Prokay of Robert Morris Recipient of David Toms Award
Ryan Prokay, a sophomore at Robert Morris University, has been named recipient of the David Toms Award. The Toms Award is presented to a men’s collegiate golfer who has overcome adversity to achieve collegiate excellence.
When he was in the third grade Prokay was diagnosed with Tourette syndrome due to motor and vocal tics. His first symptoms were involuntary eye rolling when he was five years old but have become more severe over the years and leads Prokay to twitch and vocalize noises uncontrollably.
One of the greatest challenges with Tourette syndrome is that the tics evolve over time. A specific tic might last for several months before becoming replaced with a new tic. This has led to an ongoing challenge for Prokay as he must continuously cope with a new tic and adjust his coping strategy.
When Prokay was in the fourth grade he started a vitamin supplement designed specifically for Tourette syndrome. This supplement helped to somewhat suppress his tics until he was 17. While competing at a U.S. Junior Amateur qualifier he became extremely fatigued and had difficulty walking. After the qualifier Prokay consulted with several doctors and they began treating him with antibiotics for Lyme disease. The antibiotics made Prokay’s tics even worse. His condition was further complicated when the vitamin supplement which had helped for many years began to cause difficulty breathing. It was determined that the virus Prokay had contracted caused him to become allergic to the supplement and he had to discontinue its use. Additionally, the complicating illness made Prokay extremely weak and it became almost impossible to walk 18 holes during tournament play.
Since beginning his collegiate golf career Prokay’s symptoms have included twitching and self-hitting so severe that he has broken several ribs. He also struggles with anxiety and depression. Everyday tasks that most people take for granted present obstacles for Prokay. In the classroom he must suppress his symptoms to the best of his ability while also trying to actively engage in the learning process. On the golf course it might take a couple of minutes for Prokay to calm himself before he can concentrate and hit his shot.
Despite these challenges Prokay has excelled both in the classroom and on the golf course. He currently maintains a 3.96 GPA and a 76.3 stroke average for his career. Prokay views golf as a gift and refuge. It has provided an outlet giving him something to focus on and not dwell on his symptoms. He credits it with not only helping him to overcome his adversity but provide a special camaraderie with his teammates.
Much to Prokay’s credit, he is quick to point out those that have helped him face the obstacles that have been placed in his path. From the tremendous amount of support he has received from his parents to the friends, coaches, counselors, doctors and teachers, Prokay notes that he has not handled Tourette syndrome single-handedly. He is also quick to point out that he does not look for pity and prefers to be recognized as a good student and golfer than a golfer with Tourette syndrome.
“Winning this award means a lot to me,” said Prokay. “I overcome some very difficult challenges in my life and it is nice to be recognized for overcoming those challenges. I would like to thank David Toms, the GCAA and the award committee for selecting me for this prestigious award. I would also like to thank my family and friends for the support they have given me throughout my life. None of this would be possible without their help.”