DORAL, Fla. – Right when his life couldn't be any better, professional golfer Jarrod Lyle suffered a recurrence of leukemia upon returning home to Australia to prepare for the birth of his first child.
Robert Allenby, the fellow PGA Tour player who supports a cancer program that once had Lyle as a patient, said he received word Thursday morning that Lyle was going to start chemotherapy as soon as his wife gave birth.
"If he starts chemo now, he won't be able to touch the baby or watch the birth," Allenby said. "They're inducing her today, and she has the baby, he goes straight into treatments. It's just devastating."
Lyle was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia at age 17. He not only recovered, he went on to earn his PGA Tour card. He thought the chemotherapy from his teen years would make him infertile, and was thrilled to learn his wife, Briony, was pregnant.
"He just got his whole life where he wants," said Allenby, who has been exchanging text messages with Lyle throughout the day. "He's married, he has a new baby coming, he's playing great golf. And now this. It's the same cancer that's come back, the same leukemia."
Lyle's manager Tony Bouffler said Friday the player was in good spirits and elated about the birth of his child, which was expected by Saturday.
"He's of good country stock and he's pretty resilient," Bouffler said, adding that Lyle would begin chemotherapy treatments on Monday in Melbourne.
Lyle matched his best finish on the PGA Tour three weeks ago at Riviera, where he missed a playoff by two shots and tied for fifth. He went to Mexico and tied for 37th.
Perhaps his greatest fame in America came last year in the Phoenix Open, when he made an ace on the raucous par-3 16th hole at the TPC Scottsdale.
Allenby saw him last week in south Florida.
"I said to him, 'What's wrong with you? You don't look good,'" Allenby said. "He said he thought he was bitten last week in Mexico. His left arm was tight and sore in the vein, like he had a virus. I said, 'You should go home and get checked out, especially coming from where you've been.' He was going to go home because his wife was due in two weeks. It's just terrible."
Allenby rarely goes on Twitter, but put out a tweet on Thursday to spread the word.
Allenby first met Lyle in the "Challenge a Cancer" network in Australia, when Lyle was 17 and had just been diagnosed. Lyle mentioned his affinity for golf — he was about a 2 handicap at the time — and recalled getting Allenby's autograph at Victoria Golf Club one year.
Lyle not only recovered, but seven years later he played in his first British Open, sharing a practice round at Royal Liverpool with Allenby. He first reached the PGA Tour in 2007, and made it back each of the last three years.
Allenby said he heard of Lyle's relapse through Dave Rogers, the CEO of the "Challenge Cancer" support network.
"We keep a close eye on Jarrod. He's kind of like our No. 1 with the success he's had to get where he is," Allenby said. "Now to go through it again, it's devastating."