Erik Compton holds a distinction not of his choosing, but one that has inspired and touched millions. He has had two heart transplants in his life, and is the only heart-transplant recipient ever to play the PGA Tour.
Compton was diagnosed with viral cardiomyopathy when he was nine years old. He received his first transplant at age 12, and his second following a major heart attack in 2008.
Three years later, he earned his PGA Tour card.
Now, the United States Sports Academy has honored Compton with the 2012 Mildred “Babe” Didrikson Zaharias Courage Award, presented annually to an individual who demonstrates courageous action in overcoming adversity to excel in sport.
Compton has made 16 cuts and has one top-25 finish. He finished 137th in FedExCup points. And he has used his story to help raise awareness and educate Americans about organ donation.
“I hope that by sharing my experience others can see the importance of finding out more about organ donation,” Compton said. “After my second transplant, I knew I wasn’t done with golf and consider when I made the cut in the 2008 Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals Classic less than six months later to start my comeback. That makes receiving this award all that much more meaningful to me.”
Awarded annually since 1985, past recipients of this award include Pat Summitt, Rocky Blier, Bethany Hamilton, Joe Torre, Scott Hamilton, Gail Devers and Roy Campanella.