Erik Compton has dealt with a lot of adversity in his life, so outlasting the weather delays to win the Nationwide Tour’s Mexico Open on Sunday was something he was ready to handle. Compton entered the final round two strokes behind the leaders, but eight birdies offset by one lone bogey was good enough to finish the tournament two shots ahead of Richard H. Lee and three ahead of Will Wilcox.
The former University of Georgia standout posted a 7-under 65 on the final day to reach 17-under-par 271 and collect his first Nationwide Tour title. More importantly, he collected a check for $126,000, which pushed him to No. 2 in the season money standings. The two-time heart transplant recipient now has $215,709 in 2011 earnings and all but assured he will earn his PGA Tour card by finishing in the top 25 on the season-ending money list.
“This tournament has kind of summed up my life,” said Compton. “There was a lot of adversity to overcome in this tournament, just like what I’ve dealt with personally. To win this is everything to me. I never thought I’d play golf again, at least not at this level, and I proved to myself I’m more than just a guy with two heart transplants.”
The 31-year-old had his first heart transplant in 1992 and then his second in 2008. Five months after having the second transplant, he tied for 60th at the Children’s Miracle Network Classic on the PGA Tour. From that point to the start of this season, he got into events by playing in Monday qualifiers or receiving sponsor exemptions.
“I do get a lot of opportunities to play in PGA Tour events because of my story,” he said. “But now that I’ve won out here and I’ve pretty much secured my Tour card I’ll get into events on that alone. I’ve been playing professionally since I was 20 years old and never won, so I feel like it’s a monkey off my back.”
Compton was conditionally exempt at the start of the year but strong finishes early in the season -- ties for fourth at the Panama Claro Championship and the Fresh Express Classic -- gave him special temporary membership and the option to pick his schedule. Entering the week, he had six top-25 finishes through eight events.
“To start off the season like I did set up the ground work,” said Compton, who is playing in the PGA Tour’s AT&T National next week on a sponsor’s exemption. “This win has put me over the top. This is exactly what I needed. To think of what I went through and to have all the support and love of everyone around me; it’s almost unreal.”
“The guys who see me inside the ropes see me as a regular golfer,” he said. “But at the end of the day when I put my head down I realize how lucky I am. To be able to say I’ll be playing on the PGA Tour only four years after my heart transplant is unbelievable. I don’t really know what my future is in life; hopefully I can get a win out on Tour now.”
Final Round Notes:
--The final round was suspended from 3:20-5:515 p.m. due to dangerous weather in the area. In all, play was suspended for a total of 12 hours and two minutes over the last week.
--Richard H. Lee (68-69-67-69) was the only player to break 70 all four rounds. … Will Wilcox led the field in birdies this week with 25. … Martin Flores was the big mover on Sunday. He began the round tied for 31st and posted 6-under 66 to finish 11-under 277 and tied for 11th.