Eric Banks

Eric Banks is a third-year student at the University of Florida who won the Nova Scotia men's and junior titles in 2011, before doctors discovered one side of his heart was three times its normal size. (CBC)

Nova Scotia golfer Eric Banks has a new swing coach and says he's ready to win an NCAA tournament before he graduates, next year.

The 21-year-old from Truro is about to start the second year of a comeback from open-heart surgery.

"I used to take it for granted that I'm a healthy little kid, but this whole heart surgery deal kind of put life and everything in perspective for me," he said in a recent interview.

"After the surgery ... I couldn't walk-up the stairs in my house for, like, two months. So every day, when I'm walking down the stairs I give myself a little wry smile and see it as a small win."

Banks said he's kept his sense of humour, too. He has the phone number of the doctor who performed the heart operation saved in his celIphone under the name "Lifesaver."

Banks is a third-year student at the University of Florida who won the Nova Scotia men's and junior titles in 2011, before doctors discovered one side of his heart was three times its normal size.

The operation in the summer of 2012 fixed the problem.

Now, he says a check-up in Halifax before Christmas shows no problems.  He's on medication for another six months, but Banks said the only restrictions on his workouts are self-imposed.

"I'm clear to do anything," he said. "No limits."

New swing, new coach 

But Banks says his golf game needs simplifying if he's going to achieve his larger goal of making his living as a professional golfer.

He recently decided to work with Todd Armstrong, swing coach of Florida alumni and Professional Golfers' Association of America star Billy Horschel.

"When I went to see him he kind of instantly knew what was wrong. He showed me on video. When I went back out, I've been working on the same two things for the past month and I'm starting to get them down," he said.

Banks will mark the first anniversary of his return to competitive golf with Florida's Gator Invitational in about a month.  He finished 10th last year and said he would love to match that result.

He also wants to qualify, again, for the Canadian Open.

Banks won a playoff to get in last summer. He had a solid first round, but missed the cut after a disappointing second day.

"Playing in the Canadian Open again has been on my mind.  Just do kind of redeem myself," he said. "I just think that I learned so much from that one experience that if I was to qualify again I think I could do a lot better."

Banks was the first Nova Scotian to qualify for the Canadian Open since Gordie Smith, who finished seventh in 1988.

His former coach with the Nova Scotia junior team, Ed Hanczaryk, says Banks is the amateur he's worked with who has the best chance to succeed as a pro.