To Jarrod, who has inspired us all
August 01, 2018
By Ben Everill, PGATOUR.COM
- Jarrod Lyle at the Fiji International at Natadola Bay in 2016. (Quinn Rooney/Getty Images)
Editor's note: As a continuation of the PGA TOUR's January for Jarrod, fans can donate to the GoFundMe page to send direct support to the Lyle family. For those fans in Australia you can also donate direct to Lusi and Jemma via their Trust Fund: Name: JB & B Lyle BSB: 013 259 Account: 378 942 198
AKRON, Ohio - Adam Scott sat in the Firestone Country Club locker room and cried upon hearing the news Tuesday about his good friend, Jarrod Lyle.
He was a shattered man. As a father himself, his heart started to break for Jarrod’s two young daughters.
And he wasn’t alone.
It was the toughest of days.
Former Open Championship winner and now well-respected commentator Ian Baker-Finch cried for an hour before he could contemplate starting his day.
When Geoff Ogilvy heard the news at the airport, he let out a few audible expletives in disbelief.
For a moment, he couldn’t contain his shock before catching himself and hoping the elderly lady walking past had not heard his outburst.
Ogilvy couldn’t really face it right away. He asked for some time to process it.
I understood fully.
Only hours earlier, I awoke to read the update on Jarrod’s social media accounts.
“My heart breaks as I type this message …,” it began.
I was paralyzed. How Briony Lyle was able to summon the strength to pen those words shows what a rock Jarrod’s amazing wife has been.
“Earlier today Jarrod made the decision to stop active treatment and begin palliative care. He has given everything that he’s got to give, and his poor body cannot take anymore. We’ll be taking him closer to home in the next couple of days so he can finally leave the hospital.”
The greatest fighter I have ever known just couldn’t go another round.
Three times with acute myeloid leukemia. Three.
He beat it three times also. Right now there is no cancer in his body. But the toll of treatments finally broke him.
His sight and speech started to fail at times. The trademark weight stripped from his figure.
But it didn’t beat his mind. Nothing ever could. Nothing can take away the infectious personality of this man.
Anyone who ever met him has nothing but good things to say about him.
Which is why this is so emotional. It is why people all over the world have drawn inspiration from him.
“Perhaps one of the greatest reality checks that life is just not always fair,” good friend and fellow golfer Greg Chalmers says.
No it is not fair.
In this case it is particularly not fair.
Jarrod always puts others first, no matter what he’s going through. He never complains about his lot in life.
Even today – as the realization comes that the end is near – Lyle was thinking of others.
“I feel like I am the luckiest golfer going around because so many people took an interest in me and took an interest in my fight,” he emotionally told Golf Australia’s podcast, “Inside the Ropes.”
“And to have so many friends around the world, whether they are spectators, whether they are golfers, whether they’re marshals whatever … to have that kind of support to go to every tournament is a great feeling and it is going to be hard to leave that behind.
“But they know that I love them, they know that all the fighting I did do was to get back out and play golf again and to have the support from all those people was just a tremendous feeling.
“It is going to be hard but at some point, it is going to happen and they will get on with their lives and I just feel very, very lucky.”
We could all aspire to be half the person Jarrod Lyle is.
He’s thanking us when we should be thanking him.
His way of life is what came to Scott’s mind as he wiped away his tears.
“I can’t imagine being in that position; it’s unthinkable,” Scott says. “He is one of the best blokes there is. Given all the difficulties he’s had since his late teens, he has lived the best life he could with the tough cards he has been dealt.
“He has done better than anyone would have. He was out on TOUR for so long, playing such good golf while battling illness. He has been through it all. His positivity and general demeanor have been so good and so infectious on others; it’s a good way to think of how I should live my life.”
In just being himself, Lyle inspires so many.
He was basically bedridden for nine months as a teenager with the disease.
Just surviving was impressive.
Returning to golf was amazing.
Making it to the Web.com Tour was a massive feat. Winning twice there? Almost unthinkable.
But Lyle did it.
He was a poster child for overcoming the odds.
In 2011, Lyle lost his TOUR card before winning it back at Q-School. He credited the performance at the six-round event to the fact he was about to marry Briony and they’d found out she was pregnant – something doctors said would be unlikely.
Life was good.
He proved it by posting his best-ever TOUR finish – a T4 at the Genesis Open in early 2012.
But then his world would be hammered with the news the leukemia had returned. With his daughter due any day, Lyle tried to keep the diagnosis quiet until after the birth.
But word got out and this meant I had to try to make a call and get confirmation.
At 7 a.m. in the morning where Lyle was in Australia, he took my call. He didn’t have to. But he did.
He then proceeded to apologize profusely for not letting me know sooner. Not giving me the story first.
That’s right. In this most dire time, Lyle’s concern was on some silly idea that he owed me this knowledge.
Of course I told Jarrod to stop being ridiculous. I didn’t care if I was the last to know. But once again he was thinking of others first, even if misguidedly.
Doctors induced labor that day to give Jarrod a chance to meet – and spend at least one day with – his little girl.
He held Lusi almost exclusively in those 24 hours and then of course apologized for it.
Not a soul on earth would begrudge him those hours. There was a distinct chance it would be the only ones he’d get.
“I was selfish and I’m sorry about that. But I just laid there for a few hours as she slept and just stared at her,” he told me later that year.
“There were a few times I just broke out in tears as I tried to piece together what I am going to go through in the next few months and I just didn’t want to let her go.”
He would thankfully get more hours with her after once again coming through the other side.
And phenomenally Lyle made it all the way back to the TOUR, playing 20 more times in 2015 and 2016 before deciding to move back to Australia for good.
It was time to give Lusi the focus. And Jemma was also coming into the world.Jarrod Lyle with his daughter Lusi in 2014 at the Australian Masters. (Michael Dodge/Getty Images)
Lyle might not have been on the TOUR anymore, but he was forging ahead. He started selling golf apparel and dabbling in commentary work.
His goal of being at life’s little moments for his daughters was coming true and he was once again at peace.
Then strike three – the cancer returned again late last year.
Despite a haploidentical transplant seemingly going well, Lyle found himself still struggling, leaving him in his current predicament.
And so as he spends his final moments with those close to him, I choose to remember all the good times. And they are plenty.
Because the other thing to know about Jarrod is he always left you smiling.
He’s what Australians call a larrikin. Someone who has a mischievous streak. A wickedly sharp sense of humor. But someone who also has a kind heart. Put simply, Jarrod is a great bloke.
He made me smile the minute I met him. And I can truly say every single time I was with Jarrod, I walked away both happier and as a better man.
He is just real. Jarrod will look you in the eye, most likely call you something that I can’t write here and follow it up with a line that had you in stiches.
His cursing is legendary – but in Australia, this is the norm between male friends.
After the laughs, he would immediately ask about you. How’s your family? How are you? What have you been up to? How can I help you?
Chalmers remembers betting Lyle during one tournament that he couldn’t play 18 holes without swearing.
Lyle took the bet confidently but lost after mouthing a few and trying to claim that didn’t count.
Marc Leishman says Jarrod’s always been that way.
As youngsters at the Victorian Institute of Sport, Lyle’s trademark was leaving the facility like a NASCAR driver celebrating a victory.
“He’d always leave some rubber on the road,” Leishman laughs.
“And you could see it under his wheel well. Every tournament we drove to, he was always leading the charge. The parking lot looked like the start of a race track.
“Jarrod is always the life of the party – yet he is the sensible one also. You can’t mistake his big happy voice. Every room he enters immediately gets happier.”
Jarrod figured out what made particular people smile, what their humor was, and nailed it.
He has a way to get at everyone.
Jason Day was never safe on the practice greens. Lyle would always sidle past him and break wind at just the right moment.
When recalling it, Day still laughs.
I ended up the brunt of many of his jokes – particularly if in the vicinity of a handful of the other Aussie golfers - and still loved him more and more.
Because what I have come to realize, is it was Jarrod’s way of including me in the Aussie golf fraternity. A signal to the others that this kid is OK. He’s one of us. He opened doors for me into their world.
I last saw Jarrod in November at the Australian Open. He was about to go into treatment for the third time but was still cracking jokes while hanging out at a stall in the spectator village selling underwear and belts.
Multiple players came and bought his product, sat down, had a chat.
We talked for a story on a golf cart as Lusi ran around playing nearby. She approached as he was talking specifics of treatment and he paused, picked her up in a bear hug, and gently asked her to run over to her mother for a minute while he finished our chat.
Of course, then he apologized for the interruption. I stared blankly and apologized to him. Who was I to take up his time with that beautiful little girl.
So I wrapped it up quickly – and purchased some undies and a belt.
Those who know me know this belt. The buckle is the Australian flag and I have worn it every single day on TOUR since.
It reminds me of both my heritage and my mate and how he lives life. It reminds me to strive to be like Jarrod.
And in the grand scheme of things I barely know him.
Others have known him much longer and have drawn from his strength.
As that promising young golfer, Jarrod was visited by Robert Allenby in the hospital. Allenby told him he needed to beat the disease and come play a round of golf with him.
Allenby’s greatest achievement has been his dedication and amazing work with Challenge – a children’s cancer foundation in Australia that Jarrod was a beneficiary of and is now a champion of their cause.
The four-time PGA TOUR winner knew his offer was a long shot and figured hey, hopefully they could at least hit a few shots, maybe putt around a bit and just talk about life.
“I was so happy when he made it through and came out to play a few times,” Allenby recalled in an emotional phone conversation.
“We developed a bond and a friendship. Became the best of mates. And he became better than I thought he could ever be at the game. He said I was part of the inspiration to get there – but in reality, he was inspiring me on every step of that journey.
“He inspires us all. His great personality, his showmanship, his loyalty. He is just a really good classy guy. And he was everything golf needed.
“In a world where you can sometimes lose perspective, Jarrod is always that guy who reminds you without trying to.”
The countless outpourings of support for Jarrod over social media haven’t been a surprise.
So to Jarrod – let me end by saying this.
You say you are the luckiest golfer in the world. But it is us who are lucky. To have known you, to have been around you, to be inspired by you now and forever. We love you.