adapted from a GolfDigest.com blog post by Ryan Herrington
SHREVEPORT, La. – Junior Billy Shida (Berkeley Lakes, Ga.) was chosen as the inaugural recipient of the David Toms Award, a new honor created by Golf Coaches Association of America (GCAA) and the David Toms Foundation to be given annually to a men's collegiate golfer who has overcome adversity to achieve collegiate excellence. Shida beat out golfers from across all three NCAA divisions, the NAIA and junior college golf to receive the honor.
"Congratulations to Billy for winning the award," said PGA great David Toms. "He has shown a great deal of perseverance to overcome illness and other personal issues to not only excel on the golf course but in the classroom as well. He is a great role model for a lot of his peers in collegiate golf. I know great things are ahead of Billy in his future, and I wish him the best."
An All-Peach Belt Conference (PBC) competitor this season, Shida was diagnosed with Lyme disease in August 2008, then after learning that it had progressed into chronic Lyme disease in March 2009, Shida kept the extent of his illness to just his family and coach.
"I didn't want someone to feel sorry for me," Shida said in an article for GolfDigest.com. "Especially around my teammates. I never wanted the attention for it. If it did come up, I would downplay it."
The disease had a tremendous effect on Shida’s health, producing achy joints, pounding headaches, unforgiving back pain, and bouts of lethargy. Despite the litany of debilitating effects, Shida was a regular starter as a sophomore, pounding out a 74.5 stroke average as one of just three Bobcats to start all 12 events. In addition to the physical pain, Shida battled the sun as well. Tetracycline, the medication used to treat Lyme disease, limits the amount of time one can spend in the sun’s rays.
All of the hard work and difficult treatment began to pay off last fall, as doctors told Shida the disease was in remission.
"I feel so much better," Shida added in the GolfDigest article, an accounting major who has maintained a 3.0 GPA despite the illness. "The back pains are 100 times better. Being a golfer you still sometimes get aches and soreness, but it’s hard to describe how much better I feel. The pain I went through … some days it was difficult to just get around. Since it went into remission, I haven’t had to deal with the back pain. It was something that's not on my mind anymore."
Shida takes an assortment of herbs daily to treat minor discomfort, also serving as a preventative measure should the disease recur. During his worst times, Shida leaned on family to help him cope. Additionally, he credits GCSU head golf coach and associate athletic director Jimmy Wilson for being a mentor and trusted friend.
"Jimmy went to a few doctor’s appointments with me," Shida said. "He's the ultimate encourager."
Wilson was also there when Shida was a freshman and struggled to deal with the separation of his parents (they have since reconciled), a personal matter that caused Shida to be distracted on the course, so much so that he wondered whether he wanted to play the game anymore. In the midst of being treated for Lyme disease, Shida also had three swollen lymph nodes removed from his neck. While there was initial fear of a potential cancer threat, it thankfully was not the case with the nodes testing benign.
A Christian, Shida contends that his faith helped him ultimately persevere through all the troubles he has faced. "Everything happens for a reason and I truly believe that," he said in GolfDigest. "Turning to my faith, I know I was healed through the hands of God. I’ve learned to really cherish the health that I do have. I know how it feels to struggle to get up in the morning and [when] it hurts to swing a club. My entire outlook on life has been altered because of all this. I like to say I’m a better friend, a better person, and it's made me a more mature individual."
Shida’s maturity has also shown on the course in 2009-10, a year he spent with a 73.3 stroke average and four top-10 finishes in his 11 starts. His best finish came in the Kiawah Island Invitational kicking off the season Sept. 7-8. Shida carded a pair of under-par 71s for third place, helping guide the team to a tournament title.
He also helped bring the Bobcats to a PBC Tournament Championship for the first time in 10 seasons, finishing seventh as an individual at plus-seven. Shida will be heavily counted upon for senior leadership and low scores next season.
The GCSU Department of Athletics, winners of the 2008-09 PBC Commissioner's Cup, sponsors 10 varsity athletic programs at the NCAA Division II level. As a Division II program, Georgia College prides itself on balancing the life of the student-athlete, evidenced by the Bobcats' multiple appearances in post-season competition as well as documented academic success and community-service involvement. Sign up at Twitter.com username GCSUSID for up-to-the-minute reports, and visit www.GCSUBobcats.com to nominate your favorite former Bobcats and Colonials to the GCSU Athletics Hall of Fame.