AUSTRALIAN golfer Jarrod Lyle has died from cancer aged 36.
He moved into palliative care last week after coming to the sad realisation his body could no longer handle the rigours of treatment, and he spent his last days at home with his wife Briony and two daughters Lusi, 6, and Jemma, 2.
Lyle had been fighting a third battle with cancer since a recurrence of acute myeloid leukaemia last year and his condition deteriorated recently as he partially lost his eyesight and had speech difficulties.
Briony released a statement on Thursday to reveal the heartbreaking news, and she also passed on Lyle’s touching final message.
“It breaks my heart to tell everyone that Jarrod is no longer with us,” she said. “He passed away peacefully at 8.20pm last night having spent his final week in Torquay among his family and close friends.
“Lusi, Jemma and I are filled with grief and must now confront our lives without the greatest husband and father we could ever have wished for.
“At the same time, we have been blessed and overwhelmed with the messages and actions of support from around the world and feel comforted that Jarrod was able to happily impact so many people throughout his life. Our humble thanks to you all.
“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.
“He asked that I provide a simple message: ‘Thanks for your support, it meant the world. My time was short, but if I’ve helped people think and act on behalf of those families who suffer through cancer, hopefully it wasn’t wasted.’
“We will hold an intimate and private family service in the coming days.
“There will be a public memorial service at The Sands in Torquay on Thursday, September 27. More details later.
“As per Jarrod’s wish, please donate to Challenge in lieu of gifts or flowers.”
Lyle was first diagnosed with leukaemia as a teenager in 1999 and after beating it relapsed in 2012, but fought courageously to return to play professional golf in Australia and on the US Tour.
However, when the disease returned a third time, it proved to be a battle too tough to overcome.
‘THE LUCKIEST GOLFER AROUND’
After he was flooded with messages of support following the decision to leave hospital last week, Lyle thanked his supporters and said he felt like he was the “luckiest golfer around”.
“I feel like I am the luckiest golfer going around because so many people took an interest in me and took an interest in, I guess, my fight,” Lyle told Golf Australia’s Inside the Ropespodcast.
“To have so many friends around the world, whether they’re spectators, whether they’re golfers … to have that kind of support to go to every tournament is a great feeling.
“It is going to be hard to leave that behind. They know that I love them. They know that all the fighting that I did do was to get back out and play golf again.
“To have the support from all those people, it is just a tremendous feeling.
“It is going to be hard but at some point, it is going to happen. They will get on with their lives. I just feel very, very lucky.”
HOW LYLE WON HIS WAY INTO EVERYONE’S HEARTS
Over the past 15-or-so summers, just about the best news any golf fan in Australia could hear was that Lyle would be playing in the Masters or the Open, or anywhere at all.
Forget about Tiger Woods and the rest, if Lyle was playing it was a bonus, a special joy just to know the big, smiling guy from Shepparton was well enough to tee it up.
It didn’t always happen, and won’t again.
But an enormous legacy of inspiration remains for a man who repeatedly battled life-threatening illness with courage, grace and trademark generosity of spirit. Lyle, who died on Wednesday aged 36, was first diagnosed with acute myeloid leukaemia in 1999 when he was 17 and a promising amateur golfer. He spent much of the next nine months in Melbourne’s Royal Children’s Hospital fighting the disease and it was another year after that before he could walk around a golf course.
When finally he was fit enough to play competitively he reduced his handicap to scratch by the time he turned 19 and a couple of years later won a Victorian Institute of Sport golf scholarship.
For the next few years it was as though he was making up for lost time. He turned professional in 2004, qualified for the Asian Tour within another year, and less than 12 months after that was playing in the US on the second-tier Web.com Tour.
In his first season he finished 18th in the money list, earning himself a ticket to play on the US PGA Tour for 2007.
The vagaries of golf came into play and Lyle finished his first season on the world’s most lucrative golf circuit in 164th place on the money list and had to drop back a level to what had been renamed as the Nationwide Tour. With experience by then to match his natural ability, Lyle won two Nationwide events in 2008, finishing fourth on the money list and again being elevated to the US PGA Tour.
TRIBUTE TO A MATE
After Lyle decided to end treatment and move into palliative care, golfers from around the world paid tribute to their comrade. Adam Scott, Jason Day, Greg Norman and Ernie Els were among those who offered up words of admiration, and Robert Allenby — one of Lyle’s best mates — gave an insight into just how special a person Lyle was.
“What I would come to realise over time is that Jarrod possesses a determination, grit and inner strength unlike anybody I’ve met in my life,” Allenby wrote in a piece for Players Voice.
“His will to survive and smash the odds is incredible.
“I draw strength just from being around him.
“He has a huge heart and has touched many, many lives. His character, his charisma, his generosity, his humility and gratitude are beautiful. He embodies everything good about people.
“I love him like a brother and count myself fortunate that I have had him in my life for this long.
“He’s a top bloke and an inspiration to millions. He is loved and admired all around the world.”
— with AAP