In late 2011 Long Reef member and Beaches Champion editor Matt Cleary played golf with Jarrod Lyle, the popular Australian golfer who passed away aged 36 after a third battle withacute myeloid leukaemia. And Cleary agreed with anybody who met the man: J.Lyle – who’d have turned 40 today – owned that most Australian of epithets: top bloke.

John Daly needed cheering up.

It was a Monday morning after a well-publicised and, in the way of the big unit, controversial missed cut and the man was alone on a practice green at Melbourne’s Woodlands GC.

It was a pro-am, Corey McKernan’s first one, and Daly was the star turn. Yet people were leaving him be. The regular folk – members, amateurs, 18-markers – seemed to get that the famous “Wild Thing” from America didn’t require company.

And everyone had seen his news.

Three days earlier Daly had belted a bunch of balls into a lake at The Lakes in Sydney in the second round of the 2011 Australian Open.

He was coming off a triple-bogey on 10 (he’d hit a ball that wasn’t his own) and stood middle of the par-5 11th facing a 230-metre water carry. The wind was up. He was 7-over. The car park was close.

Fuck this.

And into the water they went – plosh, plosh, plosh.

Seven in a row, watery grave…

Unhappy pants: John Daly takes on the Lakes and loses. Source: YouTube.

When he had no more (balls) to give, Daly thought, Well – it appears that I’m done. He shook hands with Craig Parry and Hunter Mahan, and “stormed off,” according to reports (though as Daly would tell it, he was just walking).

There followed a “storm” of media, typical of that which so often beset a career equal parts scattergun and sublime. It was Long Johnny’s lot.

And so there he was on that Monday on the practice green at Woodlands. He’d performed his media commitments (repeatedly telling this journalist, face to hang-dog face, “Man, I just ran outta balls”), and was about to perform again.

And though his eyes tend to the morose at best of times, our Long John looked like he needed a friend.

Jarrod Lyle would be that friend.

Goodonya, mate. Pic: Challenge

The big kid from Shepparton (he was 30 at the time but retained cherubic features) had beaten cancer as a boy. He understood what was important. And it wasn’t flaps in the media. It was people.

And Lyle saw a person – a pro, a colleague, a mate – who needed pepping up. Who needed to know: you’re one of us. And: don’t sweat the small stuff.

And so Lyle walked up to Daly on the green, sausage sandwich in one hand and a mock-serious look on his face.

Daly looked up as Lyle entered his orbit and saw that above the man’s head, on the tips of his fingers, was perched a box.

Their eyes met. Lyle brought the box down under Daly’s chin like a waiter offering champagne from a silver tray.

Daly’s eyes widened. He glanced up at Lyle, clocked the glint in the bastard’s eye … and cracked up. Roared laughter. Bellowed. They both did.

The box held a dozen golf balls.

Jarrod Lyle (left) with golf balls and sausage sandwich, cheers up John Daly. Pic: Challenge.

Jarrod Lyle, who’d have turned forty today but couldn’t beat acute myeloid leukaemia a third time, had a way with people. I played golf with him that day. And it was a fine and fun few hours. You couldn’t help but like him.

And he could really play. The purity with which he striped the ball with his languid, beautiful, powerful swing, it was unbelievable.

Greg Blewett played too, and so did this fellah, Brendan Goddard, played for St.Kilda. Both scratch markers. Both, like me, watched Lyle’s ball-striking with slack-jawed wonder.

Lyle reached 142 in the Official World Golf Rankings. He played 121 PGA Tour events and made the cut in 58 of them. He won the Mexico Open and the Knoxville Open.

In 2011 he aced the par-3 “Stadium” hole in Scottsdale, Arizona and Australians loved him anew when we lip-read his exclamation: “You fuckin’ beauty!

Well, this’ll be close, Jarrod Lyle thought before acing the “stadium hole” at TPC Scottsdale. Source: Youtube.

Yet Lyle’s legacy goes well beyond golf.

He raised millions for kids’ cancer charity Challenge. He’ll raise millions more.

Tiger Woods – who never does anything like it lest he never do anything else – wore a Leuk the Duck stickpin in Lyle’s honour.

“Tiger got asked to do everything for everyone for so long, and I knew that he just didn’t do that sort of stuff,” Lyle told friend Mark Hayes of Golf Australia. “He made a blanket rule but broke it for me. A bloke flat in a bed in Melbourne, halfway around the world.”

Tribute to a top bloke at the Waste Management Open. Pic:

Friend and colleague Greg Chalmers described Lyle as “a wonderful father, friend and golfer. Quick with a joke, didn’t mind a beer, and just a pure joy to be around every day.”

An Australian man could covet no greater epitaph.

And at the end he was still thinking of others.

“Thanks for your support, it meant the world,” he said.

“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.”

To support Jarrod Lyle’s charity “Challenge”, purchase Leuk The Duck and other merchandise here.