WESTON, Fla. (AP) _ Erik Compton is believed to be a golf pioneer in a medical way _ the first heart transplant recipient to qualify for the U.S. Amateur Championship.

The 18-year-old finished second in a two-day regional qualifier at Weston Hills Country Club.

``I've been dreaming about going to the Amateur,'' said Compton, the nation's top-ranked junior golfer. ``I've been working all summer to do what I did today.''

His qualification sent U.S. Golf Association officials scrambling to check their records for other transplant patients who have competed in the U.S. Amateur.

``We think he's the first,'' said Craig Smith, the USGA's media relations manager. ``There have been other transplant recipients to qualify, but we don't believe there has ever been a heart-transplant recipient.''

The U.S. Amateur will be played Aug. 24-30 at Oak Hill Country Club in Rochester, N.Y.

Compton, a Miami resident, began to have heart problems after contracting a cold when he was 9 years old. He eventually was diagnosed with dilated congestive cardiomyopathy, a disease which made his heart steadily enlarge and weaken.

At age 12, he underwent surgery to replace the weakened heart with one from a young auto-accident victim. At the time, he was the youngest recipient ever at Miami's Jackson Memorial Hospital.

The identity of the donor is protected by confidentiality laws, but Compton and his parents have exchanged letters with the donor's family through Florida's donor aftercare program.

``The person who gave me this second chance, I'm taking him with me,'' Compton said. ``I'm taking this person on a journey some people never get a chance to go on.''

Compton takes four drugs daily to fight tissue rejection, and doctors say his long-term prognosis is good. He is headed to Georgia this fall on a golf scholarship.

Compton opened the qualifier with a 3-under-par 69 and followed with a 72.