Jarrod Lyle could get people from all walks of life to smile. Picture: Wayne Ludbey
Jarrod Lyle could get people from all walks of life to smile. Picture: Wayne Ludbey

Inspiring to the end, Lyle left his mark

JARROD Lyle made people smile. First thoughts or memories of him, whenever they are had, see a smile work to the surface so easily.

It wasn't because he was really funny, although his capacity to evoke laughter, usually through a pointed jibe, then join in, was well known.

It was because he was engaging, warm, interested and enthusiastic wherever he was, whatever he was doing, whoever he was with.

In the early days it was around Shepparton, country courses, with country people. That's where his story began, with his dad, John, and mates - tales and jokes told in between searingly good golf shots.

Lyle's talent for the game was obvious from the time he entered his teens. His big frame belied his smooth, uncomplicated swing.

It was matched only by his quick, relentless and disarmingly endearing wit.

He was funny, in that way Aussies are. There was a line, a sting, a dig too, then that laugh, and you laughed along with him.

But for every one-liner there was a caring line of inquiry too.

Ask the people who knew him, they'll tell you. He couldn't give enough, care enough. He wanted to know how you were, what was going on, if he could help you.

Consider that from a guy who had cancer three times.

What a load to carry, among hopes and dreams of not just being a professional golfer, but a husband and a father too.

He got to tick all three boxes because he knew only one way - to fight; for what he wanted, for his family.

Lyle walked like a big, happy bloke for most of his 36 years.

It was an effortless, almost slow motion lope and invariably done with a smile.

That smile was there when he first fought with acute myeloid leukaemia as a teenager, when he spent nine months in hospital.

He was visited by Robert Allenby, one of Australia's best golfers at the time, who had heard of this talented kid hit hard.

Allenby told him he needed to beat the disease and come play a round of golf with him.

Lyle recovered, played that round, and thousands more with Allenby. Together, as mates, and golfers, they helped raise millions for Challenge, the cancer charity both became integral parts of.

Jarrod Lyle walks the fairways with wife Briony and daughter Lush at an Australian Masters practice day in 2013. Picture: Michael Klein.
Jarrod Lyle walks the fairways with wife Briony and daughter Lush at an Australian Masters practice day in 2013. Picture: Michael Klein.

He was playing the game he loved, met the love of his life too, Briony, married her and together they defied doctor's expectations to deliver the pair's first daughter, Lush.

Those three boxes were all ticked because Lyle was in to a career that promised maybe not a world No.1 ranking, but plenty of good things to come, at home and abroad.

He played in 253 events as a professional, won twice and finished in the top five nine times.

They are excellent numbers in golf.

Lyle had a highest world ranking of 142. Throughout his playing career he carried with him that broad, country smile, which grew bigger when he netted a career highlight on the game's big stage in 2011.

Lyle aced the par three, 16th hole in Phoenix, the infamous party hole, in front of thousands of fans who screamed "You F@#$ing beauty" just like he did with his big arms raised in the air.

What a moment, a moment that plenty thought never would come.

One of Jarrod Lyle’s career highlights was a hole-in-one at the 16th or 'Stadium Hole' at the TPC Scottsdale in the Phoenix Open.
One of Jarrod Lyle’s career highlights was a hole-in-one at the 16th or 'Stadium Hole' at the TPC Scottsdale in the Phoenix Open.

Better moments came, the birth of his second daughter, Jemma, to name one.

But before that, after the on-course euphoria came more off-course concern.

In 2012, the cancer came back and the battle he thought he'd won had to be waged, again.

But he won, again. Yep, twice the big fella endured, and beat, the dreaded disease. It's because he had so much to fight for. It's that fight everyone admired.

That's why the recent outpouring of emotion from his peers was so strong, and sincere.

From Aussies Adam Scott, Jason Day, Marc Leishman and Americans such as Rickie Fowler, golfing names known around the world. They all paid tribute to Lyle, not just because he was once one of them, but because of who he was and how he was.

"He is one of the best blokes there is," Scott said of Lyle.

Fellow golfer Robert Allenby was a great support to Jarrod during his fight.
Fellow golfer Robert Allenby was a great support to Jarrod during his fight.

Scott is also one of the greatest blokes in golf. A great bloke calling Lyle the "best bloke" speaks volumes for the universal acknowledgment of Lyle's outstanding character.

After the second fight a yellow bucket hat became Lyle's calling card. It was a permanent reminder to some, a message of hope to others. Yellow is the colour of the Challenge charity, which was there for him when he needed it, and the charity he gave so much back to in turn.

Justin Thomas tried to ship a box of the hats to the US recently, to wear as he won the Bridgestone Invitational, in honour of Lyle. He and the rest of the field made do with yellow ribbons.

There were tears then, as there were when Lyle got back to the game in 2013, but they were tears of joy.

Chapter three was happening, and he was going to make the most of it.

Lyle took his growing family to the US. He was well again, and his golfing ambitions were growing too.

Emboldened by an outstanding life perspective, that golf is indeed just a game, Lyle brought an RV, a motorhome, and drove his crew around the country.

Jarrod Lyle in hospital with daughters Lusi and Jemma. Picture: Lyle’s Instagram account
Jarrod Lyle in hospital with daughters Lusi and Jemma. Picture: Lyle’s Instagram account

They saw the sights, he played some golf. But better than that, he experienced life with the family he had fought so hard to have.

Unfortunately, professionally at least, the golf didn't quite work out, so the family came back home. They took up residence on the Victorian coast and Lyle scaled back his golf to spend more time with that family.

"I've done things golfers dream of doing … I've made lifelong friends," Lyle said at the 2016 Australian Open, standing in front of a stall, manned by Briony, selling belts and undies.

It was a business begun because he knew life on the road, away from his girls, wasn't for him.

He played a bit, sold some belts and was well too.

Until he wasn't again.

Lyle played his last golf event in Kalgoorlie in May last year. Then he had some routine blood tests, which were as normal as reading bedtime stories to his girls.

The results were a cruel twist of the knife. The cancer was back. He was going to have fight again.

Jarrod Lyle’s yellow hat became his trademark symbol. Picture: Gregg Porteous
Jarrod Lyle’s yellow hat became his trademark symbol. Picture: Gregg Porteous

The battle this time was waged for about a year but happened more in private.

Towards the end it was torturous too, made tougher because that infectious smile that Jarrod took to fairways and clubhouses and charity dinners around the world had become too much to muster.

Positivity was always Lyle's pursuit, for him, and his family. He never cried "woe is me" and he pushed his message for hope through Challenge.

His work for them never stopped, and his two successful fights, plus his golfing and life adventures, his marriage, his two daughters, all those moments they shared, were evidence maybe that the disease doesn't always defeat you.

There will be tears around the world for a guy who met people from Qatar to Cancun, all over Europe and the US, and in Fiji and China and Panama too.

In a final message, Lyle tried to thank them all.

Despite everything he went through, Jarrod Lyle considered himself to be the “luckiest golfer going around”. Picture: Wayne Ludbey
Despite everything he went through, Jarrod Lyle considered himself to be the “luckiest golfer going around”. Picture: Wayne Ludbey

"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 said.

"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."

Not as lucky as everyone who got to meet him.

Lyle is survived by his wife, Briony, and daughters Lusi and Jemma.

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