Ed Hardin: Tour players and Wyndham, Jarrod Lyle’s last tournament, honor a life lost

GREENSBORO — Two years ago Friday, a man with his entire life ahead of him stood over a putt at the 18th green at Sedgefield. He was getting ready to go home, his wife and two daughters waiting for him back his native Australia.

Jarrod Lyle was 34, a man who’d battled through so much dealing with recurring bouts of leukemia since he was a teenager, a professional golfer who was ranked as high as 142nd in the world. He was a fighter, his friends say, a man who battled disease while chasing his dream to play golf on a world stage. He achieved his dream.

Lyle died Aug. 8 at age 36, passing away quietly, his wife, Briony, said. She said he left a final message for his family and his friends worldwide.

“Thanks for your support, it meant the world. My time was short, but if I’ve helped people think and act on behalf of those families who suffer through cancer, hopefully it wasn’t wasted.”

The game of golf has been in mourning since his passing.

This week at the Wyndham Championship, his golf bag and clubs sit on the first tee, a solemn memorial to a man known for his floppy yellow hat, his big smile and his courage. The hat hangs from the bag.

Scattered throughout the field this week at the Wyndham, many of his fellow competitors and the caddies are also wearing yellow hats.

All week, as players have walked to the first tee, they pause and place a hand on the bag. Some of them say a few words. Stuart Appleby, a fellow Aussie, kneeled and took a picture with his cellphone.

Jason Shortall cried.

Shortall was Lyle’s caddie and good friend. He’s here this week looping for golfer Sung Kang.

“Shorty,” as he’s known on tour, said he probably has a little different perspective on Lyle’s passing, and it’s been a different emotion for him to walk to the first tee and see the old bag standing there.

“I just touch it,” he said. “Every day. I touch it, and I say ‘hello,’ shed a tear, talk to him.”

He cried for two hours when he heard the news of his friend’s passing.

“It’s bittersweet,” Shortall said. “He’s gone. I’ve lost a friend. He’s not here. He’s not here giving me (expletive). That was Jarrod. But he’s not in pain anymore.”

Lyle and his wife decided on July 31 to end treatment for what was a third recurrence of the cancer. Word spread quickly around the Tour, and the past few weeks have been a vigil, especially for the Australian players on tour. Lyle’s countrymen got together this week and had a wake, telling stories, talking about their friend and helping each other through the pain.

“These are sad days for the PGA Tour family,” said Mark Brazil, the Wyndham tournament director. “I knew Jarrod to be one of the kindest human beings on Tour, and I know all the guys, especially the Australians, will really miss him.”

This has been a great week of golf for the Wyndham and the Tour, but there’s a sad feel to it, too.

Mike Barber, the first-tee announcer, has watched the scene all week as players and caddies walk to the bag, kneel, talk to their fallen friend, some saying hello and some saying goodbye.

“This has caused the Tour players and the caddies to pause and evaluate their own life,” Barber said. “That’s the sense I get. They’ve lost someone they knew, someone so young and talented who gave so much of himself.”

Shortall said that’s what he’ll remember about his friend and boss.

“He gave so much and he never asked for anything,” Shortall said.

Lyle stood over his final putt here at the 18th hole of the 2016 Wyndham Championship, so full of life and surrounded by his friends and living his dream.

He made the putt.

The last shot of Jarrod Lyle’s career was here at Sedgefield.

He made the birdie.


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