By REX HOGGARD
It’s tough to say what part of Chris Kirk’s day was the most inspiring. It could have been the formal banquet May 21 at Colonial Country Club, site of this week’s PGA Tour stop. Or the moment he was named this year’s Ben Hogan Award recipient.
But considering Kirk’s competitive nature and affinity for classic golf courses, it could have also been the Monday afternoon practice round with PGA Tour players Brandt Snedeker, Johnson Wagner and Lucas Glover on the venerable Texas links.
“Me and Lucas played Brandt and Johnson. We did OK,” Kirk said.
Either way, it was a full day for the University of Georgia senior, who edged Oklahoma State’s Pablo Martin and Rhys Davies of East Tennessee State in the voting to claim the Hogan Award.
The Hogan Award is presented annually by Colonial, the Friends of Golf and the GCAA to a men’s NCAA Division I, II or III, NAIA or junior college player with the best college and amateur playing record over the past 12 months.
“It was a bit of a surprise,” said Kirk, who is third in the Golfweek/Sagarin College Rankings. “Rhys and Pablo have had two of the better college careers ever. To go in there and win with that competition was great.”
Kirk won four events during the 2006-07 season (Carpet Capital Collegiate, Western Refining College All-America Classic, Schenkel E-Z-GO Invitational and the Linger Longer) and is the all-time victory leader for the Bulldogs with seven titles.
He also leads the top-ranked Bulldogs with a 71.43 stroke average, and was the team’s top finisher at last year’s NCAA Men’s Division I Championship with his second-place showing.
He will lead the top-ranked Bulldogs into next week’s NCAA men’s finals in Williamsburg, Va.
Kirk was one of the Hogan Award finalist last year, and the disappointment of not winning was part of the reason he temporarily shelved his professional plans and returned to Athens, Ga., for his senior season.
“Before that, I was probably going to turn pro (after his junior year). I figured, what else can I accomplish in college golf?” Kirk said. “But not winning (the Hogan Award) gave me something to come back for.”
The Georgia native plans to maintain his amateur status through the summer and hopes to earn a spot on the U.S. Walker Cup team, which will travel to Northern Ireland in September. His summer schedule will include starts at the Palmer Cup, Northeast Amateur and U.S. Amateur qualifying.
He will likely earn a spot into July’s Nationwide Tour event in Columbus, Ohio, which grants exemptions to the NCAA individual champion as well as that season’s All-Americans, and hopes to secure sponsor exemptions into the PGA Tour’s U.S. Bank Championship in Milwaukee and Wyndham Championship before turning pro before Q-School.
Rex Hoggard is a Golfweek senior writer. To reach him, e-mail email@example.com.