Rejuvenated Lyle returns to competition
October 14, 2015
By Brian Wacker , PGATOUR.COM
- Jarrod Lyle left the PGA TOUR in late May after missing seven of 10 cuts in 2014-15. (Scott Halleran/Getty Images)
NAPA, Calif. -- Jarrod Lyle isn’t sure what to expect when he steps inside the ropes at a golf tournament for the first time in five months later this week at the Frys.com Open.
“It is exciting,” the 33-year-old Australian said. “But there’s still doubt in the back of my mind. I’m not going to know until I get back out there.”
It won’t be the first time he has confronted uncertainty.
As a 17-year-old, Lyle was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia. He underwent treatment for nine months and it was another 12 before he was on a golf course again.
Thirteen years later in March 2012, after having just watched his wife give birth to the couple’s first child, a baby girl named Lusi, he began treatment to beat it yet again after the cancer had returned.
There were times during that second battle when Lyle wondered if his last breath was just around the corner. But after nearly 2 1/2 years and again driving the disease into remission, he returned to golf in the summer of 2014. Lyle tied for 11th in his first start, the Web.com Tour’s Midwest Classic.
The success was short-lived.
Playing the PGA TOUR on a major medical extension, Lyle missed the cut in seven straight starts to open 2015. Two weeks later, following a tie for 74th at the Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial at the end of May, he took a leave of absence.
“I can sit here and say I did come back too early, maybe,” Lyle said. “Who knows?”
Lyle had lost his love for the game. He couldn’t be competitive. Doctors also didn’t like what they saw in his bloodwork.
In June, Lyle flew home to Australia and a couple of weeks later underwent a battery of examinations -- chest X-rays, liver tests, etc. A month later, things were looking better, and a follow-up in mid-August confirmed as much.
“It was nice to know things were going OK inside,” Lyle said. “As long as the doctor is happy, I’m happy.”
Surpassing All Odds: Jarrod Lyle
Lyle takes a penicillin tablet each morning, but that’s mostly preventative in case he gets a cold or the flu.
He has also made a commitment to getting more fit, hitting the gym five times a week, usually starting at 6 a.m. each day. Lyle has shed about 20 pounds and says he feels stronger, too.
“You don’t see too many fat golfers running around the country anymore,” said Lyle, who has 10 starts to earn $217,680 to fulfill his major medical and earn his card. “I’m starting to do things I never did and never thought I could. Mentally it has been a big change, too. I’m pushing myself more than I used to.”
He’s still not able to practice anywhere near as much as most players; he’s limited to two to three hours per day before he tires physically and mentally. But what he lacks in quantity he tries to make up for in quality.
Lyle says his ball-striking has been good and he has been putting the ball better than he has in a long time.
In the months when he wasn’t practicing, Lyle spent his time like a lot of people. He hung out with his wife and daughter. He watched his favorite Australian Rules football team, the Melbourne Demons, on Friday and Saturday nights.
“It was nice to mow my grass and be a normal human,” he says. “It was nice to do that for a while.”
Robert Allenby, whom Lyle befriended as a teenager, kept in touch with his countryman along the way, but Lyle barely kept tabs on the sport itself. Lyle doesn’t have cable television in Australia, so the only golf he saw was whatever highlights they showed on the news.You don't see too many fat golfers running around this country anymore.
Lyle says he needed to rekindle his joy for the game and the time away helped do that. So did what he called an “amazing” summer of golf that included fellow Australian Jason Day winning his first career major and rising to No. 1 in the Official World Golf Ranking.
“It gives you a kick in the pants to keep working on your game,” Lyle said. “The biggest thing, though, was just realizing you’re good enough to be out there. I had a lot of questions about my ability early in the year, whether I’d ever be good enough again. The love is still there.”
When Lyle had gotten sick the second time, he told my colleague Helen Ross that he got mad at himself for thinking about death. He was getting ahead of himself. He had things to do, and it was time to fight.
Back on the course for the first time in 78 days, he can’t let himself think too far ahead now, either. He has things to do, and it’s time to play golf.