On Tuesday, the PGA Tour named Chris Kirk as the recipient of the 2023 Courage Award.
Kirk, 38, took a leave of absence in 2019 to address alcohol abuse and depression. After being gone more than six months, Kirk returned, regained exempt status in 2021 through a major medical extension, and then this year won his first PGA Tour title since 2015 at the Honda Classic.
“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,” Commissioner Jay Monahan said. “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.”
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 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 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).
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.
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.
In 2014, Kirk had two firsts and five top 10s and earned more than $4.8 million. His world ranking peaked at No. 16 and he made the President’s Cup in 2015.
But slowly, his game started a decline. So many nights sitting alone in hotel rooms were destroying his life.
“I was definitely to the point where I knew that I couldn’t keep going the way that I was going,” he told the Palm Beach Post. “My golf game didn’t matter a whole lot to me one way or the other at that point.”
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 Honda Classic. He finished the 2022-23 season No. 32 in the FedExCup standings, the second-highest finish of his 13-year career on Tour and the highest since he finished No. 2 in 2014.