The tributes to Jarrod Lyle were evident across the grounds at Bellerive Country Club as the 100th PGA Championship got underway Thursday.
The popular Australian golfer known a the “big fella” passed away Wednesday night at only 36 years old following a lengthy battle with leukemia.
Rickie Fowler was “scripted” to wear dark blue during the first round, but switched to a yellow shirt in honor of Lyle, whose yellow bucket hat became his calling card. And numerous players attached yellow ribbons to their hats.
“He’s front and center,” said Fowler. “It’s definitely tough. Especially talking with some of the guys who knew Jarrod better than most out here. You also think about it as far as Jarrod wouldn’t want us out here feeling sorry for him or feeling bad or anything. He’d probably come out here and kick us in the butt and tell us to man up and go have some fun.
“It’s a little bit bittersweet. You’re trying to go out there and keep living life like he did, but it’s unfortunate that he’s not here with us.”
Tiger Woods’ foundation was one of many who have made contributions to Lyle’s family.
“It’s just sad because he’s part of us. He’s one of us, he’s a player,” Woods told TNT. “It’s always tough when you see one of us struggle like that, and what his family has to endure now. His kids, without a dad ... it’s tough.
“He was such a nice guy. Talk to all the Aussies, and they loved the guy. It’s going to be a tough loss for all of us.”
Fowler held the lead at 5-under par following the morning wave and was asked about harnessing the emotions of Lyle’s death while on the course.
“It can help you, I feel like,” said Fowler. “It takes your mind off of golf and trying to hit the shots. But being able to focus on the shot or what’s at hand there, and then in between being able to think about Jarrod and the family and everything they’re dealing with. And the impact he’s had on everyone out here, and then go back and focus on golf and try to do the best you can do there.
“It can work as a benefit if you go about it the right way.”
Lyle died Wednesday night in his native Australia.
“It breaks my heart to tell everyone that Jarrod is no longer with us,” Lyle’s wife, Briony, said in a statement. “He passed away peacefully at 8.20 p.m. last night, having spent his final week in Torquay among his family and close friends.”
She also passed along a message from her husband, who recently chose to end his leukemia treatments and begin palliative care after three different fights with the cancer. The message reads:
“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.”
Briony Lyle announced last week that her husband was ending his treatments, saying, “He has given everything that he’s got to give and his poor body cannot take any more. We’ll be taking him closer to home in the next couple of days so he can finally leave the hospital.”
The family is requesting donations to Challenge, an organization Jarrod Lyle started that supports kids with cancer, in lieu of gifts or flowers.
Bryson DeChambeau said earlier Wednesday that he would donate the winnings — a gold money clip and $25,000 — from Tuesday’s PGA Championship long-drive contest to the Lyle family.
“I just felt that what Jarrod has battled through is valiant and it’s a tough battle, obviously, and not everybody wins,” DeChambeau told reporters. “Hearing his story, three times, I believe those kids deserve a chance at a better life and they need that, so that’s why I decided to do that.”
Lyle, who last played on the PGA Tour in 2015-16, was first diagnosed with leukemia in 1999 and again in 2012 before a third diagnosis last year. He underwent a bone marrow transplant in December.
He is survived by his wife and daughters Lusi, 6, and Jemma, 2.
“Lusi, Jemma and I are filled with grief and now must confront our lives without the greatest husband and father we could ever have wished for,” Briony Lyle said. “At the same time, we have been blessed and overwhelmed with the messages and actions of support from around the world and feel comforted that Jarrod was able to happily impact so many people throughout his life. Our humble thanks to you all.”
—Field Level Media