Golf

Miami golfer Erik Compton helps raise funds for organ donation awareness

PGA golfer and two-time heart transplant recipient Erik Compton films a Public Service Announcement to raise awareness for organ donation with Donate Life America on Monday, Feb. 16, 2015, in Los Angeles.
PGA golfer and two-time heart transplant recipient Erik Compton films a Public Service Announcement to raise awareness for organ donation with Donate Life America on Monday, Feb. 16, 2015, in Los Angeles. Invision for Genentech

When you have friends who sincerely want to help you, that can be something special.

And Erik Compton, a regular on the PGA Tour from Miami, found out recently he has plenty of friends.

This past Monday, Compton had a few celebrity friends, including former Heat star Ray Allen and golfers Chi-Chi Rodriguez, Pat Perez, Jim Furyk and Gonzalo-Fernandez Castano giving him a helping hand in staging a golf fund-raiser.

He also had some 150 other friends there, many of them newfound. Those are the people who showed up to play in a golf tournament and fund-raiser at International Links-Melreese Country Club to raise money that will go toward making people aware of organ donation and in the medical treatment and research for transplant patients.

There are thousands upon thousands of golf fund-raising tournaments throughout the nation every year, but for Compton this one was personal.

That’s because Compton, 35, knows a lot – maybe too much for his liking – about organ donation and transplants. He has undergone two heart transplants – the first at age 12 and the second just seven years ago.

The fact that he is the only PGA Tour golfer in history to play after a heart transplant is testimony to Compton’s will, persistence and determination.

A year ago, Compton finished in a tie for second at the U.S. Open and also had three top-five PGA Tour finishes.

His recent success has given him a forum to do what he has always wanted to do – make people more aware of the organ donation and transplant process and to raise money for that cause.

“This is special to me,” he said, looking at the crowd that showed up for the event.

Making it more special was the place where the event was held, at International Links. Starting at age 8, that’s where Compton learned to play golf. He was in the First Tee program there and met the DeLuccas, father Charlie Jr. and son Charlie DeLucca III.

“They became like a second dad and brother to me,” he said. “This place is like another home for me.”

So, with the help of The First Tee, the DeLuccas and International Links director and First Tee vice-president John Reed, the fund-raiser was put together. It grew in the planning process, and then grew some more in both size and concept.

“The idea is to help raise awareness for people who have to go through what I went through,” Compton said. “We want to figure out a way to resolve that you can have a transplant and have it be successful for many, many years.”

Much involved over the years in transplant education was Compton’s mother Eli, who works tirelessly through many donor agencies in South Florida.

According to Reed, the initial – and yes, there will be more – Erik Compton Foundation Golf Classic raised around $170,000 to help the donor-recipient process.

The special honoree at the tournament was 15-year-old Anna King, who underwent a heart transplant six months ago. She and Compton teamed up to hit the tournament’s first ball.

“All in all, it was an amazing day,” Reed summed up.

ACE PLACE

Two holes-in-one were made at Oriole Golf Club in Broward County. Getting them were Marc Fournier on a 140-yard par-3 using a 6-iron, and Joe Sparacio, who went with an 8-iron to make an ace on a 120-yard par-3.

DALY THE SENIOR

Look out, Champions Tour. John Daly is probably heading your way in slightly more than a year. The man of drinking fame, multiple marriages and the most audacious, eye-blinding pants ever seen on a golf course will be eligible in April of 2016 when he turns 50. Daly lost his PGA Tour card in 2006.

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