By TIM REYNOLDS – AP Sportswriter
PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. (AP) — Erik Compton is going to have a great Saturday.
If he makes the cut at the Honda Classic, he’ll play a third round at PGA National. If not, he’ll just have to settle for the 30th anniversary of getting a second chance at life.
The date was Feb. 26, 1992, when Compton – then 12 – received the first of two heart transplants that were needed after he was diagnosed with viral cardiomyopathy, a condition in which the heart becomes inflamed and can no longer pump blood effectively can pump. He’s fought and fought and fought since then, and an opening round of 1-under 69 at Thursday’s Honda Classic was another reminder that he’s made a career by resisting absurdly long chances.
“I’ve had more printing experience in my entire life in the field,” Compton said.
Those words weren’t an exaggeration and certainly don’t just apply to him playing golf. He likes to say he’s been dead twice. After suffering a heart attack in 2007, seven months before his second transplant in May 2008, he drove himself to a hospital. He was told several times that his sports career was over, several times that he could no longer play golf.
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And there will be a party on Saturday.
“Obviously, 30 is going to be a big milestone,” Compton said. “I’ve always celebrated the date of my second transplant and my first transplant. They honor the donor, just all the achievements that have been made over the years.”
The 42-year-old Miami native, who still has his home there, has been a professional golfer since 2001. These days he’s mostly on the Korn Ferry Tour; He has made a PGA Tour cut in just four attempts since 2016 and is playing on the Honda this week with the exception of one sponsor.
He has never won on the PGA Tour; His best finish was a runner-up tie at the 2014 US Open, the big spark in a year that saw him earn $1.8 million — about half of his $4.1 million in career earnings at the PGA tour.
“I’m hungry,” Compton said. “A lot of guys my age might not necessarily be that hungry because they’ve made a lot more money than me. I’ve had a pretty solid career, but I haven’t made as much money compared to many others. So it keeps hungry. … And I don’t see why I can’t continue to pursue my dream.”
With hunger there is faith. It may have wavered a bit in recent years, but it’s still there.
Compton says he feels great after just losing 20 pounds. He insists his clubhead speed and ball speed are good enough to compete with the best. A solid round on Friday would mean a place at the weekend, which would mean a check, maybe even a chance to fight.
“There have been times in recent years that it has been difficult,” Compton said. “I love to play but there have been some people who have stepped up and allowed me to keep playing. So I’m doing a big push this year and that’s what I’m trying to do, putting one foot in front of the other.”
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