Compton wins Mexico Open, ensures '12 Tour card
The combination of high altitude and long hours ravaged Erik Compton’s body. He knew he had to keep fighting, though. It’s something the two-time heart transplant recipient has done his entire life, and now the greatest moment of his incredible career was within his grasp.
“My body was just beat to heck this week. This was the hardest test for me, to play golf at this altitude with all these delays,” Compton told Golfweek. “It’s just fitting. There was a lot of adversity to overcome. I never gave up, even though my body was cramping down the stretch.
"You just have to put your mind somewhere else and get the job done.”
Compton did that, shooting a final-round 65 to win the Nationwide Tour’s Mexico Open by two shots. He finished at 17-under 271 at El Bosque Golf Club in the mountains of Leon, Mexico. The tournament was delayed more than 12 hours because of rain throughout the week, forcing players to stay at the course from dawn to dusk each day.
The Mexico Open was the 31-year-old’s first Nationwide Tour victory. The $126,000 first-place check virtually ensures Compton will earn his first PGA Tour card at season’s end. He’s now No. 2 on the Nationwide Tour money list with $215,709.
“I’ve played on sponsor invites, and people have always given me a hard time that I’m ‘the heart guy,’ ” Compton said. “I got that monkey off my back. I’m a player now.
“My lifelong goal has been to get to the PGA Tour and now I’ve done that.”
Compton's victory is the latest highlight in this career year. He's made the cut in 12 of 13 combined starts on the PGA and Nationwide tours. He started the season with conditional Nationwide status, but a fourth-place finish in the season-opening Panama Claro Championship ensured he could play a full schedule.
He’ll play on the PGA Tour this week after receiving a sponsor exemption into the AT&T National at Aronimink Golf Club in Newtown Square, Pa.
His good play is the product of offseason workouts that added length to his tee shots and stability to his swing. He’s trying to play more like he did as a junior golfer, when he was the nation’s No. 1 player.
“I got away from worrying about my swing, and just trying to be an athlete and try to get the ball in the hole,” he said.
He limits his practice time while at home, using his off weeks to regain his energy, fish and spend time with his family. He has to fight fatigue during tournaments, and his weakened immune system leaves him susceptible to infections.
Compton received his first transplant in 1992 after being diagnosed with cardiomyopathy, an enlarging of the heart that hinders its ability to pump blood. He needed a second transplant after a heart attack in 2007 that nearly killed him. He frantically drove himself to the hospital, running red lights and a toll booth along the way. He called family members to tell them goodbye.
Compton had his second transplant in 2008, then got married in August of that year. He and his wife, Barbara, had a daughter, Petra, in 2009. The adversity Compton has overcome doesn’t exempt him from everyday responsibilities. He now has a family to support. “He knows he has to play,” Compton’s instructor, Charlie DeLucca, said. “He has to go out and do it now.”
Compton’s college coach at Georgia, Chris Haack, told Golfweek, “He knows that he’s somewhat living on borrowed time. He wants to take advantage of every opportunity he has while he has the chance. To be able to see him finally realize his dream ... and finally have an opportunity to get out there with those guys, I couldn’t be more happy for him.
“He certainly has earned it.”