Compton fires final-round-best 68 to advance to second stage of Q-school

It was not a miracle along the lines of living and playing golf after a second heart transplant. But what Erik Compton accomplished Friday ranks as quite the feat, regardless of the physical hurdles he must endure.

Compton shot the low round of a windy, blustery day in Key Biscayne, Fla., and managed to grab the last spot to advance in first-stage PGA Tour qualifying at Crandon Golf Club.

"It's just unbelievable," Compton said by phone as he was about to celebrate with his family at Joe's Stone Crabs in Miami. "I thought I needed to throw up a 66 today. The weather was incredible, it was blowing so hard. I got some better results out there. I didn't hit it much different [than the first three days]. I hit a couple more greens. I didn't hit any of those left shots I was hitting.

"It's just unreal. To make it by one shot. ... this is better than winning. Everybody thought I was out of it."

Compton, 28, who on May 20 had his second heart transplant and was granted the use of a cart during qualifying under the Americans With Disabilities Act, opened the 72-hole qualifying event with rounds of 76, 75 and 77. His total of 12 over par through 54 holes was seven shots higher than the final qualifying position, which includes the top 23 and ties.

But starting on the back nine, Compton made three birdies to turn in 33. He added another at the par-4 second and was disappointed he could not get in with any more birdies. After signing for his 68, Compton figured he would miss the cutoff by one shot.

"But it's the pressure of Q-school, and there is the choke factor," Compton said.

Sure enough, the qualifying number rose to 8 over. It had been 5 over through three rounds. Compton's total of 296 was good for a seven-way tie for 23rd.

"What he did today was phenomenal," said Charlie DeLucca, the executive director of Miami's First Tee program who has known and worked with Compton since before his first heart transplant at age 12. "It's unbelievable. He's been playing real, real good. He just got nervous. ... This was a huge test. Christ, he just lapped the field today to get in. What he had to do more than anything was convince himself."

Compton said he got some inspiration on Friday morning when he was watching the Golf Channel, which had a report about his progress and said he had given it a good effort, but was likely to fall short.

"My wife [Barbara] said, 'No, you're going to make it. You're not going to fall short,'" Compton said. "That motivated me. I figured I was already out of it, but I played for pride. I was trying to get my game in shape."

Compton, who said he is working on a possible sponsor exemption into a PGA Tour event, advances to the second stage of qualifying, which means he will be in one of four 72-hole tournaments. He expects to play in the qualifier at Callaway Gardens in Columbus, Ga., Nov. 12-15, but the PGA Tour has final say on where each competitor tees it up.

From there, the top finishers advance to the PGA Tour Qualifying Tournament's 90-hole, six-day final in California.

"It's just unbelievable," Compton said.

Bob Harig covers golf for ESPN.com. He can be reached at BobHarig@gmail.com.