“I didn’t know whether I’d ever be back playing golf.”
Those were the words Jarrod Lyle uttered after breaking down in tears at Royal Melbourne in 2013.
After a relapse of the leukaemia he’d beaten as a teenager in 1999, Lyle made an emotional return to the course at the Australian Masters.
The Aussie fan favourite stepped onto the 1st tee and was about to hit his drive when the tears came flooding out.
“The crowd on the first tee was something I wasn’t expecting,” he explained later that day.
“I hit that first tee shot with tears all through my eyes.
“And then to hear (daughter) Lusi call out ‘daddy’, I had to find her and give her one last cuddle.
“I could feel myself on the verge of letting go again, but me being the fighter I am, I didn’t want to let the round disappear and blow myself out.
“So I fought like crazy…I thought ‘it’s time to man up again and just play golf.”
Tributes pour in for ‘inspirational’ Lyle
Lyle, who died aged 36 on Wednesday night, hopes his long battle with cancer inspires other families suffering through the disease.
And his heartbroken friends and family say that’s typical of the gregarious golfer: thinking of others, to his end.
Tributes are flowing for Lyle, who his wife Briony says passed away at 8.20pm on Wednesday.
Lyle asked her to deliver his final public message: “Thanks for your support, it meant the world. My time was short but if I have helped people think and act on behalf of those families who suffer through cancer, hopefully it wasn’t wasted.”
Lyle spent his final days surrounded by loved ones when he decided to go into palliative care after ending treatment for a third bout of myeloid leukaemia.
The former US PGA Tour player is survived by his wife and daughters Lusi, six, and Jemma, two.
“Lusi, Jemma and I are filled with grief and now must confront our lives without the greatest husband and father we could ever have wished for,” Ms Lyle said in a statement issued on Thursday by Golf Australia.
“At the same time, we have been blessed and overwhelmed with the messages and actions of support from around the world … Jarrod was able to take in many of the unbelievably kind and generous acts and words in his final few days and was overwhelmed by the emotional outpouring.”
Lyle’s friend and fellow Australian golfer Mark Leishman said the golfing fraternity was shattered.
“It’s a life taken way too soon,” Leishman told AAP.
“He showed us how to face the toughest times with the utmost positivity and his fight to the very end was so inspiring.”
Compatriots and competitors alike hailed the courage of the Lyle, born in Shepparton, Victoria and initially diagnosed with acute myeloid leukaemia at the age of 17.
“If we all had just a drop of your fight and courage,” fellow pro golfer Marcus Fraser said of Lyle, whose two professional tournament wins came in 2008.
“It is through a river of tears I say goodbye … quick with a joke, didn’t mind a beer, and just a pure joy to be around every day.” Australian golfer Greg Chalmers posted on Twitter.
Fellow Aussie Jason Day posted: “Jarrod will forever be an inspiration to us alI.”
South African Ernie Els: “He fought a good fight and will be forever remembered for his courage, strength, perseverance and the light he brought to all of our lives.”
Irishman Rory McIlroy: “The courage shown through his battle is an inspiration to all of us. He made the world a better place.”
Tiger Woods donated $10,000 to a GoFundMe initiative to support Lyle’s two daughters; American Bryson DeChambeau donated his $25,000 winnings from a long-drive competition.
The funding website page, titled Jarrod Lyle’s Girls, has raised more than $90,000 since set up earlier this week.
PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan said Lyle’s death had left the tour “heartbroken”.
“Jarrod was a true inspiration in the way he faced cancer with a persistently positive attitude and he carried himself with incredible grace, dignity and courage through the recurrences of this relentless disease,” Monahan said in a statement.
A private funeral service would be held for Lyle in coming days before a public memorial service, at a date yet to be announced, at Lyle’s home club, The Sands golf course in Torquay, Victoria.