PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem announced on Wednesday that two-time heart transplant recipient Erik Compton was awarded the first-ever PGA Tour Courage Award. Most of us are familiar with Compton’s inspiring story — the fact he’s alive, let alone playing professional golf at the highest level, is pretty incredible.
Here’s the media release:
Erik Compton awarded inaugural PGA TOUR Courage AwardTwo-time heart transplant recipient and PGA TOUR memberto play season-opening Frys.com Open this weekSan Martin, Calif. – Commissioner Tim Finchem announced today that the PGA TOUR has awarded the inaugural PGA TOUR Courage Award to two-time heart transplant recipient Erik Compton, who recently completed his second season on TOUR.The PGA TOUR Courage Award is presented to a player who, through courage and perseverance, has overcome extraordinary adversity, such as personal tragedy or debilitating injury or illness, to make a significant and meaningful contribution to the game of golf. The Courage Award includes a $25,000 charitable contribution to be distributed to a charity of the award recipient’s choice; this year’s contribution will be shared by the Cardiovascular Institute of Miami and the Arnold Palmer Medical Center Foundation at Compton’s request.“Erik’s story is a remarkable one in the fact he has overcome extraordinary odds to not only survive, but thrive,” said Finchem, speaking from the Frys.com Open. “In recent years, he has started a family with wife Barbara and daughter Petra, won a Web.com Tour event and played two years on the PGA TOUR. With Erik’s show of perseverance and courage, along with his charitable work to encourage organ donation, he is a very fitting recipient of the inaugural PGA TOUR Courage Award.”The donation to the Cardiovascular Institute of Miami will support the Advanced Heart Failure and Pulmonary Hypertension Program at the South Miami Heart Center at South Miami Hospital in honor of Dr. Javier Jimenez. The Arnold Palmer Medical Center Foundation gift honors the host and namesake of the Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by MasterCard, who awarded Compton with a Sponsor Exemption to his event early in Compton’s career.“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,” said Compton. “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.”When Compton was 9 years old, he was diagnosed with viral cardiomyopathy, a condition that has forced him to undergo two heart transplants, the first being in 1992 at the age of 12. The Miami native began playing golf as part of his rehabilitation, and Compton went on to become the 1998 American Junior Golf Association Co-Player of the Year, a 2001 second-team All-America selection at the University of Georgia and a member of the 2001 United States Walker Cup Team.After playing the Web.com Tour full-time in 2002, 2005, 2006 and 2007, Compton underwent a second transplant in 2008 after he suffered a heart attack and, with no one around, was forced to drive himself to the hospital. Six months later, he played and made the cut at the PGA TOUR’s Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals Classic as a Sponsor Exemption. Compton won the 2011 Mexico Open on the Web.com Tour and later earned his PGA TOUR card for 2012 after finishing 13th on the season-ending money list. In 2013, he earned his first career top-10 finish, a tie for fourth at The Honda Classic, and remained exempt for the 2013-14 PGA TOUR Season as he finished inside the top 100 in the FedExCup standings.Compton is involved with the Transplant Foundation and Donate Life America. With nearly 120,000 individuals awaiting an organ transplant, Compton’s efforts with Donate Life America aim to help raise awareness of organ donation and transplantation.He is scheduled to play this week at the Frys.com Open, the first event of the 2013-14 PGA TOUR Season.
COMISSIONER FINCHEM: We’re delighted really to announce that the PGA TOUR has awarded the inaugural PGA TOUR Courage Award to Eric Compton, who recently completed his second season here on TOUR. This award will be presented from time to time going forward to a player who through their courage and perseverance has overcome significant adversity, such as personal tragedy or debilitating injury or illness, and who has made a significant contribution in dealing with those kind of challenges to the game of golf.
Having had two heart transplants since the age of nine years old, most recent in ’08, Eric’s story is a remarkable one in the fact that he has overcome extraordinary odds to not only survive, but to thrive, particularly in sports.
In recent years, he has started a family with his wife Barbara and daughter Petra, and he’s won a Web.com Tour event and played two years on the PGA TOUR, finishing inside the top 100 in the FedExCup just this past season.
With his perseverance and courage along with the charitable work he has done to encourage organ donation, he’s a very fitting recipient of the inaugural PGA TOUR Courage Award.
The courage award includes a $25,000 charitable contribution to be distributed to a charity of the award recipient’s choice. This year’s contribution will be shared by the Cardiovascular Institute of Miami and the Arnold Palmer Medical Center Foundation in Florida, both at Eric’s request.
Congratulations, Eric. Let me just say that in addition to the uniqueness of your history, that day in and day out you handle yourself the way we like to see PGA TOUR players do. You contribute a lot to the image of the PGA TOUR, which is our largest asset.
So we are available to answer questions, and so is Eric.
THE MODERATOR: Eric, can we just get some comments?
ERIC COMPTON: Yeah. He covered a lot. It’s a very quiet room, but I would say it’s a very special moment for me. When you guys did call and let me know that I was awarded the Courage Award, I actually walked around the block and had a moment to myself. I was very emotional about it, because I feel like this is what I worked basically my whole life to basically receive status back on the PGA TOUR, but to be acknowledged by the players and also by the board and to receive such a great award.
I know we talked earlier about the comeback award, and I feel like it’s all combined into one. It’s been a huge comeback for me, not only for me to be able to share the award with myself, but for those that were around me when I was in the hospital, my coaches, my family close friends, and even close friends on the PGA TOUR to be back here.
So that’s why I felt it was necessary to donate to the Arnold Palmer Hospital who has been a great support of me early on in my career when I was in my early 20s to get some exemptions there. And not only that, but to visit the hospital and spend time with Arnold Palmer.
And also to give back to the hospital in Miami and some of doctors that were there that saved my life. So for all those that are at home that are aware of what I’ve gone through, it’s sort of a courage award for the whole family in Miami.
So I really appreciate what you’ve done for the TOUR and giving us an opportunity to get here. As you talked earlier about the Web.com, I came up through there and was able to basically get to my mecca, my dream of playing on the PGA TOUR through that.
When you receive an award through the PGA TOUR – I’ve received some other awards – I feel like this is the best award I’ve ever received just because of the acknowledgment of — I’m a Courage Award from another 156 players that could have been chose from, and not just other, I guess, recipients or transplant recipients.
So it’s just a great feeling. It’s actually motivated me to want to play even better this year and win out here. So that’s the ultimate goal, to win out here. I really appreciate you guys giving me the motivation, because I’m glad that other people see the hard work I’ve been doing with the stuff of the golf course as well through Donate Life.
The PGA TOUR has given me such access and avenue to make a difference for other people that are off the golf course that have gone through my situation.
So I hope one day there is another Courage Award recipient of somebody who has had a transplant or something similar that I’ve had happen to me being out here on the PGA TOUR.