A first-round 74 at last week's NAIA Championship stalled any title defense for Malone senior Justin Lower. But a closing 69 at the TPC Deere Run in Silvis, Ill., gave him a third-place showing in his final college start and capped a career that earned him the 2011 David Toms Award, presented by the Golf Coaches Association of America and the David Toms Foundation to a men's golfer who has overcome adversity to achieve collegiate excellence.
Days before his 16th birthday in 2005, the Canal Fulton, Ohio, native was practicing at his local course, awaiting his father to pick him up. En route,Tim Lower got into a single-car accident that killed both him and Justin's younger brother, Chris. The tragedy devastated Justin, whose grades fell as did his prospects for being recruiting by a Division I program. Lower eventually settled at Malone, in Canton, Ohio, where he took solace in golf and religion.
"Things happen that are out of our control, but the important thing is how we deal with adversity," Lower said. "The choices I've made since the accident have shaped who I am today, and it sounds awkward, but I really have been blessed."
Lower improved his stroke average from 74.5 as a freshman to 71.71 as a senior, earning NAIA All-American honors all four years of school. He also earned a degree in sports management, becoming 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 David 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."
"I am very humbled and honored to be named the David Toms award winner for 2011," Lower said. "It is another reminder of why I play the game of golf, for them and a dream that we shared."