CROMWELL, Conn. -- Forgive Erik Compton if he looks a little tired this week at the Travelers Championship, or if he doesn’t play as well as he did at the U.S. Open.
He didn’t get to bed until 4:30 a.m. after his runner-up finish at Pinehurst, trying to let the accomplishment sink in. Days later it still hasn’t.
He’s also still responding to some of the more-than 300 text messages he got after authoring the feel-good story of the year.
“The best is when you get a number and it doesn't say who it is and it's a long message,” the double heart transplant recipient said. “You never want to say who is this, but I've had a lot of great friends reach out to me.”
Keegan Bradley left Compton a note in his locker before the final round at Pinehurst, a pretty cool gesture considering Bradley was in contention himself and trying to beat Compton.
Miami Heat guard Ray Allen also called and he and Compton talked about visualizing shots. Not a bad source to have at your disposal, the NBA’s all-time three-point king and arguably the greatest shooter ever, the week before the toughest tournament of the year.
The list included Alonzo Mourning, the retired NBA center who spent most of his 15 years in the NBA in Miami and had undergone a transplant of his own, getting a new kidney before returning to the Heat and winning a championship in 2006.
“It's really cool to have a lot of guys who have been very encouraging on my story and really rooting for me,” said Compton. "I love other sports. I've always considered myself a sports guy. It's really neat.”
So of course is his story, which tugs at the heartstrings no matter how often it’s repeated.
At age 9, he was diagnosed with viral cardiomyopathy -- a condition where the heart muscle is inflamed and unable to pump as hard as it should. Three years later, he received his first transplant.
One day 16 years later Compton felt what he thought might have been a cramp. But it was the beginning of a massive heart attack.
He drove himself to the hospital, calling family and friends along the way to say goodbye in case he didn’t make it. Luckily he did and soon after underwent a second transplant.
By the time he got to Pinehurst at age 34, Compton, winless on the PGA TOUR, felt like his whole life had prepared him for this moment, even though it was just his second career U.S. Open (he missed the cut in his first at Pebble Beach in 2010).
Then a rare thing happened: The script actually played out (unlike, say, Phil Mickelson completing the career Grand Slam there). The only thing that would have been better is if Compton had won.
That he didn’t doesn’t matter. The stage he performed on and the way he did does, and it gives Compton the opportunity to spread his message to even more people now.
Compton has been visiting hospitals since he turned pro and over the last three years as part of a partnership Genentech and Donate Life. He made another one Tuesday, visiting Hartford Hospital before he tees it up in this week’s Travelers Championship.
“I think I try to let the kids know to have a wild imagination and have big dreams because I think all of us in this room have put ourselves and our mind in a bigger place, and we aim to go there, and if you don't have a vision in your mind of where you want to be, then you're lost,” he said. “And when you're in a hospital room and that's a very scary moment when you're lost, and kids are putting their faith in the doctors and the parents, and sometimes doctors can be very scary. When somebody comes in who has overcome some of the similar things that they're going through, it gives them a breath of fresh air and something to dream for.”
Compton never stopped dreaming, either. But he has also learned something about himself along the way.
He learned how to handle himself under the glare of major championship golf. He learned that his long game is a strength. He learned that for all the thousands of shots hit each week on TOUR it’s about what’s on the inside.
Those are lessons he can take a long way.
“I don't really know how much more I can elaborate on the fact that I'm so lucky and blessed to be this far in my dream,” Compton said. “But I have put myself in my mind where I am today, so I'm living that.”
And living well, even if he is a little tired.