The story of Erik Compton’s battle back to playing professional golf after undergoing two heart transplants never fails to inspire. Compton shot six-under 66 at Industry Hills Golf Club’s Eisenhower course to earn one of four spots in the Monday qualifier for this week’s Northern Trust Open — which is no easy feat in the 18-hole shootout against a 100-plus player field that could easily be mistaken for a regular PGA Tour stop.
“It was like a Tour event,” said Compton in a media conference on Wednesday at Riviera Country Club. “Obviously you had 71 players that have Nationwide or PGA Tour status, but in the end, it’s always still a number. Whether you’re playing against Tiger Woods or Phil Mickelson or whoever. It’s always going to be 66, 65, 64, so it doesn’t matter who. You’ve just got to shoot a number.”
In other words, you best get to a fast start and hope to jump on the birdie train for a chance at qualifying through the Monday.
It was not only Compton’s first competitive round of the year, it was also the first since PGA Tour Q-School, where he finished 100th to get conditional status on the Nationwide Tour. Battling a cold for the last three weeks, Compton was unsure whether he should play — even the Saturday before when he was supposed to leave.
“My caddie and friend, Phil, was the one that really convinced me to — he said, ‘Hey you’re a professional golfer, you need to get on a plane and go,” said Compton.
Compton signed up for the Monday qualifier because he’d been home for the past few months and watching his peers on TV.
“I was just kind of sitting home, eating popcorn, watching everybody play well, so I figured I needed to get something going,” explained Compton. “It is a long shot. Monday qualifying is very difficult, especially on the West Coast, so I wasn’t quite sure whether it was worth coming out. But in the end it worked out great, I’m here and going to try to take advantage of the good week.”
At Q-school Compton got an eye opener from seeing everyone bomb the golf ball, so he spent the off-season working out and put on about 10 pounds, which helped him gain back some club head speed that he had lost during his second transplant in 2008.
“I’ve been working more on trying to build up strength, so it’s hard to work out and then go out and play the same day, so it’s sort of a sacrifice with that,” he said. “But I feel like the days that I’ve gone out and played I’ve been doing good. You know, I won’t know until obviously I play this week and see how it goes. I feel pretty good about it.”