The Don, awarded by the Sport Australia Hall of Fame, honors the performance by an Australian which most inspires a nation in the previous 12 months.
Queenslander Day is the second golfer in the past three years to win the prestigious award, after Adam Scott won in 2013.
Resting at his Ohio home tonight with his family, Day said by videolink that he was humbled and honored to win. His mother Dening accepted the award on his behalf.
“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,'' he said.
“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.”
Day, who had his finest-ever season on the United States PGA Tour in 2015, won his first major championship, the US PGA, this year as well as four other tournaments. He reached the world No.1 ranking for the first time and is still ranked No. 1.
But it was his inspiring journey that swayed the judges, having returned from heartbreaking near-misses at the US Open and the British Open Championship in the lead-up to his win in the PGA.
At the US Open, he collapsed at one point of the second round because of the delibitating vertigo, forcing him into further tests after the tournament. He has since learned that the ailment is caused by an inner ear problem and he has managed it with medication.
Raised by his Filipino mother in Queensland, Day has spoken recently about his struggles with alcohol as a teen following the premature death of his father when he was 12. It is part of the folklore that his devotion to golf under longtime mentor and coach Col Swatton turned his life around.
Other nominees for The Don were surfers Mick Fanning, Sally Fitzgibbons and Julian Wilson, footballer Jarryd Hayne, cyclist Anna Meares, ironwoman Miranda Carfrae, swimmer Emily Seebohm, wheelchair athlete Kurt Fearnley, surf lifesaving ironman Shannon Eckstein and surfer Sally Fitzgibbons.
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