Billy Shida's comeback was impressive to his friends and golf teammates at Georgia College and State University. It also gained him a little national acclaim.
The Peachtree Ridge grad was selected as the first recipient of the David Toms Award, given by the Golf Coaches Association of America to a men's college golfer who has overcome adversity to acheive college excellence.
Health issues nearly sidelined Shida from college golf, but he has returned to post a strong junior season. He was a second-team All-Peach Belt Conference selection after finishing seventh (73-76-74) at the conference meet.
He beat out three other contenders -- Colorado's Derek Tolan, Coastal Carolina's Zack Byrd and Benedictine's R.J. Schwalbach.
"(Shida) 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," Toms said via a GCAA release. "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."
Shida, who overcame family difficulties during his freshman season, had more problems in July between his first and second years at GCSU. He struggled with fatigue and body pain, symptoms that led to a diagnosis of Lyme Disease a month later.
After weeks of treatment, he discovered a swollen lymph node on his neck, near the site where he had lymph nodes removed as a 12-year-old. A total of three benign lymph nodes were removed.
Shida's back pain persisted because of chronic Lyme Disease, an occurrence when the illness isn't treated within a year. Strong treatment has put that disease in remission.
Now healthy, he had a solid spring that featured a 73.3 stroke average and four top-10 finishes. He also has a prominent national honor.
"Receiving this award has been a nice culmination to the healing process," Shida said. "After I got the call informing me about the award, it took awhile for it to sink in. For so long I downplayed everything. Once it sank in, it really was an honor to receive the award because it helped me understand what I've endured and how far I've come with my health and as a person."
Iduate named SoCon's top player
Norcross' Nina Iduate, a senior shortstop at Georgia Southern, was named the Southern Conference player of the year this week.
Iduate, also a first-team selection, had a league-high .458 batting average, including .469 in SoCon games. She also led the conference in hits (82) and hits in league play (38).
Teammate Brianna Streetmon of Winder-Barrow repeated as the conference pitcher of the year. The junior led the SoCon in victories (19), conference victories (11) and innings pitched (2081/3). She had a 1.95 ERA, second in the league, and a 1.62 ERA in conference play.
Iduate also was named recently to the ESPN The Magazine Academic All-District first team. She maintains a 3.65 GPA in mathematics.
Wiggins, Hesson lauded by SEC
Shiloh grad Megan Wiggins, a junior at Georgia, was a first-team All-SEC selection this past week and also was honored on the all-defensive team along with teammate Brianna Hesson, a North Gwinnett grad.
Wiggins is hitting .380 with 13 home runs, 43 RBIs and 47 runs scored this season. Her nine homers and 66 total bases in SEC play are the most in the conference. She also set single-season and career outfield assist records this season.
Hesson, a first baseman, has a .988 fielding percentage with 311 putouts and 17 assists. She had a perfect fielding percentage in SEC play despite getting the second-most chances (194) and putouts (183) in the league.
Peachtree Ridge grad Emily Osterhaus, a freshman at Marist College (N.Y.), was named the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference rookie of the week on Monday. She had a 1.85 ERA in 34 innings the previous week, striking out 23 batter and earning two victories with a save. ... Georgia State's Rebecca Roles, a Collins Hill grad, had a sixth-inning single to drive in the game's only run last weekend in a 1-0 win over Towson. Fellow Collins Hill grad Erin Collins (4-2) was the winning pitcher.
Cain hot in Gulf South tourney
Valdosta State won the Gulf South Conference tournament last weekend with a huge effort from senior Clayton Cain, a Brookwood grad who was named to the all-tourney team.
Cain was 5-for-6 in the championship game with three doubles and two home runs, a grand slam and a three-run shot. He finished the day with eight RBIs.
He has a .429 batting average this season with 18 home runs and 72 RBIs.
Cain, who has a 3.47 GPA, also recently made the ESPN The Magazine All-Region Team.
Erisman, Pirkle get all-conference nods
Gwinnett grads Jordan Erisman of North Georgia and Richard Pirkle of Georgia College were first-team All-Peach Belt Conference selections this past week.
Erisman, a sophomore from Brookwood, hit .347 with 13 doubles, a league-high six triples, 46 RBIs and five home runs. He carried a 20-game hitting streak into postseason play.
Pirkle, a junior Norcross grad, hit .367 with 14 home runs and 56 RBIs. He also was third in the conference with a .741 slugging percentage.
Augusta State's Tony Baker, a Dacula grad, was a second-team selection. He hit .330 and led his team in home runs (eight) and RBIs (39).
Norcross grads shine for JUCO
Former Norcross standouts Beau Buckler and Tyler Roach are still playing together and faring well for the Northwest Shoals Community College baseball team.
Buckler is hitting .313 with 25 RBIs as the starter at third base, while Roach is batting .380 with six home runs and 40 RBIs as a first baseman.
Brookwood grad Ross Heffley was 3-for-4 with two doubles, a walk and six RBIs on Monday night as Western Carolina routed Furman 18-4. ... Grayson's Brad Blalock, a senior at Reinhardt College, was named to the Appalachian Athletic Conference All-Academic Team this week. ... Mill Creek grad Jacob German was 2-for-3 and hit his second home run of the season, but his Alabama-Birmingham still lost to Memphis 9-2 last weekend.
TRACK AND FIELD
Berkmar's Smith honored by SEC
Ole Miss junior Juliana Smith, a Berkmar grad, was named to the Southeastern Conference community service team for track and field on Tuesday.
Smith, the 2009 SEC indoor champion in the hammer throw, is president of the Ole Miss student-athlete advisory committee and coordinated the SEC canned food drive in addition to several other community service projects.
Gwinnett Grads is a column that runs on Saturdays spotlighting the achievements of past Gwinnett standouts. Coaches and parents are urged to send suggestions via e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org or via fax to 770-339-8081.