With his sight and speech failing him, Australian golfer Jarrod Lyle is still reading messages of support flooding in each day, from all over the world.
Now in the final stages of life after a third struggle with leukaemia in 19 years, good friend Mark Hayes says Lyle is still buoyed by words of encouragement.
“He takes every word on board, still reads them all. I think that will continue until he can’t. He’s eternally grateful to everyone,” Hayes said.
“He told me last night to wish everyone well with their own future, and to make the most of their lives, and to thank them incredibly for their voices and support over the years.”
Jarrod Lyle’s ongoing fight with acute myeloid leukemia took another turn this week when the former PGA Tour player announced that he as been placed in “palliative care.” https://t.co/RvtQMP0eQr pic.twitter.com/UdwFvLawus
— Golf Channel (@GolfChannel) July 31, 2018
A gifted athlete who made it on the lucrative PGA Tour in the United States for four years, Lyle — through his battle against cancer — has become one of sport’s most likeable characters.
His journey has touched millions of people in a positive way, after staging epic fightback after epic fightback against cancer, with a brave, selfless attitude.
Hayes has been close to Lyle and his family for a large part of his journey, after starting to write about the Victorian’s golfing career as a journalist more than a decade ago.
“You feel like you’re part of his world when you’re talking to him and I think that’s an incredible asset to have and he applies that to everyone,” he said.
Hayes, who has also been charged with writing a book on the golfer’s life, says the news Lyle and his family have decided not to seek further treatment, is tough to bear.
“It’s a shock that someone who’s 36 years of age, who’s been an elite athlete, can have their life curtailed like that,” Hayes said.
“The decision to cease active treatment when you have a six-year-old daughter and a two-year-old daughter, and a world that is your oyster, you can only imagine how hard that is.”
Tiger’s tribute to Jarrod, one of golf’s great blokes
To better understand the impact Lyle has on people, look no further than the PGA Tour.
In late March 2012 at Bay Hill Country Club in Orlando, the golfing world was doing its thing.
A $US6 million purse was up for grabs and Tiger Woods strode down the 18th fairway, about to add yet another tournament to his growing list of successes, with a five-shot win.
But there was something very special about that week; a touching tribute made by the world’s best players and their caddies, to a little-known Australian golfer in the midst of his second cancer battle.
As the final putt dropped and Woods lifted his black cap to salute the crowd, a bright yellow pin stuck to the side of Woods’ hat glistened in the afternoon sun, as he waved it skyward.
It was a ‘Leuk the Duck’ pin, that Woods wore in honour of Lyle.
Tiger Woods was one of hundreds to pay tribute to Jarrod Lyle at the 2012 Arnold Palmer Invitational.
The character had been created by Challenge, a charity Jarrod became an ambassador for after overcoming cancer the first time, to raise awareness for kids.
It quickly became a symbol of Lyle’s own personal battle.
“It just showed me that whatever happens, they have all got my back,” Lyle said at the time, reflecting on the decision made of hundreds of professionals and caddies at that tournament.
Good friend and long-time mentor Robert Allenby had organised 1,000 pins to be shipped from Australia, which were handed out on the practice putting green and driving range before the tournament.
“There was a bunch of us trying to think of ways to cheer him up,” Allenby said.
“He was balling his eyes out because of it. It was a great thing for him at the time.”
Now the fight is over
Six years on, after a third struggle with the disease, Lyle’s friends remain in awe at how thankful he is, despite his own circumstances.
“He treats everyone exactly the same. His phone is packed with some of the biggest names in not only sport but politics and things like that,” Hayes said.
“But he would treat with the exact same respect the person on the street who just says G’day and congratulations on a tournament win.
“Sadly, watching him in person now, the fight’s over. He cannot maintain that fight any longer and it’s the right thing to do.”
Jarrod Lyle’s charity of choice, Challenge, is a not-for-profit organisation providing daily support for children and families living with cancer or a life-threatening blood disorder — from the time of diagnosis, through treatment and beyond.