18 Aug 2021 | Feature stories |

#BigFella40 | His crew and me

by PGA of Australia

Jarrod Lyle holds a trophy aloft.

To celebrate what would have been Jarrod Lyle’s 40th birthday, Challenge and the PGA have asked Jarrod’s family, friends, colleagues, and the infinite people he influenced, to share their favourite stories of the affable Tour Professional.

I hadn’t been senior enough at the Herald Sun to write the Jarrod Lyle story when he went within a whisker of victory at the 2005 Heineken Classic as essentially a newly minted professional.

And by the time he was front and centre in a Moonah Classic a few years later and I was covering the tournament, he’d been left with a nasty taste in his mouth by media treatment of an incident involving his family that ended in court. 

Jarrod was, shall we say, circumspect with his answers. Well, circumspect with a side of profanity is probably more accurate. “Your *^%#ing paper’s &^%$. Why would I help you *&#%$?” is my rough memory of the conversation.

I assured Jarrod that my interest was purely in his scorecard – nothing more or less. I suspect it was against his instinct that Jarrod answered a couple of questions. But it wasn’t until he saw me on course the next day that the ice began to crack. 

Like most pros I’ve encountered, once Jarrod knew I was genuinely interested in him and not some tawdry headline, I could barely shut him up.

It’s my belief that being a golfer is but one part of their lives and when they trust you to speak about their additional loves, that’s when you’ve spanned the divide from distant, “doing your job” reporter to something approaching a friend. 

Don’t get me wrong, Jarrod was passionate about his golf. But he had so much more going on away from the fairways. 

That passion ultimately became Briony, Lusi and Jemma, but from very early on in his way-too-short life, it was always about people. Always. 

It was his mates; it was his teammates; it was his fellow patients; it was the hundreds of children who adored his hospital visits; it was the media he enthralled; and it was the endless time he gave his beloved Dave Rogers and the Challenge charity that shapes so many families’ lives in moments of unrivalled need. 

And it didn’t stop until his final breath. 

As Martin Blake and I helped compile his book and events took their ultimately tragic twist, we all knew that we had to get those “last thoughts”. 

I thought back to those first few awkward moments we’d shared at Moonah, right through to this – one of the most gut-wrenching hours I’ll ever spend. 

That was just days from his final demise, yet when I opened the door and Jarrod realised I was there, I got my traditional, “G’day knackers”, then noticed that he was still holding court with those he counted as his inner circle. It was extraordinary. 

The pinnacle of human frailty on show, yet he still gave – to his crew and then to me. 

If you read his book, those words were made into the first chapter. If you saw how he’d diminished at that point, you’d find that even more staggering than those words already are. 

I’m still honoured to say that I’d clearly passed his trust test by that stage. 

And I will always be amazed that even in that hour of crisis, Jarrod remained about “you”, not him. 

To find out more about Jarrod’s ongoing legacy as part of Challenge – supporting kids with cancer, head to challenge.org.au/jarrods-gift/

Mark Hayes is the co-author of ‘My Story – Jarrod Lyle’ and friend of the Lyle family.

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