Date: March 23, 2017
Author: Mark Hayes

The moment golf didn’t matter

Suddenly, in one painful and emotional minute, everything became clear.

Jason Day, after six holes of his first-round match at the WGC Match Play Championship, had conceded to American veteran Pat Perez.

After a series of illnesses and injuries, the press corps had almost assumed the decision was related to an ongoing back complaint that had knocked the former world No.1 out of much of last year's FedEx Cup finals.

But as he came to the media centre to explain, this, suddenly, felt different.

Day, without his trademark smile, faced the cameras and gulped.

Almost sensing the pervading thoughts of the world's golfing media, he initially dispelled fears of a back issue.

"Yeah, obviously it's not an excuse or anything like that. My back is fine. I'm a hundred per cent healthy," Day said about his withdrawal.

And then, with tears welling, a huge pause before a moment he must have dreaded.

Asked by those around him whether he could continue, Day summoned the courage to explain.

"It's hard to talk right now," said Day, wiping tears from his eyes on his shirt as he began explaining the plight of his beloved mother, Adenil, or Dennng as she is affectionately known.

"My mum has been here for a while. And she has lung cancer.

"At the start of the year she was diagnosed with 12 months to live … this is so hard. The diagnosis is much better being over here (in the United States).

"She's going in for surgery this Friday and it's really hard to even comprehend being on the golf course right now because of what she's gone through.

"She had a test done in Australia, and the doc said she was terminal and only had 12 months to live.

"I'm glad I brought her over here.

"It's been really hard to play golf lately in this year.

"It's been very, very emotional, as you can tell. I've already gone through it once with my dad. And I know how it feels."

The moment was intense.

Perhaps not since 1998 when fellow Australian Stuart Appleby spoke of his late wife, Renay, in returning to competition had members of the media been so emotionally affected, long-standing journalist Bernie McGuire noted afterwards.

Those close to Day, a man for whom family is everything, realised his anguish was even more intense given his father, Alvin, had died of cancer when Jason was just 12.

"It's hard enough to see another one go through it, as well," he said.

"As of now I'm going to try to be back there with my mum for surgery and make sure everything goes right with her.

"It's been a very, very hard time for me to even be thinking about playing golf. And emotionally it's been wearing on me for a while."

There it was again; the almost apologetic tone to the media who were, by now, far too engaged personally to ask anything about golf.

"I know my mum says not to let it get to me, but it really has.

"So I just need some time away with her to make sure that everything goes well because this has been very, very tough for me.

"I'm going to do my best and try to be there the best I can for her because she is the reason that I'm playing golf today.

"Family is first and it's just … it's just a hard time.

"I didn't want to leave you guys out in the dust and (trying to) speculate what was going on with me and my game and how I felt, if it was my back or anything.

"But I just wanted to make sure and get it out there that this is the reason why I've obviously pulled out this week because of my mum going for surgery to try and get rid of this mass that's in her lungs, which is a 3-4cm mass, which is a pretty large mass in her lungs.

"I'm hoping for a speedy recovery for her, and we can get this behind us and she can live a long, long life."

With that, he scurried out of the media centre and into the arms of wife, Ellie.

Dening is set to undergo surgery this Friday, American time, in Columbus, Ohio.

Day's long-time manager, Bud Martin joined him in a car as they left to fight a far bigger battle than anything he's had to do on a golf course.

Martin had indicated to some that his appearance at next month's Masters will depend on the outcome of the surgery.

But suddenly, that just didn't matter.