Erik Compton looked tired late Tuesday afternoon. He had just played nine holes in a warm-up round for the AT&T National at Congressional Country Club, followed by a little practice and a half-dozen media interviews.
On Wednesday, there was more of the same, as well as a visit to the Washington Hospital Center in the morning to meet with transplant patients and staff members, the better to promote organ and tissue awareness.
Compton is a walking, talking prime example of the sort of medical miracles transplants can accomplish. Hes had two heart transplants, one at the age of 12, the other in 2008 at the age of 28. Now, four years later, he is a full-fledged member of the PGA Tour, playing in his rookie season at age 32.
Im just a regular guy playing golf, he insisted during an interview. But I guess maybe Im not that regular.
He is also a gifted golfer, a man who visualized returning to the game he loves while recovering from his second transplant four years ago, even if most of his doctors told him they didnt think it was possible.
Hes been through more and overcome more than anyone I have ever known, his long-time teacher, Miami-based Jim McLean, told CBSsports.com earlier this year. I remember visiting him in his hospital room and the doctors told him he was pretty much through with professional golf. He has already achieved more than anyone could have expected. His comeback, its unreal.
Certainly, its a remarkable story for the former University of Georgia All-American and member of the 2001 Walker Cup team.
In 2008, Compton was playing in a Nationwide Tour event when he duck hooked a drive late in his round and missed the cut. He flew back home to Miami and a few days later was out fishing with friends when he began to suffer intense pain in his shoulder blades. He was taken to the hospital and told hed had a major heart attack, with a blocked artery.
He was soon on a transplant list, eventually receiving the heart of a 26-year-old man who had been killed when his bicycle was hit by a pickup truck. Within a year, Compton was back playing competitive golf again. In 2009, he made two cuts on the PGA Tour playing on sponsors exemptions and in 2010, he played 36 holes in a single day to qualify for the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach.
In 2011, he played in 18 Nationwide Tour events and finished 13th on the money list, earning an automatic promotion to the PGA Tour. His season also included a victory in the Mexican Open when he shot 65 in the final round.
This year, hes played in 15 events and made ten cuts and about 230,000. His main goal now is to keep his card for the 2013 season. A victory would obviously give him a two-year exemption. Without a win, he would have to earn about 700,000 to keep his card for next season.
Despite all those made cuts, his rookie year has been something of a disappointment if only because his best finish has been a tie for 26th in the Honda Classic just up the road from his home in Coral Gables, Fla. Hes shown flashes of brilliance, including a 67 in the first round of the Memorial three weeks ago, but his weekend scoresincluding three straight 75s in that event-- have been a problem all season.
Stamina is always a little bit of a factor, he said, but Ive also made some bad decisions on club selection. Theres also something to be said for playing a course four or five times and getting to know it. As a rookie, its always hard because you really dont know the lay of the land.
You know how you feel when you eat a meal and youre satisfied? I just want to feel that way after a tournament. I havent felt that way this year. My game has been hit and miss, sporadic. Im hoping thats going to change.
Still, Compton is hardly a complainer. He knows hes got to play better to keep his Tour playing privileges, particularly with his short game. He also knows hes a role model for so many others, a responsibility he does not take lightly.
Theres part of me thats chasing to do something that nobody has done, he said earlier in the season. At the end of the day, I dont care if I make a lot of money. I still want to be in my back yard hosing my plants and hosing down the patio and doing the simple things.
I think the talent is there. Theres a lot more to this game than just talent, but I cant wait as much as you can.