Titleist Brand Ambassador and two-time heart transplant recipient Erik Compton was awarded the 2012 Mildred “Babe” Didrikson Zaharias Courage Award by the United States Sports Academy on Wednesday. Compton is playing in the PGA TOUR’s season-ending Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals Classic in Orlando this week.
The Courage Award is presented annually “to an individual who demonstrates courageous action in overcoming adversity to excel in sport. This individual should exhibit the qualities of courage, perseverance, grace, and strength in sport achievement.”
Compton is the only professional golfer in the world to compete with a transplanted heart. The 33-year-old has had three different hearts in his life but that hasn’t stopped him from achieving his dream of earning his TOUR card and playing on the PGA Tour. Zaharias, too, was a golfer, who was diagnosed with colon cancer in 1953, and one month after undergoing surgery, she won her 10th and final major with a U.S. Women’s Open Championship.
“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 at this tournament all that much more meaningful to me.”
The PGA Tour honored Compton for coming back from heart surgery during The Masters in April 2009, awarding him the Ben Hogan Award.