A Charitable Twist of Fate for Allenby

RSS

135th Open Championship HOYLAKE, England -- Jarrod Lyle must have felt he was living a dream: walking down fairways framed by wispy grass and dotted with tiny pot bunkers and their sodden walls, the black-and-yellow scoreboards next to each green, fans lining every hole at Royal Liverpool.
 
This is his first British Open, so thats to be expected.
 
Walking alongside him was Robert Allenby, playing golfs oldest championship for the 14th time. And he surely felt the same way.
 
Jarrod Lyle
Jarrod Lyle is competing in his first Open Championship.
Awesome, Allenby said quietly, recalling when they met, still amazed that their paths would cross here.
 
Allenby has been involved with Challenge a Cancer Support Network in Australia for more than a dozen years, raising $8 million to help pay for treatments and look after families whose children are battling cancer.
 
Seven years ago, one of those kids in the program was Lyle.
 
He was an aspiring golfer, although he didnt have the pedigree of the some of the rising stars Down Under. Lyle was playing off a 2 handicap when he was diagnosed at age 17 with acute myeloid leukemia.
 
He was never told the odds of making a full recovery, and he didnt want to know.
 
I just wanted to fight it out with everything I had, Lyle said.
 
Inspiration came from Allenby, his favorite player. Lyle remembers seeing him at a golf tournament as a young teenager, and he recalled one time he saw Allenby in the parking lot at Victoria Golf Club, ran up to him and got his autograph.
 
They didnt formally meet until Lyle was in the hospital fighting for his life.
 
He had filled out an application to get involved with the Challenge a Cancer network, and mentioned his love of golf. Allenby always visits the hospital around Christmas, and this time made a special trip.
 
I was on my back in intensive care. I couldnt be bothered talking to anyone, Lyle said. I had a couple of mates at the hospital who had come to see me that day and I told them, I cant see him. I dont want to see him. I dont want him to see me the way I am.
 
I had no hair, I had pipes (tubes) in me. He walked in the door, I looked at him and perked up. It definitely brightened my day.
 
And it helped bring Lyle to the career he always wanted.
 
Meeting Allenby made him even more determined to beat leukemia, and he did so quickly. Feeling strong again, he poured everything into golf and qualified for the Australian Open in 2004. He turned pro later that year and really got fans to pay attention when he tied for third in the Heineken Classic a year later, missing a playoff by one shot.
 
And he keeps getting better.
 
The 24-year-old tied for fourth in the Volvo China Open in the spring, and followed that with a tie for 12th in the Irish Open. But the biggest victory was earning one of three spots to the British Open from an international qualifier in Singapore at the start of the year.
 
Allenby was among the first people he called to arrange a practice round.
 
Its a dream come true, Lyle said. If someone had said seven years ago when I was flat on my back with pipes and drugs coming through me that I would be playing a major, I would have laughed at them. Its a dream. Im just cherishing every minute Im out here.
 
Allenby has had his own difficulties.
 
Once the most promising young Aussie, his career was derailed in 1994 when he was seriously injured in a car accident. He has fully recovered, winning four times each on the PGA TOUR and in Europe, along with 12 victories in Australia. Late last year, he became the first player to sweep the three biggest events at home'the Australian PGA, Australian Open and Australian Masters.
 
Allenby, 35, is cocksure in his speech and fiery with his emotions. But when asked Monday afternoon about his practice partners, he was reticent to mention his history with Lyle.
 
Boasting about good deeds is not the Aussie style.
 
Only after he had no choice but to share the details did Allenby have to concede, Its a great story. Hes a great kid.
 
Allenby was 13 when a close friend died of leukemia, and after turning pro and winning immediately, he went looking for a way to give back. That led him to Challenge a Cancer, and he began holding a golf outing at Yarra Yarra, his home club in Melbourne.
 
It went from 40 people at that first dinner, and now we have 1,500, Allenby said.
 
Along with paying for treatment, Allenby has helped supply hospital wards with televisions, computers and video games. Every two years, he brings a dozen or so kids to the United States, a three-week trip in which they stay at his house in south Florida and on his boat.
 
And he always stops by the hospital in Melbourne over Christmas.
 
A lot of kids hear about Robert, but they never meet him, Lyle said. But around Christmas time, he comes by and hes like a kid. It brightens the day when hes there.
 
Christmas marked a couple of significant anniversaries for Lyle.
 
It was around the holidays in 1999 when he last had a problem with leukemia. He has been in remission ever since, and his visit to the doctor last Christmas brought the best news of all.
 
My doctor said, I dont want to see you again, Lyle said. That was a big day for me. I went home and sipped a few beers to celebrate.
 
Then he went out and qualified for the British Open.
 
And six months later, he was at Royal Liverpool, walking the fairways with Allenby'his idol, his inspiration, his friend and now, amazingly, his peer.
 
Related Links:
  • Tee Times - 135th Open Championship
  • Course Tour - Royal Liverpool
  • Full Coverage - 135th Open Championship
     
    Copyright 2006 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.