Jason Day became the second Australian golfer in the past three years to receive the esteemed ‘The Don’ Award, and the second Australian golfer overall following Adam Scott’s win in 2013.
Named after the inaugural Legend elevated in the Sport Australia Hall of Fame – Sir Donald Bradman AC – ‘The Don’ Award is regarded as the highest individual honour that can be bestowed on a current Australian athlete, and is awarded to a sportsperson who, through their achievements and example over the last 12 months, is considered to have most inspired the nation.
The field of 12 nominees was nothing short of exceptional. Shortlisted to four finalists, Day pipped rugby league star-turned American football convert Jarryd Hayne, the greatest female track cyclist in history Anna Meares and the joint nomination of brave surfing great Mick Fanning and his courageous mate Julian Wilson.
Other former winners of the award which commenced in 1998 include Sally Pearson (2014, 2012), Cadel Evans OAM (2011), Lydia Lassila OAM (2010), Mathew Mitcham OAM (2009), Glenn McGrath AM (2007), Alisa Camplin (2002), Cathy Freeman OAM (2000) and Ian Thorpe OAM in 1999.
In 2015 there could be but one winner and the year belonged to Jason Day.
Long touted as a star of the future, Day turned professional in 2006 and broke into the world’s top ten some five years later. He would claim his maiden World Golf Championships title in February 2014.
In June 2015, the 27-year-old’s immediate playing future looked to be in jeopardy, as he collapsed during the second round of the U.S. Open from an attack of vertigo. He soldiered on and by the end of the third round, was tied for the lead, before finishing fourth overall.
The display beggared belief, and signalled to all that the Queenslander could not be underestimated. Just two months later, Jason Day was crowned 2015 PGA Champion at Whistling Straits – his first win in a major a truly dominant and flawless exhibition of golf, and his 20-under-par setting a new record in the process, as the first player to do so in a major.
Speaking via video link from his home in Ohio, United States (click here for video), Day demonstrated his trademark humility and praised the other nominees for their stellar years.
“I just wanted to thank everyone for attending and I’m extremely humbled and honoured to win this prestigious award,” Day said.
“Such a great year as this, to be able to cap it off with ‘The Don’ Award, it goes down in my memory as one of the best years that I’ve ever had.”
“I’m looking forward to hopefully replicating or improving on years like this, and really trying to represent not only myself but represent golf, and golf in Australia and also the Australian nation around the world the best I possibly can.”
“I’d like to congratulate the other 11 nominees – what a fantastic year they’ve had. All the way from the Socceroos to Mick Fanning punching a bloody shark in the face, it’s been an amazing year for all the 11 other nominees.”
Day apologised for his absence due to the pending birth of his second child, and thanked his mother for receiving the award on his behalf.
“We’re expecting baby number two to come around so you can kind of understand why I’m not there,” Day said.
“My mother … [will] receive the award and I couldn’t think of a better person.”
“She’s been my biggest supporter and she’s sacrificed so much for me, not only over the years but when I was a small child.”
“For her to give me the start I needed, the opportunity I needed to hone my skills and get better as player put me on a springboard to get to where I really wanted to be, which was on the PGA Tour and playing against the best players in the world.”