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Marc Leishman shoots 65 after emotional reunion

4 Min Read


Marc Leishman shoots 65 after emotional reunion

Hadn’t seen parents for nearly 18 months due to pandemic, Australia lockdown

    Written by Cameron Morfit @CMorfitPGATOUR

    Marc Leishman nails a 17-foot birdie at WGC-FedEx

    It was a nice round that got him right in the thick of it despite having traveled across 14 time zones.

    But Marc Leishman’s 5-under 65 in the first round of the World Golf Championships-FedEx St. Jude Invitational, three back of leader Harris English, wasn’t the story. Not in and of itself.

    More significant was that Paul Leishman, his father, identifiable by the sponsor logos on his shirt and cap that matched his son’s, watched it all. Pelita, his mother, took in about nine holes with Audrey Leishman, Marc’s wife. His parents hadn’t seen him in almost a year and a half amid the pandemic, but after several written appeals the Australian government allowed them to leave for America and what became a tearful reunion at the Memphis airport on Monday night.

    “Dad’s one of my best mates,” Leishman said. “So not seeing him and my mum for a year and a half was – really tough. Also, I was playing terribly last year, so that didn’t help, either.”

    Sometimes the score doesn’t really tell the story, and that was the case for Leishman at TPC Southwind. It would be hard to overstate exactly what it took for his parents to be here. The Australian borders are shut and may not reopen for several months, a decision that has prompted backlash among those who believe the government has gone too far to stop COVID-19.

    “It was really tough; it’s been really tough for a lot of people,” Marc said. “We had to write letters to the Australian government for them to be allowed out of the country. We all wrote letters. I wrote one, Mom and Dad wrote one, different people from different fields write them. We had the PGA TOUR write one. There were letters coming from everybody. We had a pretty good case.”

    Although Leishman says, “The government were very good and got back to us quickly, gave them the go-ahead,” it was also a frustrating exercise that took months. “I understand not being able to go back into the country,” he said, “but not being able to leave is an interesting one.”

    Finally given the green light, Paul and Pelita left Warrnambool, Victoria – three hours southwest of Melbourne – and headed to America and Leishman’s hometown of Virginia Beach, Virginia. They were met at the airport by Audrey’s brother, Michael, on Saturday night.

    Harvey, Oliver, and Eva – Marc and Audrey’s three children – were in the dark and shocked to open the door and find their grandparents. Audrey filmed it. Marc, meanwhile, was still in Tokyo competing in the Olympics for Australia. Two days later, on Monday, Paul, Pelita, Audrey and the kids flew to Memphis, where the family has rented a house with a pool near TPC Southwind.

    Although the plan was to meet Marc back at the house, the charter flight from Japan – carrying the 19 players in the field in Memphis – was early to arrive, just a few minutes after Paul, Pelita, Audrey and the kids. Improvising, Paul and Pelita surprised their son at baggage claim.

    “That was another emotional moment,” Paul said.

    He may not be able to get back to Australia for a while, but he’s not particularly worried about it. The plan is for everyone to head to the Greenbrier in West Virginia after this week, as Marc and Audrey are having work done on their house. And after that, who knows?

    Marc and Paul are so close, it would almost be a blessing in disguise if his dad does get stuck in America. They’ve spent countless hours playing golf together, and it was a momentous day when Marc, then 13, finally beat his scratch-handicap father in the Warrnambool Golf Club championship. Although Marc now lives in America, he saw his father frequently before the pandemic. It’s been a hard year and a half.

    “It’s a weight of your back, I guess, just to be able to see him again,” said Marc, who came into this week at FedExCup No. 31. (The top 30 get into the season-ending TOUR Championship.) “He’s not too worried if he gets stuck here, I don’t think. He loves it in America, coming to the golf tournaments. It’s a pretty good spot to be, especially the way Australia is at the moment.”

    He'll go back out for round two Friday. His dad expects to follow every shot.

    Cameron Morfit began covering the PGA TOUR with Sports Illustrated in 1997, and after a long stretch at Golf Magazine and joined PGATOUR.COM as a Staff Writer in 2016. Follow Cameron Morfit on Twitter.

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