MELBOURNE (Reuters) - Golf, as Mark Twain quipped, may spoil a good walk, but Australian Jarrod Lyle thinks a tough round beats chemotherapy any day of the week.
The affable 32-year-old was diagnosed in March 2012 with a recurrence of leukemia he first developed at the age of 17 and was forced to seek treatment before he returned to the course late last year in Australia.
“There’s plenty of worse things that can happen than shooting 80 at a golf tournament or shooting 79 or missing a cut,” Lyle told reporters on a conference call from Florida.
“There was times where I thought I was dead and thought I’d never get back out on the golf course, and there was times where I thought I don’t want to play golf anymore.
“(So) if I make a triple bogey on a par four or whatever ... it’s better than having a day’s worth of chemo.”
Lyle will begin his push for a return to the PGA Tour on the secondary Web.com Tour in Kansas City in two weeks time.
Having spent about a year recovering from the disease as a 17-year-old, Lyle was told the leukemia had returned shortly before the birth of his first child, a daughter named Lusi.
The diagnosis came when he was playing at his most consistent on the lucrative PGA Tour.
He had played seven events, made six cuts and earned more than $360,000 in prize money. The most he had earned in his four previous years full time on the tour was $422,760 from 18 events in 2010.
The PGA Tour granted him a medical exemption after the diagnosis and he has been told he must earn another $283,000 to retain his card in 20 events.
Lyle, aware that he was fatigued after making his comeback at the Australian Masters last November, had originally hoped to return early in the 2014 season but has taken a measured approach to his return to the circuit.
Having purchased a large recreational vehicle, he and his family will drive between events, with his first three tournaments located close together in America’s heartland in Kansas City, Springfield, Missouri and then in Knoxville, Tennessee.
“I think my schedule is going to be a lot different this time around,” he added.
“I won’t know how my body is going to hold up until I actually get out there and start playing golf.
“I’ve targeted these three events for the fact that they’re three tournaments that are relatively close together, so traveling to them is not going to be too big of an issue.”
While Lyle was keen to retain his card quickly, he said his return was simply a building process.
“Everything I’m doing is planning for my return to the PGA Tour,” he added.
“I’d love to be able to go out and play as good as I can in these three events and hopefully knock off a couple of good finishes.
“But if I don’t, again, it’s just going to be a learning curve like it was at the Australian Masters last year.
“I know I’ve got 20 events to make $283,000 to make that happen ... I’d love to knock that off as early as possible but if it takes me 19 or 20 events to get it done, as long as I get it done, then to me that’s a success.”
The heavy-set Australian joked he had lost some of his girth during his treatment but was beginning to regain his strength.
“I’m probably hitting it a little bit longer at the moment. It’s nice to not have the fat gut to swing around, but I’ve put on a few kilos since Christmas,” he said.
“Obviously I don’t want to put on any more because then that would require (equipment supplier) Titleist to send me a whole shipment of new clothes again, which I’m sure they’re not going to be too impressed with.
“My golf game is in good shape and my body is in good shape, as well.
“It’s all positives, though. I’m happy, I’m healthy, I’m playing golf.”
Reporting by Greg Stutchbury in Wellington; Editing by Ian Ransom