'I wouldn’t change what’s happened – I’m a lucky man': A tribute to Jarrod Lyle
Imagine being confined to your bed for nine months while undergoing chemotherapy for acute myeloid leukemia as a 17-year-old and taking two years to get to the remission stage.
Imagine then nearly winning at Riviera on the PGA Tour 14 years later, after bouncing back and forth between the PGA and Web.com Tours, and a week later getting an abscess on your arm, having a reaction to the antibiotics and discovering that the leukemia had returned.
Imagine then delaying the treatment to see your first child, Lusi, being born, getting to spend 12 hours with her, and then starting your treatment the following day.
Imagine having a second daughter, Jemma, the cancer coming back for a third time, having to undergo a bone marrow transplant from your brother Lleyton, and slowly not being able to drive your car, make any food, read stories to your little girls and quickly becoming a very sick and frail person.
Imagine, at the age of just 36, being placed into palliative care as your body is no longer able to fight the illness.
All of these things have happened to Jarrod Lyle.
For the first half of his career we knew him as the big bear of a man who looked like a golf club must have been placed in his hands at birth. It all looked so natural. He made his way onto the PGA Tour, didn’t wear a glove, the bucket hat took over from the baseball cap and his replies mostly began with the word ‘mate’.
There was a lot to like about Lyle.
Speaking in 2014 he said: “I’ve always been a very open person. I’ve always said things how they are. I’ve got nothing to hide about anything. You know, if people want to know my story, I’ll tell them my story. If people want to barrel me up and tell me their story, I’ll stand there and listen to their story and give them as much attention as they would give me.”
The second half of his career has touched everyone. His phone is packed with not just golfers but leading politicians – if you have followed his story then you will have been hugely moved by the Victorian, his family and friends.
He might have been little known in his own eyes but the best players in the world and their caddies would all come together at Bay Hill in 2012 to wear the yellow ‘Leuk the Duck’ pin which was the character created by the Challenge charity that Lyle was an ambassador of.
His good friend Robert Allenby had organised 1,000 pins to be shipped from Australia which were handed out among the stars.
“There was a bunch of us trying to think of ways to cheer him up. He was balling his eyes out because of it,” explained Allenby.
“It just showed that whatever happens they have all got my back,” Lyle said.
If you haven’t watched his comeback at the Australian Masters at Royal Melbourne in November 2013 on YouTube then you should. Everyone who loved Lyle, and a good many beside, surrounded the 1st tee and sent him on his way.
There was one last cuddle for his daughter Lusi, which quickly finished him off, and with tears filling his eyes he crunched one down the fairway. The following day he made the cut.
Less than four years later the cancer returned for a third time.
Lyle’s Instagram account gives a very open, honest and gut-wrenching of what he’s had to go through; the ulcers, the vomiting, the hair loss, the self-administered morphine, the excess fluid, the food through IV, the hope, the smiles, the family, the brief trips outside, the 20 tablets for breakfast, the day release, the clearance to go home, the return of his eyebrows, more smiles, the return to hospital, the loss of vision, and then the final post and the heartbreaking news that he would be going home to die.
I’ve never been fortunate enough to meet Lyle. I’ve a very distant memory of watching him play a couple of holes at Coolum Beach years ago, and I’ve always enjoyed his hats and comfortable gut, but I’ve never been as touched as much by any golfer’s story.
We’ve all been waiting for the happy ending but, tragically, it won’t be happening.
In a podcast earlier this year Lyle was talking about when his cancer returned for a second time, just before the arrival of his daughter Lusi.
“I would normally be out playing golf so instead I got to watch my daughter crawl and walk and talk and, it sounds stupid, but I wouldn’t change what’s happened, I’m a lucky man,” he said.
“If I can help just one kid who has been in the same bed as me in the hospital, for him to see me out there playing golf and achieving my goals, then that makes me warm and fuzzy inside.”