HALIFAX – Two years ago yesterday, Eric Banks woke up in a hospital with a renewed shot at life. That was the day his heart began to mend, the scars began to heal and his path to professional golf started over again
It’s a day Banks, a Truro native, describes as the best, yet worst one of his life.
“Thankful for everything that has happened, hopefully stick around for many more!” he tweeted on Wednesday morning.
Eric Banks had a hole in his heart. It went undiagnosed for 19 years, before a doctor at the University of Florida heard an extra thumping in his stethoscope during Banks’ introductory physical. The right side of his heart was three times bigger than the left. He tired easily. He became sick after workouts. He was a heart attack waiting to happen. He was forced to sit out a season after having open-heart surgery.
Today, Banks is healthy and happy, and ready to take the next step in his golf career. He’ll be one of two amateur exemptions to play the Web.com Tour event at Ashburn in Halifax this weekend.
“I’m looking forward to see how my game compares to the other Web.com players,” he said. “I’ve played big tournaments before, but to play near home in front of family and friends will be a bonus.”
With one year left at the University of Florida (NCAA Div. I), Banks is already looking ahead to the future. After leaving the Gators, he plans to remain amateur for a year to play with Team Canada. The following year, he hopes to either hook on with the PGA Canada Tour, or the Web.com Tour – two major development zones for the PGA Tour. The ultimate goal is to land a spot on the big stage within five years.
“Not everybody can be Jordan Spieth or Rickie Fowler,” he laughed, referring to a pair of top-ranking young American golfers who made a quick jump to the PGA.
Banks was busy on Tuesday afternoon, getting a feel for the course he’ll be playing this weekend. With long and wide fairways, conditions at Ashburn will be favourable for the straight-shooting Banks. A lot of it will come down to hitting wedges – a strong part of his game, he said.
Heading into the tournament, which has a $650,000 payout to the winner, Banks can’t help but think back on all the opportunities he’s had with golf.
“Growing up in Canada has been so great for my golfing career,” he said. “You have access to the best coaches, the best courses and the best people.”
Banks is also thankful for all the game has given him off the course. Golf literally saved his life.
“I’ve been really fortunate,” he said. “Had I not gone to Florida, I would have had a much shorter life, that’s for sure.”
It’s been a long road back for Banks, but there’s still a long ways to go before he’s done.
“I’ve come too far to turn back now.”