His golf career was highlighted by second-place finishes in The Open Championship in 1869 and again in 1878. Kirk also had a T2 finish in the 1870 Open. Kirk played consistently well with nine top-10 finishes in The Open Championship beginning with a fourth-place finish in 1865 and ending with a second-place finish in 1878.
1878 Open Championship
= Details of play In stormy overcast weather with some rain—typical conditions for early October at Prestwick—James Morris took the early lead with a first round of 50.
Anderson, Kirk and the English amateur John Ball each scored 53, to be three shots behind. Morris began the second round badly and finished with a 56 for a total of 106.
Anderson, with a second round of 53, was tied with him, while Kirk and Tom Morris, Senior were both two strokes behind. Morris was in the third group out and had a final round 55 for a total of 161.
Playing a few groups behind, Anderson began his third round with two sevens, but thereafter played steadily.
With Morris finished he was told that he needed to play the last four holes in 17 to tie with Morris. At the Burn Hole (the 9th) he holed a full iron shot for a three, followed that spectacular shot with a four at the 10th, and at the Short Hole (the 11th) his tee shot landed on top of the hill behind the green. The ball then ran down the hill and into the hole for a hole-in-one.
A five at the last gave him a round of 51 and a total of 157.
Kirk, playing in the last group, was still in contention. On the last green he was told that if he holed his long putt he would tie Anderson.
The putt lipped out and he missed the return putt but his score of 159 was enough to give him second place. 1869 and 1870 Open Championships
Tom Morris, Junior. was the best golfer in the world in the late 1860s and early 1870s and he exhibited his considerable skills in the 1869 Open Championship and the 1870 Open Championship tournaments.
In both years Kirk was the distant second-place finisher.
Kirk died on 1 December 1886 at the relatively young age of just 41 years.