Lyle remembered for much more than golf

The Australian sporting community is mourning the death of Jarrod Lyle but to many he was much more than a professional golfer.

09-Aug-2018 By By Mike Hedge, Australian Associated Press
  • Obit_Lyle_16-9_14568481_1882973_201808090808488017db80-996a-4ff2-b9bf-3bab767105ae.jpg_sd_1280x720.jpg

Over the past 15-or-so summers, just about the best news any golf fan in Australia could hear was that Jarrod Lyle would be playing in the Masters or the Open, or anywhere at all.

Forget about Tiger Woods and the rest, if Lyle was playing it was a bonus, a special joy just to know the big, smiling guy from Shepparton was well enough to tee it up.

It didn't always happen, and won't again.

But an enormous legacy of inspiration remains for a man who repeatedly battled life-threatening illness with courage, grace and trademark generosity of spirit.

Lyle, who died on Wednesday aged 36, was first diagnosed with acute myeloid leukaemia in 1999 when he was 17 and a promising amateur golfer.

He spent much of the next nine months in Melbourne's Royal Children's Hospital fighting the disease and it was another year after that before he could walk around a golf course.

When finally he was fit enough to play competitively he reduced his handicap to scratch by the time he turned 19 and a couple of years later won a Victorian Institute of Sport golf scholarship.

For the next few years it was as though he was making up for lost time. He turned professional in 2004, qualified for the Asian Tour within another year, and less than 12 months after that was playing in the US on the second-tier Web.com Tour.

In his first season he finished 18th in the money list, earning himself a ticket to play on the US PGA Tour for 2007.

The vagaries of golf came into play and Lyle finished his first season on the world's most lucrative golf circuit in 164th place on the money list and had to drop back a level to what had been renamed as the Nationwide Tour.

With experience by then to match his natural ability, Lyle won two Nationwide events in 2008, finishing fourth on the money list and again being elevated to the US PGA Tour.

In 2011 he lost his tour card again but earned it back at qualifying school then achieved his best PGA Tour result of tied fourth in Los Angeles early in 2012.

By now Lyle had married Briony and the pair returned to Australia in March 2012 for the birth of their first child, Lusi.

It was while he was at home that a relapse of the leukaemia was diagnosed, causing golf to go on hold for more debilitating treatment until he was again declared to be in remission, making his comeback to the game in the 2013 Australian Masters at Royal Melbourne.

Remarkably, Lyle again made his way back to the PGA Tour, playing 20 more tournaments in 2015 and 2016, playing with moderate success and becoming one of the world's most universally-admired golfers.

Returning to live in Australia, he and Briony had their second daughter, Jemma.

Then, in 2017, while being treated for a cough, it was discovered that the leukaemia had returned.

With his game again on hold, Lyle and Briony launched a line of golf apparel and as his recovery progressed he joined the TV commentary team for the Australian Open.

At the same time, doctors presented Lyle with new realities, the gravity of which he revealed in an on-line blog

"Things are about to get really serious for me and my health over the next couple of months," he wrote.

"Next week I'm going to hospital for a bone marrow transplant. I'm shitting myself."

Lyle explained that he would receive stem cells in a bone marrow transplant from his brother Leighton.

"At best I've got a one-in-four chance of coming out the other side," he wrote.

"That's why I'm so scared."

With typical courage, Lyle fought on, and as his situation became known, the entire golf world rallied.

The first month of 2018 was declared "January for Jarrod" month on the US PGA Tour and tributes began to appear on the social media accounts of every prominent player in the world.

Meanwhile, as Lyle grew weaker, Briony took over writing the blog. In June she revealed the extent of the debilitating effects of not just the cancer, but associated auto-immune disorders that affected his eyesight and hearing and robbed him of all strength.

"His goals have been reduced to the smallest things, like being able to spread jam on his toast," Briony wrote.

As serious as the situation had become, there seemed to be hope.

"We are certain we will get through this crap once again, but it's really hard to stay upbeat," she wrote in June.

And in late July: "... things continue to be incredibly tough."

A week later, Lyle and his doctors decided medical treatment should cease and he receive only palliative care.

"He has given everything that he's got to give, and his poor body cannot take any more," Briony wrote.

Messages of support flowed from tour peers and others touched by his story around the globe.

Tiger Woods was among those wearing a Leuk the Duck badge in his cap in recognition of Lyle and Challenge, the children's cancer foundation he was an ambassador for.

Lyle won two professional tournaments in a career that was never able to flourish, but he will be remembered for much more than golf.


Add a comment

Title Notify Website Updates

Subscribe to receive updates and new posts via email