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Heart transplant recipient Compton delighted with Open

By Andrew Both

PINEHURST North Carolina (Reuters) - Double heart transplant recipient Erik Compton never envisaged contending for a major championship.

But on Sunday, he defied the odds to finish tied for second at the U.S. Open.

“It’s a dream come true. It's huge (to) go from where I was a few years ago,” Compton told reporters.

“I've been on my back twice and I never thought I would ever leave the house. Now I just finished second at the U.S. Open.

“I don't think anybody would have ever thought I would do that, not even myself. So you can't ever write yourself off, you just can't give up.”

Compton was the only player to mount even the hint of a challenge to Martin Kaymer in the final round at Pinehurst.

He got within four strokes with a birdie at the eighth hole, but could get no closer as he battled on to finish locked with American Rickie Fowler, eight strokes behind winner Kaymer.

Compton was nine when he was diagnosed with viral cardiomyopathy, a condition where the heart muscle is inflamed and unable to pump blood as hard as it should.

He underwent his first transplant in 1992 at the age of 12.

In 2007 he suffered a heart attack and drove himself to hospital. Seven months later, he had his second transplant.

He said he cannot compare his transplants with golf.

“It's a different kind of pressure. It's exciting pressure but I'm relieved to be done,” he said.

“It's a scary golf course, every hole is scary, and I felt like I did a great job of avoiding a disaster this week.

“I think I showed the world today that I'm capable of playing good golf under extreme pressure and heat.”

It was just the second major appearance for Compton, 34, who almost did not even make it to Pinehurst, barely advancing from sectional qualifying in Ohio two weeks ago.

“When I assess what I did this week, I think there's still some room for improvement and maybe I scared myself into thinking that I can actually play this game,” he said.

“I'm just so thrilled to be here and playing at this level and I think I finally had that feeling of putting myself on the map.

“And now I just got to keep going out and trying my but I don't have anything to really prove to anybody anymore.

“If I never played golf again for the rest of my life, I think that I have made my mark in this game.”

(Reporting by Andrew Both; editing by Julian Linden)

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