Truro golfer lands award for amazing return from open-heart surgery
TRURO - The mulligan Eric Banks needed during his Tuesday appearance on the Golf Channel's Morning Drive was fitting.
Truro's Eric Banks was named this year's recipient of the David Toms Award, presented annually to a NCAA golfer who has successfully overcome adversity, on Tuesday. The announcement was made during his appearance on the Golf Channel's Morning Drive program. Photo courtsey UF Communications
The 21-year-old Truro resident and third-year member of the Florida Gators took on Chris DiMarco, a PGA Tour player and Gators alumnus, in a closest to the pin competition on the studio's simulator. Banks' first shot sailed into the water. His second landed in the middle of the island green. It was symbolic of the mulligan Banks needed in June 2012, when he underwent open-heart surgery in Halifax, taking an extra shot at life. He's made the most of it.
On the live program, Banks was honoured for his remarkable return to the course by being named this year's recipient of the David Toms Award, presented annually to an NCAA golfer who has successfully overcome adversity.
"It's pretty sweet," Banks said. "I'm very excited to win it."
Banks had the surgery in June 2012 to repair a hole between his left and right atria. The right side of his heart was also three times its normal size while the left wasn't functioning properly. The problems were unknown to him until they were discovered by doctors during his freshman physical at the University of Florida in the fall of 2011.
Following the surgery, Banks was laid up for nearly two months, unable to physically do anything more than a short walk. It took nearly four months before he could hit 50-yard shots and he was finally able to return to action for the Gators in February 2013. He went on to post three top-25 finishes in four starts on the NCAA circuit and went on to qualify for the Canadian Open last July. The comeback garnered him the University of Florida's comeback player of the year award at the school's athletic awards ceremony a year ago.
Banks said going through such a gruelling recovery process is why the David Toms Award means so much to him.
"My family and close friends know what I went through for those four or five months but it's pretty special to get an award like this," he said. "It doesn't take away the pain I went through but it makes me feel great about what I've been able to do since the surgery."
This year, Banks is coming off a tie for 47th in his most recent outing for the Gators at the Valspar Invitational last week after shooting 6-over-219. Earlier this month he finished 20th with a 1-over-217 performance at the Chris Schenkel Invitational and tied for 18th at 7-over-217 at the SunTrust Gator Invitational in February.
Banks said the experience has changed his whole perspective on life. Someone who used to stress over deadlines and demands is now much more relaxed and easy-going.
"You just have to enjoy life and smell the roses along the way," he said. "Not everything in life is about deadlines. You just have to have fun and be a good person."
Case in point was his experience on Morning Drive. Banks showed up at the Orlando studio more than an hour early, and after getting makeup done, he took time to soak up the experience and even got to visit the network's control room, which powers its national broadcasts.
"I didn't think I would be on that show unless I made the PGA Tour or something," Banks said. "It was an awesome experience and being on TV, surprisingly I wasn't nervous at all."
It showed as Banks talked at length about his recovery and his life since the surgery.
"I don't take anything for granted anymore," he said.
On Twitter: @tdnmatt