Pierce is recipient of David Toms Overcoming Adversity Award

Published 4:21 am Saturday, December 10, 2016

Special to The Daily News


LSU golfer Brandon Pierce was announced Friday as the recipient of the 2016 David Toms Overcoming Adversity Award presented by the American Junior Golf Association in conjunction with the Golf Coaches Association of America as he was honored live on Golf Channel’s Morning Drive program.

According to a press release by LSU, the senior All-American is the first LSU Tiger to be presented the annual award that bears the name of one of the all-time greats of the LSU program — former PGA champion and 13-time PGA tour winner David Toms.

The award is presented each year to the men’s collegiate golfer who has overcome adversity to achieve excellence in the college game. There is one player each year selected from NCAA Division I, II, III, NAIA or NJCAA, as the winner must be an active participant in his school’s golf team in good standing both academically and athletically.

Pierce has local ties to Bogalusa. His father, Chavgney Pierce, and his grandparents on his father’s side, Huey Pierce and Martha Pierce, are from Bogalusa. His mother, Rebecca Pierce, was an engineer at Bogalusa paper mill and taught at Bogalusa High School.

The GCAA’s official announcement recounts how Pierce has twice overcome a debilitating injury to become one of the nation’s elite college golfers and enjoy an All-American career with the national champion Tigers.

Pierce twice overcame injury to be one of the nation’s elite college golfers.

Pierce struggled to break the Tigers’ lineup his freshman year in the fall of 2013, only playing twice while balancing his studies in the engineering department. After missing out in qualifying for the first two events in the spring he was selected to play as an individual in the team’s third event. During the tournament’s final round, Pierce struck a tree root. While he felt pain from the impact, he finished the round. Pierce continued to practice for the next few weeks, even though on one occasion he collapsed due to the injury.

After medication and cortisone shots could not help with the pain, Pierce and LSU consulted a doctor. The doctor informed Pierce that he had fractured his lower back. Recovery time would be six to nine months. Fortunately, surgery was not needed, allowing the bone to heal stronger than it was before.

Pierce continued to support the team and help his teammates reach their potential during his recovery. Personally, he was consulting a sports psychologist. He also worked on his physical strength to come back at 100 percent.

His work paid off when he qualified for the first tournament of the 2015 spring season. Pierce finished in the Top 10 in that event and went on to have one of the best seasons in LSU history. In eight tournaments, Pierce posted a 71.16 scoring average, eclipsing Toms’ 26-year-old school scoring record for a single year. Additionally, he helped lead the Tigers to the 2015 NCAA championship with an unbeaten record in match play. Pierce earned PING Honorable Mention All-America honors and was named to the SEC Academic Honor Roll.

Soon after experiencing the high of the Tigers winning the NCAA championship, Pierce experienced the most difficult moment of his life after fracturing multiple vertebrae in his neck and ligamentous tears in a swimming accident. He required surgery the next day as his neck was unstable. Doctors told Pierce he was fortunate that he was not paralyzed. Before the surgery they outlined the risks, including that Pierce may not walk or play golf again. Following the procedure the surgeon informed Pierce that it was the best neck surgery he had performed.

Even with the surgery’s success, Pierce faced difficult recovery and rehabilitation. He would spend months in a restrictive neck brace, which limited him to lying in bed or sitting in a chair. Unlike the recovery from his previous back injury, Pierce was uncertain and timid about practicing golf.

Pierce also suffered an emotional toll. Despite his positive recovery, Pierce has serious doubts about himself, his game and how one mistake could have so negatively impacted himself and those around him. He had difficulty sleeping and experienced depression.

With the support of his family and coaches, Pierce received help in his battle with depression. He attended weekly counseling sessions with a sports psychologist. Through their combined support, he began to believe in himself and found playing golf fun again. Pierce was able to compete in a few events in the fall of 2015 and the entire spring 2016 schedule. He helped LSU reach match play at the NCAA championships for the third-straight season, and again was named to the SEC Academic Honor Roll.

Last summer, Pierce advanced to the round of 32 at the U.S. Amateur. He won his first collegiate event, the David Toms Intercollegiate, this fall.

“I’m very honored to have even been considered for the David Toms Award,” Pierce said. “Looking back at the past recipients, I wasn’t even sure I should have been in the same category. I was surprised and shocked that I had won this prestigious award and couldn’t be any more grateful. I want to thank everyone who supported me and helped me through my recoveries, they are the ones who deserve praise.”