David Toms Award Goes to Lower
June 10, 2011
By PGA TOUR Staff
STILLWATER, Okla.—The night before Easter in 2005, Justin Lower’s father, Tim, was involved in a car accident on the way to pick his son up from golf practice. His father lost control of the vehicle and it crashed into a telephone pole. The car flipped and landed upside down, killing Lower’s younger brother, Chris, instantly. Tim—who was intoxicated at the time of the accident—died a short time later.
Lower, who turned 16 the week after the accident, seemingly lost his will to do almost any activities after the accident. His life was not the same and all felt meaningless—except his drive to play golf.
Lower says in some ways that golf saved him. While he felt that by playing golf he could keep his father’s memory alive and continue the dream that they shared of Justin competing at a high level, he also realized that his father and brother would not be there to share in this dream.
The goal was for Justin to someday compete on the PGA TOUR. His father was his coach, and Tim, with Chris following closely behind, would attend all of Justin’s tournaments. In his first tournament after the accident, Lower searched the gallery for their faces. While they were not there physically, Lower felt their presence as he posted a bogey-free 64 and won the event by seven shots.
The will to focus on academics, however, continued to be a challenge. As a result, Justin’s grades suffered, and despite claiming the Ohio High School Athletic Association Division II state championship, no college programs recruited Lower.
Shortly before graduation a friend suggested Lower attend Malone University, a Christian liberal arts university in Canton, Ohio. Lower had met the school’s golf coach, Ken Hyland, when he was younger, and he decided to give the coach a call. Hyland offered Lower a chance.
Lower said his opportunity at Malone was a sign that better days were ahead. The accident caused him to question his faith but while at Malone Lower turned his life over to Jesus Christ and radically transformed his life.
Despite the events in his life, Lower said he feels blessed, believing the choices he’s made since the accident have shaped him into who he is today. Lower credits his mother, Hyland and close friends with helping to turn around his life.
With that adversity in mind, Justin received the David Toms Award that annually goes to the men’s collegiate golfer who has overcome adversity to achieve collegiate excellence.
“I am very humbled and honored to be named the David Toms Award winner for 2011,” said Lower. “It is another reminder of why I play the game of golf, for them and a dream that we shared.”
Lower excelled for Malone, claiming medalist honors at the NAIA Championships in 2010 as well as being selected as the NAIA’s Jack Nicklaus Award recipient as player of the year that same season. Despite his earlier academic struggles Lower became the first member of his family to graduate from college.
“I want to congratulate Justin for overcoming so much in his life both on and off the golf course,” said Toms. “I know he has been a great inspiration for both his teammates and his classmates, and he certainly has a bright future ahead. He has had to show a lot of maturity at an early age, and I’m proud that he is winning an award named after me.”
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