Originally created 09/22/05

Toms' heart can't take much more



GAINESVILLE, Va. - David Toms got the White House tour nobody wants - especially if you're less than a week removed from the scare of your life.

First, the radiation detectors go off. Then security men whisk you away into a little side room for interrogation.

How's your heart feeling now, Mr. Toms? Are you ready for the Presidents Cup?

"It's sad that they have to worry about somebody filling themselves up with radiation and blowing themselves up in the White House," said Toms after his scrape with security during the Presidents Cup teams' visit and dinner with President Bush and the first lady.

Yes, Toms hails from Louisiana where the warmest of sentiment isn't shared these days with the White House. But the radiation that apparently fills his body enough to set off detection equipment comes with honest intentions.

Toms has been undergoing numerous medical tests since last Thursday when he dropped to one knee and clutched his chest in the middle of his first round at the 84 Lumber Classic. His first thoughts when his heart started racing at 170 beats per minute?

"I need to go hit my second shot or I'll be disaqualified."

Instead, he was taken off the course on a stretcher, air-lifted to a Pittsburgh hospital. At one point, emergency personnel injected his heart with something to stop it before electrically shocking back into a normal rhythm.

Fun stuff.

Toms has a rapid heart rate condition known as supraventricular tachycardia. The latest incident was about the sixth in four years - but certainly the most serious.

The medication he's taking to get him through this week leaves him sluggish in the mornings, but he insists he's fine by the afternoons when much of this event takes place.

After this week, he'll undergo surgery to correct the condition. He hated the thought of missing one of the premier golf team events in the world.

"It scared me enough that I wanted to do (the surgery) right away," said the father of two children, including a 3-month-old.

Let's just say that Toms doesn't enter the match-play competition after the best of months. Even before last week, the Shreveport, La., resident's heart had been hurting for weeks.

Much like his hometown and alma mater Louisiana State University, Toms has been at the forefront of the recovery efforts in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina that devastated the Gulf Coast. The David Toms Foundation he established in 2003 to helped underprivileged, abused and abandoned children has been working overtime.

"We had to add an extra phone line," he said of the post-Katrina response at his foundation. He had to clear out more than 1,500 e-mails with credit card information and donations.

Once he was cleared by White House security, Toms had a chance to speak with the President about the rebuilding that lies ahead in New Orleans. Like-minded political thinkers, their discussions look forward instead of back at any mistakes that were made.

"We have an opportunity to change the way the city is - rebuild it the right way," Toms said. "We have a chance to clean it up. Make a fresh start. So many parts of the city will never be the same."

Toms is one of those rare athletes who understood his place even before tragedy put it all in perspective. His giving didn't begin three weeks ago.

"A lot of people are in bad shape and their lives are turned upside-down," he said. "You look at us, we have everything that we could ever want and we all have a great life. Just to be able to do something, whether raising money for them or trying to win this competition to give them something to cheer about, whatever it may be. Just any bright light in their lives right now is a good thing."

The same can be said for himself. Teammates and strangers have been coming up to him making sure Toms is all right.

The whole situation gave him pause.

"Until last week, I knew what my future was," Toms said. "It makes you take a step back."

This week, Toms will step slowly. He'll start today's competition paired with Stewart Cink against Mike Weir and Trevor Immelman in the last alternate-shot match. The likelihood of him sitting out one of Saturday's sessions is high.

"We're just going to make sure none of his partners put him in any kind of stressful situation," Kenny Perry said.

As long as he stays out of the White House, Toms should be fine.

Reach Scott Michaux at (706) 823-3219 or scott.michaux@augustachronicle.com.