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On 3rd heart, Compton on verge of fulfilling dream

FILE - In this July 29, 2010, file photo, Erik Compton looks back at a chip shot that just missed the hole for eagle on the 17th green during the first round of the Greenbrier Classic golf tournament at Greenbrier in White Sulphur Springs, W.Va. Two-time heart transplant recipient Compton won the Mexico Open for his first Nationwide Tour title, closing with a 7-under 65 on Sunday for a two-stroke victory. (AP Photo/Steve Helber, File)

FILE - In this July 29, 2010, file photo, Erik Compton looks back at a chip shot that just missed the hole for eagle on the 17th green during the first round of the Greenbrier Classic golf tournament at Greenbrier in White Sulphur Springs, W.Va. Two-time heart transplant recipient Compton won the Mexico Open for his first Nationwide Tour title, closing with a 7-under 65 on Sunday for a two-stroke victory. (AP Photo/Steve Helber, File)

NEWTOWN SQUARE, Pa. -- Erik Compton is among the elite on the PGA Tour this week at the AT&T National, even though he has been in a league of his own for about as long as he's been playing golf.

Compton is in the same group with Jim Furyk and Hunter Mahan for the first two days at Aronimink. One of them is a former U.S. Open champion who rose as high as No. 2 in the world. Another played in the Ryder Cup and won a World Golf Championship last year.

And the third?

''Everybody knows I'm the guy with two hearts,'' Compton said.

It's a story that has been told for the last three years, ever since the 31-year-old Compton again defied logic, if not death, by getting a second heart transplant and returning five months later to get through the first stage of Q-school.

And it keeps getting more amazing.

Compton shot a 65 on Sunday in the final round of the Mexican Open and won the Nationwide Tour event, moving him up to No. 2 on the money list and all but assuring he will finish among the top 25 this year and earn his card on the PGA Tour.

His identity won't change. He will always be the guy who after his second transplant said, ''I've been dead. Twice.''

Compton wouldn't have it any other way. The attention he receives whenever he plays allows him to spread the word on organ transplants, such as the heart he received when he was 12, and the second heart he was given on May 20, 2008.

''The doctors are shocked and people in the transplant world are shocked,'' Compton said. ''I'm shocked because I always said I would be on tour and play, but now it's a reality. My dream is finally coming true, and it couldn't have happened at a better time. I have a new life and I have a bright future, and it's just ... I mean, it's just crazy. I can't even explain it.''

It's even harder to fathom for those who have seen this story unfold.

Charlie DeLucca, head of the Dade Amateur Golf Association in Miami, still remembers when Compton showed up to play and his parents asked if he could take a pull cart. DeLucca was skeptical, unaware that the boy had been diagnosed at age 9 with cardiomyopathy, an enlarging of the heart that hinders its ability to pump blood.

The first transplant occurred a few years later, and DeLucca figured he'd never see him again.

Compton, as he has done his entire life, proved otherwise.

''He's not even supposed to be here,'' DeLucca said. ''He just never lost his determination.''

DeLucca had his eyes glued to the Internet on Sunday as he tried to watch the scores being posted from the Mexican Open. There were a few glitches, and some uncertainty, until it was final. Compton was a winner, and on his way to the PGA Tour.

''The second greatest thing is that he won,'' DeLucca said. ''The first great thing is he's alive. And now, we're really going to see what he's going to do. He's going to play on the biggest stage. He can play. It's not luck. He's been a winner all his life.''