Back in the swing of things


By samuel darroch

AFTER beating cancer for a second time, PGA golfer Jarrod Lyle is taking his professional comeback one swing at a time, beginning in Gippsland.

The Shepparton-born 32 year-old, who was cleared of the acute myeloid leukemia he overcame as a teenager in July, will contest the Yallourn pro-am on Monday in the early stages of his competitive return.

Lyle, whose brother-in-law resides in Traralgon, has never played in Gippsland, but is familiar with one of its finest exports – Yallourn pro Anthony Brown.

“I’ve played a lot of golf with Anthony Brown… at Commonwealth Golf Club in Melbourne and obviously professionally as well, so it will be nice to see where he grew up,” Lyle said.

The two-time Nationwide Tour winner is targeting the November Australian Masters as his reintroduction to the pro circuit but faces a tough task to prepare physically.

While his return to the tee following treatment was swift, it bore a heavier toll than it did in his teenage years.

“It’s pretty similar but I think this time it took a little more out of me,” he said.

“I wasn’t able to play at all during my treatment whereas the first time I was. Their treatment protocol for me this time was a lot more full on and a lot more intense than the first time.

“It’s taken a fair whack out of me; just to be able to walk 18 holes again took a long time.”

Lyle could barely walk after his first attempt at four consecutive days of play last week, and faces a long uphill par five to get back to his best.

However, playing a series of lower key pro-am events is the first step in the right direction.

“I’m in the process now of rebuilding my game and my fitness and all that stuff so the more times I can get out and play the better it is for me,” he said.

“It’s always nice to come back to local clubs and play with members.

“I’ve had a lot of support from members of different clubs around Australia so it’s nice to get back and say hello to those people and never forget where you grew up.

“I was a country boy from Shepparton so I know how important pro-ams are to country courses and it’s nice that I’m in a position now where I can give back to those pro-ams.”

Lyle said his swing had remained intact, and put his game at “about 80 per cent”, despite having not touched a club for 12 months during treatment.

“I always wanted to get back out there, but it probably was the furthest thing from my mind at the time… the last thing I wanted to even think about doing was going out and playing golf,” he said.

One blessing to come out of the mess that was Lyle’s year, a stretch which included a bone marrow transplant, was fatherhood.

Early last year his wife Bri was induced so he could be present at the birth of his daughter, just hours before he was due to begin a new course of chemotherapy, a moment he described as “probably the hardest” of his life.

“I had my daughter so my priorities changed a lot. Now if I don’t get out and play golf when I really want to then it doesn’t matter because I enjoy spending time with my daughter at the moment more than playing golf,” he said.

“I’ve been lucky to be able to watch Lusi grow up and see all the things she does (for the) first (time) like walking, eating, talking and smiling, I’ve been there for all of those where if I was out on tour I would have missed them.

“Out of a pretty crappy situation I’ve been lucky to have some really good memories.”

Now eyeing a return to the US PGA tour in 2014, Lyle was realistic about what it would take to return to the pinnacle of the golfing world.

He will use the Australian Masters as a measuring stick against the professionals before making a decision on his future abroad.

“To gauge where my game is at against other pros… that’s what I’m after,” he said.

“If it’s the Yallourn Pro-Am, the Aussie Masters or the US Open they’re all the same thing; I’ve still got to go out there, try my best and try and win.

“It’s been a long road, but we’re heading in the right direction.”