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February 16 2011

8:03 PM

Compton shoots 66, qualifies

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Chris Condon/PGA TOUR
Erik Compton qualified for his first Northern Trust Open with a 66 in a Monday qualifier.

PACIFIC PALISADES, Calif. -- Erik Compton knew he had to do something soon. After all, he’d been home so long he was starting to get on his wife's nerves.

"(She said) why don't you go somewhere, you're annoying me," Compton said, chuckling at the memory. "The last couple years I've played overseas in Dubai, and I was just kind of sitting home eating popcorn watching everybody play well, so I figured I needed to get something going.

"It is a long shot.  Monday qualifying is very, 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 just try to take advantage of the good week."

Compton shot 66 in the Monday qualifying at the Eisenhower course at Industry Hills Golf Club to earn his spot. He'll be playing in the Northern Trust Open for the first time in his career, as a result.

"It was like a TOUR event," Compton said. "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, so it doesn't really matter."

Many people know Compton's compelling story. He's already had two heart transplants –- the second after he nearly died and was calling his family to say his goodbyes before the procedure. He continues to pursue his dream of playing on the PGA TOUR, and it’s hardly a pipe dream, either.

Steve Stricker, who will defend his title at the Northern Trust Open this week, played a practice round with Compton on Monday and came away impressed.

“I find it amazing that he's able to even play the game from what he's gone through over the course of his life,” Stricker said. “He's got a great attitude, first of all. I think that's what makes him so special is that he's got a great attitude about it.  You know, he doesn't know.  He doesn't know what's going to happen. I said, how long can the heart that you have in, I mean, is there a prognosis for how long it's going to last, or do you get put on a list now for if something were to happen? 

“He just takes it day by day he says and goes with it, and he feels great. … I think a great attitude helps with the whole thing.”

Compton contended through three rounds at The Greenbrier Classic last year, shooting a 63 in the first round but derailing his chances with a 77 in the final. He also reached the final stage of q-school last year and has status on the Nationwide Tour for 2011.

To prepare for the season, which begins next week in Panama, Compton has been working hard on weight-training with a trainer. He said he gained 10 pounds and about 10 mph on his clubhead speed, accelerating more like he did in his early 20s.

"I think last year was a really good year for me, even though on paper I didn't play well on the weekends," said Compton, who made the cut in five of his seven TOUR events. "... It was a little discouraging when I went to finals because I was hoping to get a TOUR card.  The weather was obviously cold, and it was a long golf course and just didn't pan out for me.  But you know, when you're at home and the first part of the season you see Hawaii and you see all the guys playing, you kind of get itching to go out and play.  I'm either working on the boat or doing something other than golf.

"You've got to be patient. I know it's a long year, and I know there will be opportunities through Monday qualifying, and whether I get into a tournament  and then also I have to focus on trying to see (What happens on) the Nationwide Tour. But you can't really plan too far ahead because you've got to take each tournament    something great might happen this week or on a PGA (TOUR) event, and then maybe you have status out here." – Helen Ross

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