Remembering a Shining Star

By Futures Tour MediaJune 27, 2006, 4:00 pm
When you work for a golf tour of young professionals and you lose one of your shining stars to death prematurely, how do you process that great misfortune? And when one of your young pros looks you in the eyes and asks, 'Why does God take all of the good ones first,' how do you answer that?
 
These are not easy questions. But last week, as the Duramed FUTURES Tour reeled with the sudden, unexpected death of Gaelle Truet following a car accident on a rain-slick highway, staff and players alike wrestled with mortality questions. We all had driven the same exact route from Decatur, Ill., to our next tournament in Lima, Ohio. Some had even telephoned others traveling behind, warning them about the storms ahead.
 
Gaelle was traveling alone that day. One split second and one giant puddle on the highway sealed her destiny, leaving many to ponder the possibility that it could have been them. It was a thought that touched past and present players on the Duramed FUTURES Tour, as well as the LPGA Tour, spanning 26 years on the FUTURES and 50-plus years on the LPGA. Gaelle would become the first Tour player to die during tournament travel.
 
But while the sadness was sometimes nearly unbearable, all week long, there were stories. These were stories that captured the essence of third-year player Gaelle Truet of New Caledonia -- the player with the funny French accent who would nearly sing both your first and last names each time she crossed paths with you. This was the player with the genuine smile, the perfect-fitting and professional apparel, and the one with the spark in her step, the impeccable posture, the dancer's walking gait and the swinging arms of a happy toy soldier as she marched down fairways heading toward her next shot.
 
Tournament operations intern Kenny Badylak was on the range in Decatur at the end of one day and Gaelle walked up to him on the range. She said, 'Stand still, Kenny. Do you hear that?' And she proceeded to walk around him in circles on the range, finally asking, 'Should a professional have squeaky shoes?'
 
The two laughed. Two nights later, Badylak walked alone to a local restaurant in Lima and noticed that he had squeaky shoes. Maybe they had always made noise, but because of Gaelle, he now noticed it.
 
Tour member Naree Song of Bangkok, Thailand and Seoul, Korea, struggled with Gaelle's death because, like Gaelle, she is a twin. Song could not fathom losing her best friend and 'other half,' as Gaelle's brother had. One morning while Song made her breakfast, she cracked open an egg and out came a double yolk. Song found herself thinking about her former Tour mate that morning in the kitchen.
 
Great Britain's Samantha Head, who also has a twin sister, met Gaelle earlier this season at a Tour event in El Paso, Texas, where they spent the entire round talking about their respective twins.
 
'That was our connection,' said Head. 'When I found out about the accident last Tuesday, I just couldn't stop crying. She touched me so much. To lose your other half -- the person you were brought into this world with -- is unimaginable.'
 
And while her closest friends fought back tears all week, two of them -- Dana Lacey of North Beach, W. Australia, and Julie Tvede of Copenhagen, Denmark -- spent at least one afternoon last week in the players' locker room, looking at photos of their friend when they fished in Australia, played golf in various places and traveled the world on a nickel budget with eyes wide open.
 
'She kicked our butts in short-game competitions that we held during tournament practice-round days,' said Lacey, who also traveled with the New Caledonian on the Australian Ladies' Golf Tour from November 2005 to February 2006. 'We played for $5 birdies and ice cream on the last hole.'
 
Gaelle loved New Caledonia but considered herself 'practically an Aussie' because she was there so often in the off-season, sleeping on the couch of twin brother Loic, who lives in Australia. And whenever she was home in New Caledonia, she would rise from bed each morning at 5 a.m., to play golf with her father.
 
'She loved golf and it was her biggest dream to make it to the LPGA Tour,' said Tvede.
 
'We had many arguments about practicing,' added Lacey. 'She loved to practice and I don't enjoy it very much, so we never came to a conclusion about that.'
 
And then there were the many stories that came from traveling last year with good pal Sarah Lynn Johnston of St. Charles, Ill. Once, while traveling in Washington, D.C., Gaelle pointed to the Washington Monument and shouted, 'Look at that lighthouse!' And then there was the time when the two ran out of gas one night on a dark, rural two-lane road somewhere in South Carolina and they had to knock on doors of houses for help.
 
This season, Gaelle's latest project was selling hand-sewn and highly colorful yardage book covers for friend Jeanne-Marie Busuttil of Chantilly, France. Busuttil would design and sew the covers from her home in Gainesville, Fla., and Gaelle would serve as her gratis field service rep. She would carry fabric samples in a little bag and help players select just the right covers for their weekly yardage book on the Tour.
 
But it wasn't about making money, which she wouldn't accept from her French friend. It was about helping her friend connect with Tour members. It was about meeting and talking to fellow Tour members. Ultimately, it was about friendship -- the kind Gaelle would show when she'd drop off a greeting card on your desk to wish you a good week or the kind of sharing she enjoyed whenever someone shipped her Australian cookies and she arrived in the Tour's mobile office to share the prized Timtams as 'the best cookies in the world.'
 
Two years ago when a member of the Australian Embassy showed up at one of the Tour's tournaments outside Washington, D.C., there was a squeal of excitement heard coming from one room in the clubhouse. Upon opening a door, there stood Gaelle with a number of her Aussie Tour mates. They had Victoria Bitters (beer) in one hand and Aussie chocolate in the other hand, compliments of the embassy.
 
When the Duramed FUTURES Tour's web site set up a link last week for Gaelle's friends to log in tributes following her death, the page quickly filled with entries from individuals around the world. It was proof that Gaelle's smile and kindness had traveled far and wide. And it was evidence that the job of a touring professional can reach many people in ways that no other job can.
 
'I think it made us realize that we touch a lot of people,' said Tour member Blair O'Neal of Tempe, Ariz., who played college golf with Gaelle at Arizona State University. 'It's crazy how many people remember you. People don't forget.'
 
And they especially don't forget those who live life fully. Gaelle Truet will no longer allot time to show Tour players fabric samples for yardage book covers. She won't be there to share Timtams. And she won't make that trip to Sweden she was looking forward to making this year, learning Swedish words and phrases she had picked up on the Tour.
 
Gaelle Truet may no longer walk the fairways of the Duramed FUTURES Tour, but make no mistake -- she is still everywhere. Death cannot remove the memories. And her giant spirit certainly is too large for that to happen anytime soon.

Day, Spieth chasing Davis after Day 1 of Aussie Open

By Jason CrookNovember 23, 2017, 6:50 am

The PGA Tour is off this week but a couple of the circuit’s biggest stars – Jordan Spieth and Jason Day – are headlining the Emirates Australian Open, the first event in The Open Qualifying Series for the 2018 Open at Carnoustie. Here's how things look after the opening round, where Cameron Davis has opened up a two-shot lead:

Leaderboard: Cameron Davis (-8), Taylor MacDonald (-6), Nick Cullen (-5), Jason Day (-5), Brian Campbell (-4), Lucas Herbert (-4), Stephen Leaney (-4), Anthony Quayle (-4)

What it means: Jordan Spieth has won this event three of the last four years, including last year, but he got off to a rocky start on Thursday. Playing in the windy afternoon wave, the world No. 2 bogeyed his first two holes but rebounded with birdies on Nos. 4 and 5. It was more of the same the rest of the way as the 24-year-old carded three more bogeys and four birdies, getting into the clubhouse with a 1-under 70. While it certainly wasn't the start he was hoping for, Spieth didn't shoot himself out of the tournament with 54 holes left to play, he has plenty of time to claw his way up the leaderboard.

Round of the day: With Round 1 in the books, the solo leader, Davis, is the easy pick here. The 22-year-old Aussie who turned pro last year, came out of the gates on fire, birdieing six of his first seven holes, including four in a row on Nos. 4 through 7. He did drop a shot on the ninth hole to go out in 30 but rebounded with three more birdies on the back to card a 8-under 63. Davis, who was born in Sydney and played this year on the Mackenzie Tour in Canada. He will attempt to get his Web.com Tour card next month during qualifying in Arizona.

Best of the rest: Making his first start in his home country in four years, Day started on the 10th hole at The Australian Golf Club and made four birdies to one bogey on the back side before adding four more circles after making the turn. Unfortunately for the 30-year-old, he also added an ugly double-bogey 6 on the par-4 eighth hole and had to settle for a 5-under 66, good enough to sit T-3. Day, who has dropped to No. 12 in the world rankings, is looking for his first win on any tour since the 2016 Players Championship.

Main storyline heading into Friday: Can the upstart 22-year-old Davis hold off the star power chasing him or will he fold to the pressure of major champions in his rearview mirror? Day (afternoon) and Spieth (morning) are once again on opposite ends of the draw on Friday as they try to improve their position before the weekend.

Shot of the day: It’s tough to beat an ace in this category, and we had one of those on Thursday from Australian Brad Shilton. Shilton’s hole-in-one on the par-3, 188-yard 11th hole came with a special prize, a $16k watch.

Quote of the day: “Just two bad holes. Pretty much just two bad swings for the day,” – Day, after his 66 on Thursday. 

Watch: Shilton wins $16k timepiece with hole-in-one

By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 23, 2017, 2:50 am

Australian Brad Shilton made a hole-in-one on the par-3, 188-yard 11th hole during the first round of the Australian Open, and he was rewarded handsomely for his efforts - with a Tag Heuer watch worth $16k.

Day gets in early mix with 66 in return to Australia

By Associated PressNovember 23, 2017, 2:32 am

SYDNEY - Jason Day's first tournament round in Australia in four years was a 5-under 66 to put him among the leaders early Thursday at the Australian Open.

Day's round came unhinged late with a double-bogey 6 on the par-4 eighth hole, his second-last of the day. He hit his tee shot into the trees on the left, hit back out to the fairway, missed his approach to the green and then couldn't get up and down.

''That was brutal,'' Day said of the 481-yard hole that played into gusting winds.

But Day recovered quickly to birdie his last to sit three strokes behind fellow Australian and early leader Cameron Davis, who started on the first, had six front-nine birdies and shot 63 at The Australian Golf Club.

In between the two was Australian Taylor MacDonald, who shot 65.

''It was a pretty solid round, I didn't miss many fairways, I didn't miss many greens,'' Day said. ''I'd give myself a seven or eight out of 10.''

Defending champion Jordan Spieth, attempting to win the Australian Open for the third time in four years, was off to a poor start among the afternoon players, bogeying his first two holes.

The Sydney-born Davis played most of this season on the Mackenzie Tour in Canada and will attempt to secure his Web.com card in the final round of qualifying from Dec. 7-10 in Chandler, Arizona.

''Everything went to plan,'' Davis said. ''I got off to a great start. I was hitting my spots and was able to keep it together on the back nine.''

NOTES: Australian Brad Shilton had the first ace of the tournament, using a 5-iron for a hole-in-one on the par-3, 188-yard 11th hole, his second hole of the day. Australian veteran Geoff Ogilvy, the 2006 U.S. Open winner, shot 69. He and Rod Pampling (68) played the first round with Day.

Day: Woods feeling good, hitting it long

By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 22, 2017, 9:33 pm

Jason Day says Tiger Woods told him he feels better than he has in three years, which is good news for Woods a week ahead of his return to the PGA Tour at the Hero World Challenge.

Day, a fellow Nike endorser, was asked about Woods during his news conference at the Emirates Australian Open on Wednesday. "I did talk to him," Day said, per a report in the Sydney Morning Herald,"and he did say it's the best he's ever felt in three years'" Day said.

"He doesn't wake up with pain anymore, which is great. I said to him, 'Look, it's great to be one of the best players ever to live, but health is one thing that we all take for granted and if you can't live a happy, healthy life, then that's difficult.'"

The Hero World Challenge will be played Nov. 30-Dec. 3 in the Bahamas and broadcast on Golf Channel and NBC.

Day, who has had his own health issues, said he could empathize with Woods.

"I totally understand where he's coming from, because sometimes I wake up in the morning and it takes me 10 minutes to get out of bed, and for him to be in pain for three years is very frustrating."

Woods has not played since February after undergoing surgery following a recurrence of back problems.

"From what I see on Instagram and what he's been telling me, he says he's ready and I'm hoping that he is, because from what I hear, he's hitting it very long," Day said.

"And if he's hitting it long and straight, then that's going to be tough for us because it is Tiger Woods. He's always been a clutch putter and in amongst the best and it will be interesting to see.

"There's no pressure. I think it's a 17- or 18-man field, there's no cut, he's playing at a tournament where last year I think he had the most birdies at."