Tuesday April 1, 2014Eric Banks Named 2014 David Toms Award Winner
Florida men’s golfer Eric Banks has been named the recipient of the 2014 David Toms Award by the Golf Coaches Association of America this afternoon.
The David Toms Award is presented each year to a men’s collegiate golfer who has overcome adversity to achieve collegiate excellence.
Banks underwent open heart surgery in June 2012 but has returned to Florida as a standout student and golfer. The junior currently has the second-best scoring average on the team (74.08) and has competed in eight of the nine tournaments Florida has participated in this season.
While undergoing his freshman physical at Florida during the fall of 2011, cardiologists discovered a second beat of Banks heart. During follow-up questions Banks told doctors he experienced minor shortness of breath and an occasional rapid heart rate that would last seconds then resolve. Dr. Beard ordered more tests and over the coming months Banks underwent many echocardiograms and two transesophageal echocardiography (TEE). It was determined he had Atrial Septal Defect.
Not yet understanding the seriousness of his condition Banks focused on his studies and golf, returning home to Truro, Canada on winter break to undergo further tests. The results of the test were not available until after Banks returned to Gainesville and was about to get started with spring golf. Prior to the first tournament, Banks’ parents informed him that he would need open heart surgery to repair his heart defect.
Despite the news, Banks competed in every event that spring and returned home two weeks after the NCAA Championships for his surgery.
Banks and his family had to work through the dangers of the procedure, which included paralysis, stroke and death. The operation would involve splitting open the sternum, placing Banks on the heart-lung machine and then performing the repair on his heart. It was an emotional time for the then 19-year old Banks. He considers the morning of his surgery as the loneliest of his life.
After the four-hour surgery, Banks had a tube removed from his throat but then experienced multiple lung collapses which required the tube being put back in place.
Banks battled his next few days in the hospital as he suffered from excruciating pain and was unable to move from his bed for several days.
Once he returned home, Banks began his rehabilitation with stretching exercise and cardio. In the fall of 2012, although he was still recovering, Banks chose to return to Florida for the fall semester. At first, Banks was still bothered by an erratic heart rate and blood pressure and was only allowed to chip and putt. By late September, he was able to take full swings and increased his cardio and stretching.
At a check-up in the fall, Banks was informed that his heart was at a normal size and stroke rate and by the turn of spring began qualifying for tournaments for the Gators.
Banks earned a spot in Florida’s first spring event that year, however head coach Buddy Alexander played him as an individual for precaution due to a 36-hole day. Banks played without incident and finished the tournament in a tie for 10th place.
Banks went on to compete in every tournament last spring, has proved to be a regular in the Gator lineup and maintains a 3.46 GPA while majoring in economics.
“I am honored to receive the 2014 David Toms Award,” commented Banks. “Overcoming open-heart surgery was by far the hardest thing I’ve had to do. The help of my family, friends, coaches and continued support of my hometown aided me immensely through this rough time. A special thanks to my cardiac surgeon: Camille Hancock Friesen who preformed a great procedure and added roughly 30 years to my life. I am forever indebted to you and to all those who have helped me along the way. This award would not have been possible without all the support I have received, thanks again and congratulations to all the nominees!”
Banks received the Toms Award plaque, appeared live on the Golf Channel’s Morning Drive and will be invited to compete in the Patriot All-America Invitational in Arizona for his recognition as the 2014 David Toms Award winner.