 of 25 cuts as a rookie this season.
“I haven’t had a week where I feel like on the weekend the heart’s racing and I’m in contention,” said Compton, whose best career PGA Tour finish is a tie for 13th at this year’s John Deere Classic.
He’ll need to finish in a two-way tie for third or better at Disney to have a chance at keeping his card. But the 33-year-old who became the first professional golfer to compete with a transplanted heart said he’s “strangely calm.”
“Sitting here with one tournament left would probably be less stressful than sitting in a hospital room and [doctors] telling me they have to get ready for me to have surgery,” Compton said. “So it’s never over until it’s over. And I preach that off the golf course, so I should definitely preach that on the golf course.
“If I do well this week, it’ll be an extraordinary year.”