Erik Compton, who is starting his 2013-14 PGA Tour season this week at the Frys.com Open in California, will celebrate his 34th birthday on November 11.
The heart beating in his chest, however, has only been with him for five of those years.
Compton became the first-ever recipient of the PGA Tour Courage Award on Wednesday afternoon, in a presentation headlined by commissioner Tim Finchem at CordeValle Golf Club, site of this week’s tournament. If you haven’t heard his story, Compton was diagnosed with viral cardiomyopathy at nine years old, had his first heart transplant at 12, and then underwent another replacement in 2008. He was cleared to return to play later on that year and earned his Tour card for 2012 by finishing near the top of the Web.Com Tour‘s money list. He just earned his first top-ten in March at the Honda Classic and qualified for the second round of the FedEx Cup playoffs.
Everybody knows how difficult it can be for even a supremely talented player to make it to the top of the profession. Compton has not only dealt with the uncertainty of where his next paycheck would come from, but also whether he’d ever be able to play again.
Most people dream of getting one shot at their dream, and in a way, Compton’s had three now, and he’s making the absolute most of them. How many of us would just be happy to be alive in his situation, much less living our wildest dream?
“Through the help of family, doctors and friends, I have gone from being someone lying on his back in recovery to someone walking the fairways of the PGA Tour,” Compton told USA TODAY. “Not only has playing on Tour been a dream of mine, but it has also served greatly in the healing process. It has given me something to work toward, but also something to hope for. I’m incredibly grateful for this award and blessed to have the opportunity to be playing on the PGA Tour.”
It seems to me that it would only be fitting for the Tour to rename their award in Compton’s honor. His relentless pursuit of his passion through even life-threatening setbacks sets a phenomenal example that anybody would do well to follow. The combination of that message and the Tour’s charitable resources could do wonderful things for people.