Chris Kirk Receives PGA Tour Courage Award for Overcoming Adversity
By Mark Schlabach
ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. — In a heartwarming ceremony at the RSM Classic at Sea Island Resort, Chris Kirk was honored with the prestigious PGA Tour Courage Award on Tuesday. Kirk, who took a break from competitive golf for over six months in 2019 to prioritize his mental health and sobriety, was recognized for his remarkable journey of overcoming adversity.
The PGA Tour Courage Award is a rare accolade that has only been presented to six golfers in its history. It is bestowed upon individuals who have demonstrated exceptional courage and perseverance in the face of personal tragedy, debilitating injury, or illness, while making significant contributions to the game of golf.
Kirk, now 38, made a triumphant return to the PGA Tour in the fall of 2019 and regained his exempt status in 2021 through a major medical extension. This season, he secured his fifth PGA Tour victory by winning the Honda Classic at PGA National Resort and Spa in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida, on February 26. It marked his first victory since 2015.
Reflecting on his journey, Kirk expressed his gratitude and disbelief at his accomplishments. “It takes me back to April and May of 2019, where I didn’t think I would ever play golf again, let alone win on the tour,” Kirk said. He credited his family, particularly his wife Tahnee, for their unwavering support during his challenging years. Kirk considers himself blessed to live a life better than he could have ever imagined.
Throughout his recovery, Kirk emphasized the importance of mental clarity and thanked his friends and fellow PGA Tour members for their assistance in his sobriety journey. He described his experience as a process of self-discovery, acknowledging that he learned a lot about himself, including aspects he didn’t particularly like. However, Kirk’s perseverance and determination have been defining qualities that have propelled him forward.
During his lowest moments, Kirk found himself alone in hotel rooms, yearning for his family. As he struggled, he began to associate golf with his pain, blaming the pressures of the sport and the constant solo travel. However, he eventually realized that his negative perception was unfounded, leading him to overcome his resentment and rediscover his love for competitive golf.
PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan praised Kirk for his honesty and courage in sharing his personal struggles, which have inspired countless individuals facing their own everyday battles. Monahan highlighted the influential platform that professional athletes possess to make a positive impact on others.
Brian Harman, Kirk’s former University of Georgia teammate, commended him for his resilience and self-awareness. Harman acknowledged the difficulty of acknowledging personal flaws and taking action to address them. He marveled at Kirk’s ability to take time off, work hard, and ultimately triumph at the Honda Classic, a testament to his refusal to give up and his commitment to doing what is right.
Kirk admitted that he initially went public with his struggles and recovery as a means of holding himself accountable. After years of deceiving his loved ones and himself, he found solace in the freedom of open honesty. Waking up each day with mental clarity has become an absolute blessing for Kirk.
The PGA Tour Courage Award, established in 2012, has previously been awarded to golfers such as Erik Compton (2013), Jarrod Lyle (2015), Gene Sauers (2017), Morgan Hoffmann (2020), and D.J. Gregory (2022). Chris Kirk now joins this esteemed group of individuals who have triumphed over adversity and left an indelible mark on the game of golf.