The Fighter, Part 3: Career and family take off, until …

By Rex HoggardFebruary 20, 2014, 1:00 pm

SHEPPARTON, Australia – Amid the chaos and controlled mayhem that is the 16th hole at TPC Scottsdale, John Lyle shouldered his way into the crowded grandstand that rings the 162-yard par 3 to watch another seminal moment in his son’s life.

“A guy sat down beside me and said, ‘Do you know him?’ And I said, ‘Yeah, I’m his dad,’” John Lyle recalled. When Jarrod Lyle’s 8-iron dropped into the hole for an ace, “It was like listening to a Grand Final in Melbourne. The roar was just amazing.”

While the largely inebriated masses that occupy the Birds Nest cheered Lyle’s hole-in-one at the 2011 Waste Management Phoenix Open, John Lyle’s mind raced back more than a decade to the moment his son was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia at 17.

Those dark days at the Royal Children’s Hospital in Melbourne seemed a lifetime away, visions of a frightened child replaced by a driven man with a singular focus.

Nine months of debilitating chemotherapy and radiation treatments had been endured largely because of Jarrod Lyle’s dogged determination that he would play on the PGA Tour.

“The only thing I thought about was being positive and playing golf again,” Lyle said.

By the time doctors declared Lyle cancer free in 2000 he was already on his way to the game’s grandest stage. A year later, at age 20, he was admitted to the prestigious Victorian Institute of Sport in Melbourne, an intense training program that helped produce some of Australia’s top players, including Geoff Ogilvy and Aaron Baddeley, and he turned professional in 2004.

A year later he transcended the stereotype of a good-natured cancer survivor when he finished third at the Heineken Classic, a European Tour event played at Royal Melbourne.

“For him to go through what he did was amazing,” said Martin Joyce, who attended the VIS with Lyle and is now the director of the institute’s golf program. “It’s the type of personality he has. He doesn’t let too much get to him and just gets on with his own business.”

That no-nonsense personality – born, as with many cancer survivors, from his brush with mortality – helped steady him for what would turn out to be a less than meteoric climb to the PGA Tour.

In 2007 Lyle earned his first trip to the Tour via the Tour but struggled in his rookie season, missing the cut in almost half his starts and finishing 164th in earnings. He would spend the next four years bouncing between the secondary circuit and the Tour with regular stops at Q-School.

By the time he burst into the consciousness of the American golf fan with his raucous ace at TPC Scottsdale in 2011, he was mired in a familiar cycle of missed opportunities and missed cuts.

Throughout it all, however, Lyle’s history provided the benchmark of perspective: “The whole mindset side of things that I had while I was in the hospital of beating cancer and getting myself out there playing golf when I didn’t feel like playing golf,” he said.

“You hit some bad shots that didn’t seem that bad when you think back to where you’ve come from. You get this flashback of the 4-year-old kid that was there next to you in the hospital that was battling cancer the same time as you.”

After another successful trip through Q-School in 2011, Lyle began his fifth year on Tour with surprising consistency. He missed just one cut in his first five starts and closed with a 1-under 70 to tie for fourth at the Northern Trust Open, his best Tour finish in his 100th start.

Although it was early in the season, Lyle was 36th in earnings following the Northern Trust and he flew to Mexico for his next start with renewed optimism.

“It was just so nice to see someone smile from ear to ear,” said Robert Allenby, who befriended Lyle while he was undergoing treatment in 1999 and mentored him through his early years on Tour. “It didn’t matter what happened, you couldn’t take it off his face. He was just so happy to not only be playing a sport he loved but to do it professionally.”

Three months before his tie for fourth in Los Angeles, Lyle had married a former schoolmate, Briony, in a surprise wedding in his hometown of Shepparton. The couple was expecting their first child in March, which was also a surprise considering that doctors had told Lyle he likely couldn’t have children because of the treatments he endured as a teenager.

In late February when Lyle arrived at the Mayakoba Golf Classic flush with confidence 2012 was shaping up to be the best year of his eventful life, with the convergence of a growing family and the competitive reality of a professional career that appeared to have reached a tipping point.

“Yeah, stop there,” Briony Lyle offered with a nervous smile. “If only we could.”

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Suspended Hensby offers details on missed drug test

By Will GrayDecember 12, 2017, 11:30 pm

One day after receiving a one-year suspension from the PGA Tour for failing to provide a sample for a drug test, Mark Hensby offered details on the events that led to his missed test in October.

Hensby, 46, released a statement explaining that the test in question came after the opening round of the Sanderson Farms Championship, where the Aussie opened with a 78. Frustrated about his play, Hensby said he was prepared to give a blood sample but was then informed that the test would be urine, not blood.

"I had just urinated on the eighth hole, my 17th hole that day, and knew that I was probably unable to complete the urine test for at least a couple more hours," Hensby said. "I told this gentleman that I would complete the test in the morning prior to my early morning tee time. Another gentleman nearby told me that 'they have no authority to require me to stay.' Thus, I left."

Hensby explained that he subsequently received multiple calls and texts from PGA Tour officials inquiring as to why he left without providing a sample and requesting that he return to the course.

"I showed poor judgment in not responding," said Hensby, who was subsequently disqualified from the tournament.

Hensby won the 2004 John Deere Classic, but he has missed six cuts in seven PGA Tour starts over the last two years. He will not be eligible to return to the Tour until Oct. 26, 2018.

"Again, I made a terrible decision to not stay around that evening to take the urine test," Hensby said. "Obviously in hindsight I should have been more patient, more rational and taken the test. Call me stupid, but don't call me a cheater. I love the game. I love the integrity that it represents, and I would never compromise the values and qualities that the game deserves."

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Day's wife shares emotional story of miscarriage

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 12, 2017, 4:12 pm

Jason Day’s wife revealed on social media that the couple had a miscarriage last month.

Ellie Day, who announced her pregnancy on Nov. 4, posted an emotional note on Instagram that she lost the baby on Thanksgiving.

“I found out the baby had no heartbeat anymore. I was devastated,” she wrote. “I snuck out the back door of my doctor, a hot, sobbing, mascara-covered mess. Two and a half weeks went by witih me battling my heart and brain about what was happening in my body, wondering why this wouldn’t just be over.”

The Days, who have two children, Dash and Lucy, decided to go public to help others who have suffered similar heartbreak.

“I hope you know you aren’t alone and I hope you feel God wrap his arms around you when you feel the depths of sorrow and loss,” she wrote.  

Newsmaker of the Year: No. 5, Sergio Garcia

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 12, 2017, 1:00 pm

This was the year it finally happened for Sergio Garcia.

The one-time teen phenom, known for years as “El Nino,” entered the Masters as he had dozens of majors beforehand – shouldered with the burden of being the best player without a major.

Garcia was 0-for-72 driving down Magnolia Lane in April, but after a thrilling final round and sudden-death victory over Justin Rose, the Spaniard at long last captured his elusive first major title.

The expectation for years was that Garcia might land his white whale on a British links course, or perhaps at a U.S. Open where his elite ball-striking might shine. Instead it was on the storied back nine at Augusta National that he came alive, chasing down Rose thanks in part to a memorable approach on No. 15 that hit the pin and led to an eagle.

Full list of 2017 Newsmakers of the Year

A green jacket was only the start of a transformative year for Garcia, 37, who heaped credit for his win on his then-fiancee, Angela Akins. The two were married in July, and months later the couple announced that they were expecting their first child to arrive just ahead of Garcia’s return to Augusta, where he'll host his first champions’ dinner.

And while players often cling to the notion that a major win won’t intrinsically change them, there was a noticeable difference in Garcia over the summer months. The weight of expectation, conscious or otherwise, seemed to lift almost instantly. Like other recent Masters champs, he took the green jacket on a worldwide tour, with stops at Wimbledon and a soccer match between Real Madrid and Barcelona.

The player who burst onto the scene as a baby-faced upstart is now a grizzled veteran with nearly two decades of pro golf behind him. While the changes this year occurred both on and off the course, 2017 will always be remembered as the year when Garcia finally, improbably, earned the title of major champion.

Masters victory

Article: Garcia defeats Rose to win Masters playoff

Article: Finally at peace: Garcia makes major breakthrough

Article: Garcia redeems career, creates new narrative

Video: See the putt that made Sergio a major champ

Green jacket tour

Article: Take a look at Sergio's crazy, hectic media tour

Article: Garcia with fiancée, green jacket at Wimbledon

Article: Watch: Garcia kicks off El Clasico in green jacket

Man of the people

Article: SERGIO! Garcia finally gets patrons on his side

Article: Fan finally caddies for Sergio after asking 206 times

Article: Sergio donates money for Texas flood relief

Article: Connelly, Garcia paired years after photo together

Ace at 17th at Sawgrass

Growing family

Article: Sergio, Angela get married; Kenny G plays reception

Article: Garcia, wife expecting first child in March 2018

Departure from TaylorMade

Article: Masters champ Garcia splits with TaylorMade

Squashed beef with Paddy

Article: Harrington: Garcia was a 'sore loser'

Article: Sergio, Padraig had 'great talk,' are 'fine'

Victory at Valderrama

Article: Garcia gets first win since Masters at Valderrama

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Newsmakers of the Year: Top 10 in 2017

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 12, 2017, 12:30 pm