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Els and Compton unite in mission to make an impact

April 23, 2014

By Brian Decker, PGA TOUR Staff

(Photos by: Stan Badz/PGA TOUR)

NEW ORLEANS- It’s no rare sight at a PGA TOUR event to see Ernie Els or Erik Compton on the range with a small group of kids, sharing tips and chatting with parents in between a few dozen high-fives. Els For Autism, The Big Easy’s foundation for autism awareness, and ‘Play Through With Erik Compton,’ Compton’s campaign in support of Donate Life America, have grown into high-profile charitable causes and are a staple among charity clinics at PGA TOUR events.

On Tuesday at the Zurich Classic of New Orleans, the two were side-by-side when Els stopped by to lend a hand with Compton’s ‘Play Through’ clinic, part of the National Donate Life Month initiatives, before conducting his own Els For Autism clinic, part of Autism Awareness Month.

The parallels might not seem obvious for Els, a literal and figurative giant in the game with four major titles and 19 PGA TOUR wins, and Compton, who is nearing his 100th start in his third full season on TOUR. But it’s hard to find two players in the game who have charitable causes – and stories of hope to support them – closer to the heart than Els and Compton.

“Ernie’s great,” said Compton, whose story as a two-time heart transplant recipient has given him a platform raise awareness for Donate Life and Organ Donation. “He’s been a great ambassador to the game. He cares about people and has a good story to tell too.”

Els is no stranger to sharing stories of hope and encouragement himself. Following his son Ben’s diagnosis with Autism, Els for Autism was founded in 2009 and raises awareness and support for autism and the families affected by it. At the many clinics like the one on Tuesday in New Orleans, the big South African can not only give a high-five or a hug to local kids, but a message of hope and support to parents and families.

“It means everything to me,” Els said of getting a chance to impact people in tournament communities. “My son is severely autistic and some of these kids we work with are the same. Just to get a hug from the kid, to the parent, sometimes that’s something that he doesn’t normally do. When they come here, they get smiles and they get love. I think everyone feels good about it.”

For Compton, sharing a message of hope is crucial, and a message he literally embodies. Compton’s second heart transplant came in 2008, and with his growing platform he’s able to show that anything is possible.

“Some of these kids are young and they’ve just had their transplant,” said Compton. “So they want to know and their parents want to know that they can go on to do some cool stuff. Working with the kids is great, but sometimes when you get to talk to recipients and family members that are waiting, that makes even more of an impact.”

In 2014, ‘Play Through’ will continue to visit PGA TOUR events across the country and highlight the importance of organ donation. Since launching in May 2012, the program has visited Dallas, Columbus, San Francisco, Washington, Orlando, Charlotte, the New York/New Jersey metro area and Boston and seen more than 9.1 million organ donor registrations.

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