Heart transplant survivor Erik Compton makes Dunhill debut

Erik Compton is set to get his first taste of Scottish golf this week at the age of 35 Picture: Getty Images
Erik Compton is set to get his first taste of Scottish golf this week at the age of 35 Picture: Getty Images
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UNLIKE Jordan Spieth, who was chasing his career Grand Slam at the time time, the American contingent teeing up in the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship has arrived in Scotland pretty much under the radar.

Comprising a dozen players, it’s probably the biggest group of US professionals to compete in the pro-am event in its 15-year history and for the likes of John Daly and Stewart Cink it’s an opportunity to reminisce about Open Championship victories at St Andrews and Turnberry respectively.

For Erik Compton, on the other hand, tackling Carnoustie, Kingsbarns and St Andrews this week will be a completely next experience. At 35, he is playing golf in Scotland for the first time.

“It is going to be a lot of fun,” he said. “I was hoping to play the British Open at St Andrews this year, but it didn’t work out due to the fact I didn’t qualify for that.

“I’ve watched the Dunhill Links over the years, seen all the celebrities that play in it and also the warm clothing that people normally have to wear in Scotland at this time of the year.

“I’ve watched the Dunhill Links over the years, seen all the celebrities that play in it and also the warm clothing that people normally have to wear in Scotland at this time of the year (though not so far on this occasion due to the practice rounds taking place in sun-kissed autumnal weather).”

Daly, the 1995 Open winner, is making his first appearance in Scotland since he suffered a recent health scare. Compton, meanwhile, feels lucky to be alive after undergoing two heart transplants in his life.

“I’m 35 with a beautiful family and to be able to make a mark, both in the game and out it with my foundation is a dream come true for me,” he admitted.

“It’s been hard for me to play a world schedule simply because of my health as rest is key for me. That’s why I’ve focused more on the PGA Tour. It’s also easier to play around the world when you’ve got a win under your belt as that gives you a two-year exemption.

“I did play some European Tour events at one point. The Dubai Desert Classic and Qatar Masters, for instance. I also won the Hassan Trophy in Morocco. It wasn’t an official European Tour event then (2004), but there were a lot of good Europeans in the field. Realistically, that was the start of my career.”

He’s recorded seven victories worldwide and finished runner-up to Martin Kaymer in last year’s US Open at Pinehurst.

“That was obviously very special and I’d like to think I can give myself more opportunities to win a major,” he said. “To me the hardest thing is actually getting invitations for them as I’ve only played in four or five in my life.

“The preparation for majors is exciting and I think there are certain courses for majors that would suit my game. I tend to have a good short game, for example. There’s no reason why I can’t go out and play well in another big tournament again, health permitting.

“The way I look at it is maybe different to a lot of other players as all tournaments are big to me. The Dunhill, for instance, is a big event for, as it the Frys.com Open. To me, they are all big tournaments.

“This week I’m really looking forward to playing these three great courses. I was injured towards the end of my PGA Tour season. That left me with a sour taste but I’m starting to feel better, which is great. I can play aggressive this week, have fun and hopefully I can do well.”

Brooks Koepka, the world No 17, spearheads the American challenge in the £3.3 million event, which also seen David Lipsky, Paul Peterson, Ollie Schniederjans, Scott Piercy, Chris Stroud, Sean O’Hair, Pat Perez and Peter Uihlein flying the Stars and Stripes.

“I was surprised myself to learn that there are so many Americans in the field this week and it’s a strong line-up, too,” said Compton. “I think the new wraparound PGA Tour schedule probably has something to do with that but also the fact players are keen to play these links courses.

“Some of the guys guys are maybe making it a trip with their families this week and it’s good for all of us to be competitive with the Fall Series starting soon back home.”