Shepparton-raised professional golfer Jarrod Lyle has barely touched a golf club in ten months, but now it's his health and family which are his focus as he battles leukaemia.By Kaitlin Thals
Jarrod Lyle is doing what he does best — keeping a positive outlook and playing to win.
However, the Shepparton-raised professional golfer has not played a round of golf for more than 10 months.
And he only picked up a golf club last month, hitting a few rusty putts at the Robert Allenby Charity Golf Day to raise money for Challenge, which supports kids with cancer.
For now it is Jarrod’s health and family — wife Briony and 10-month-old daughter Lusi — who are his main focus.
If both of those are in check, Jarrod is a winning man.
Jarrod was struck down with acute myeloid leukaemia early last year.
He was first treated for this as a 17-year-old.
His recovery required nine months of bed rest, but he eventually achieved his dream of becoming a professional golfer on the United States tour.
After courses of chemotherapy as well as a cord blood transplant, Jarrod has been in remission since May last year.
The family of three is now enjoying life in the Victorian costal town of Torquay.
‘‘I’m feeling really good. I had a doctor’s appointment on Thursday last week, he was very happy with the way things were going,’’ Jarrod said.
‘‘At the moment part of my white cells are very high, but it’s nothing to be concerned about. They said it’s when the transplant comes in and fights against your body, and your body is fighting against that.
‘‘My weekly appointments went to two weekly and now I don’t have see him again until the seventh of February.’’
The family returned to Shepparton last month to attend the wedding of his sister Karli Lyle, who married Gerard Balnaves at the family-owned restaurant Spaghetti Hollow on Maude St.
Jarrod and Briony’s first Christmas with daughter Lusi was spent at Torquay in a relaxed beach-style affair.
BAD, GOOD NEWS
Last March, Jarrod flew back to Australia from a golf event in Mexico to be with his wife for the birth of their first child.
Something had bitten him in Mexico and he had an infection on his arm and had broken out into a rash from the antibiotics.
After a blood test the results were not good. The acute myeloid leukaemia had returned.
Briony was induced on March 9, but she was given a caesarean-section the day after and at 11.59
Jarrod had just 12 hours with Lusi before he left for Royal Melbourne Hospital where he would begin courses of chemotherapy and later, a cord blood transplant.
It was tough on the newlyweds who never envisioned the experience of having their first child would be like this.
‘‘There has been a positive side to this, there was a lot of time there especially early on when Bri couldn’t really travel (to Melbourne) after her c-section. I would think, ‘Am I ever going to get out of here (hospital) and am I ever going to see my daughter’,’’ Jarrod said.
‘‘Now I do feel lucky, out of a sh***y situation I’ve got to see her grow up and watch her crawl for the first time, and say ‘dad’ and ‘mum’ for the first time, something I didn’t think I’d be able to see — because I was unsure. At the time I didn’t know how hard it was going to be, I didn’t know whether they had a donor for me, there was a lot of unknowns and me being in a relapse makes things that little bit harder.’’
Jarrod was grateful he flew home for the birth of Lusi.
‘‘Hopefully, I can keep getting better and keep watching Lusi growing up,’’ he said.
‘‘With Bri going back to work now in Barwon Heads, I get Lusi three days a week. It’s good, it was a challenge the first couple of days because I’d never really been alone with her. Changing nappies is where the issue is. I’m not a huge fan of that, there’s been a couple of times the rug in her room has been taken out and hosed down.’’
RETURN TO GOLF
The doctor told Jarrod it would be at least a year after his transplant before he could play golf again. For now, he’s working towards June, slowly building up his muscles with regular walking and swimming.
He said support from family, friends and the golfing community — including Tiger Woods, Arnold Palmer, Ernie Els and Justin Rose — had been overwhelming during this trying time.
‘‘I’m starting to get the itch again, but it’s not worth playing now because I’ve lost my golfing muscles,’’ Jarrod said.
‘‘I know the first couple of times I do go out there I’m going to be cracking it, cause I won’t be hitting the shots I used to be able to, and it’s going to take time to get back to the level where I was at.’’
Jarrod thanked the US PGA and sponsor Titleist for their support during his time away from the tour.
He was also grateful to Paddy and Helen Handbury, owners of The Sands golf course at Torquay, where Jarrod has been made ambassador.
Briony, and a group of six other women, are raising money and will shave their hair on March 17 at Shepparton Golf Club in support of the Leukaemia Foundation.
‘‘It’s my one opportunity to raise money, the one thing I can do and we really wanted to give something back to the Leukaemia Foundation because they gave us accommodation for six months — that was a pretty big deal,’’ Briony said.
Jarrod said once he joined the US Tour again he would thank everyone personally.
‘‘Once I get back over there I’ll organise a little set of Titleist (for Lusi) and get her a little bag made up, get her the whole kit — she’ll be the best-dressed golfing baby ever,’’ he said.
But for now, Jarrod will focus on improving his nappy changing skills and enjoy being a dad.
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