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Chris Kirk named recipient of PGA TOUR Courage Award

6 Min Read



    Written by Staff @PGATOUR

    PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Florida – The PGA TOUR announced Tuesday that Chris Kirk has been named the recipient of the PGA TOUR Courage Award.

    Kirk, 38, took a leave of absence from the TOUR in May of 2019 to address issues of alcohol abuse and depression. He returned to the TOUR later that year after a break of more than six months, regained exempt status in 2021 through a Major Medical Extension, and in 2023 earned his fifth PGA TOUR title and first since 2015.

    “I didn't really feel like I was going to play golf again much less be here with all of you and to have won again on the TOUR. I'm really just blown away,” Kirk said Tuesday after receiving the award at Sea Island Golf Club in St. Simons Island, Georgia, where he is playing this week's RSM Classic. “I'm beyond thankful for my family, especially for Tahnee for staying with me and supporting me through these difficult years. I just am so blessed and thankful to currently live a life better than I could have ever imagined. Just the mental clarity that I wake up with every day is an absolute blessing and a gift.

    “One thing that really has defined me as a person for a long time is perseverance, determination. I have probably an excess of that, so I'm just very thankful that I was able to set that to a good use and set that to how can I from here forward go about being the best father and husband that I can be. That's kind of been my main focus and then eventually after that, working on becoming a professional golfer again.”

    The PGA TOUR Courage Award is presented to a person who, through courage and perseverance, has overcome extraordinary adversity, such as personal tragedy or debilitating injury or illness, to make a significant and meaningful contribution to the game of golf. Kirk is the sixth recipient of the PGA TOUR Courage Award, which was established in 2012, joining Erik Compton (2013), Jarrod Lyle (2015), Gene Sauers (2017), Morgan Hoffmann (2020) and D.J. Gregory (2022).

    PGA TOUR Commissioner Jay Monahan presented Kirk with the Courage Award on Tuesday at The RSM Classic, with this year’s event marking the 10-year anniversary of his 2013 RSM Classic victory.

    “The PGA TOUR Courage Award is reserved for very special circumstances and equally special people, and Chris’ impact on the game of golf goes way beyond the singular focus of numbers on a scorecard,” said Commissioner Monahan. “Professional athletes have an incredible platform to help others, and Chris’ honesty, candor and courage in speaking publicly about dealing with a very personal situation has inspired so many people with everyday struggles.”

    Chris Kirk embraces family after receiving the PGA TOUR Courage Award at The RSM Classic. (Tracy Wilcox/PGA TOUR)

    Chris Kirk embraces family after receiving the PGA TOUR Courage Award at The RSM Classic. (Tracy Wilcox/PGA TOUR)

    From left to right, Chris Kirk's wife Tahnee, father Gary and son watch as he receives the PGA TOUR Courage Award. (Tracy Wilcox/PGA TOUR)

    From left to right, Chris Kirk's wife Tahnee, father Gary and son watch as he receives the PGA TOUR Courage Award. (Tracy Wilcox/PGA TOUR)

    Chris Kirk embraces family after receiving the PGA TOUR Courage Award at The RSM Classic. (Tracy Wilcox/PGA TOUR)

    Chris Kirk embraces family after receiving the PGA TOUR Courage Award at The RSM Classic. (Tracy Wilcox/PGA TOUR)

    The Courage Award includes a contribution of $25,000 by the TOUR to a charity of the award recipient’s choice. RSM US LLP, the title sponsor of this week’s RSM Classic and a partner of Kirk’s since 2018, will match the contribution. It was recently announced that Kirk’s partnership with RSM has been extended through 2025.

    Kirk, a native of Atlanta, turned professional in 2007 upon graduation from the University of Georgia, where he was a member of the 2005 NCAA championship team. He joined the PGA TOUR in 2011 and has won five times on TOUR, most notably winning the Deutsche Bank Championship, the second of the four FedExCup Playoffs events played in 2014. He also represented the U.S. at the 2015 Presidents Cup in Korea, sinking a 15-foot putt to defeat Anirban Lahiri in a critical Sunday Singles match to help the U.S. clinch the Presidents Cup by a narrow 15.5-14.5 margin.

    During the 2018-19 season, Kirk played in 17 events, with his final start of the campaign coming at the Zurich Classic of New Orleans during the last week in April. On May 7, 2019, the day before his 34th birthday, Kirk posted a statement to his social media accounts:

    “I have dealt with alcohol abuse and depression for some time now. I thought I could control it, but after multiple relapses I have come to realize that I can’t fix this on my own. I will be taking an indefinite leave from the PGA TOUR to deal with these issues. I don’t know when I will be back, but for now I need my full focus on being the man my family deserves. Thank you for your support.”

    Tuesday’s announcement comes on the four-year anniversary of Kirk’s return to competition following his time away from competitive golf, the first round of the 2019 World Wide Technology Championship. He has qualified for the BMW Championship in each of the last three seasons, and in 2023 broke through for a playoff victory over Eric Cole at The Classic in The Palm Beaches (formerly The Honda Classic), his first PGA TOUR title in nearly eight years. He finished the 2022-23 season No. 32 in the FedExCup standings, the second-highest finish of his 13-year career on TOUR and highest since he finished No. 2 in 2014.

    Fellow PGA TOUR members Russell Henley, Denny McCarthy, Davis Love III, Keith Mitchell, Greyson Sigg and Brendon Todd were in attendance.

    Kirk and his wife, Tahnee, reside in Athens, Georgia, with their three boys, Sawyer, Foster and Wilder.

    "I spent a lot of years really lying to a lot of people. Lying to my family, lying to my friends, lying to myself as much as anybody," Kirk said Tuesday. "So once I got to the point where I could wake up in the morning and I could look at myself in the mirror and kind of be OK with who I was and what I was going to do that day, that was such a freeing feeling of just the open honesty, I've got nothing to hide, because I hadn't felt that in so long.

    "That was why I was kind of public and open and honest about (battling alcoholism), just because it felt great just to say here's who I am and take it or leave it. But then as the years have gone on, ... a lot of people have reached out on social media and through friends of friends. I've had probably 30 or 40, maybe 50 stories that I've heard directly of people that have said things along the lines of, 'I saw you do this and I figured if you could do it, ... if you could shut everything down and do what you had to do to get yourself better, then why couldn't I?'"

    Kirk and other ambassadors of RSM, including RSM Classic tournament host Davis Love III, will be featured in a network special, “Faces of Golf,” which will air on Sunday, Nov. 19, at 12:30 p.m. ET on NBC. The special will showcase Team RSM and their stories of stewardship, trailblazing and resiliency, including more on Kirk’s story.

    The principle of “Courage” guides Step Four in Alcoholics Anonymous’ “Twelve Steps” program. Step Four allows members to perform an honest character and behavior evaluation, so they can devise strategies to overcome defects that may have contributed to their alcoholism. A personal appraisal takes courage, as members may have to confront some painful and uncomfortable truths about themselves.

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