An emotional Jason Day reflected on the deep sacrifices made by his mother after claiming his first major title, the US PGA Championship, on Sunday evening in Wisconsin.
Day’s father, Alvin, died when the golfer was just 12 years of age. That sparked a period of turmoil in the youngster’s life which culminated in Dening, his mother, sending him to a boarding school in a bid to moderate his behaviour and boost his golf. Both, needless to say, transpired.
Day shed tears of joy even before holing out for a record major total of 20 under par. He beat Jordan Spieth, the newly-crowned world No1, into second place by three strokes.
“I’ve changed so much from where I was and what I saw as a kid to where I am now,” said Day. “I mean, it’s just an amazing feeling, an amazing story to really be able to tell people, to give them insight on what I felt and the emotions that I’ve gone through growing up as a kid in Australia and losing my dad very young. I have no idea where I would be, what I would be doing, probably wouldn’t be doing much of anything. And I wouldn’t be challenging myself and trying to better myself if I didn’t have the people that I have in my life today.
“That’s why a lot of emotion came out on 18. That’s why a lot of emotion came out for me. Just knowing that my mum took a second mortgage out on the house, borrowed money from my aunt and uncle, just to get me away from where I was to go to school, seven hours drive.
“I remember growing up, we were poor. I remember watching her cut the lawn with a knife because we couldn’t afford to fix the lawn mower. I remember not having a hot water tank, so we had to use a kettle for hot showers. So, you know, we would put the kettle on and go have a shower, and then my mum would come bring three or four kettles in, just to heat them up. And it would take five, 10 minutes for every kettle to heat up.
“So just to be able to sit in front of you guys today and think about those stories, it gets me emotional knowing that I’m the PGA champion now and it feels good.”
Amongst those to issue congratulations towards Day was Greg Norman, the Australian golfing icon who has been a constant source of encouragement not just for the new US PGA champion but also the former Masters winner Adam Scott.
“Greg was a little bit before my time but just the support, every time that I’m in a major championship, every time that I play in a PGA Tour event that I’m close and I don’t finish, Greg is there to send me a text and say, ‘Don’t worry about it, you’re going to have plenty of these, keep your head up, keep moving forward, don’t stop fighting.’ Stuff like that,” Day revealed.
“He has been such a great champion and to be able to bounce ideas off him, bounce advice off him... I said to him, after the last Shark Shootout, ‘Was there anything that you saw in my game that you could possibly improve?’ So we talked about it. And to be able to have a golfer that was No1 in the world for 331 weeks, is pretty amazing to have that advice.”
Day reserved the most special tribute for his caddie and coach, Colin Swatton. “He’s taken me from a kid that was getting in fights at home and getting drunk at 12 and not heading in the right direction to a major champion,” the 27-year-old said. “And there’s not many coaches that can say that in many sports. So he means the world to me. I love him to death.”
Day admitted the fear of falling short at yet another of golf’s biggest stages drove him on at Whistling Straits. He started day four with a two shot lead over Spieth, his playing partner, who was seeking to win a third major out of four in 2015. Had he not won, Day revealed how difficult that would have been to handle.
“It would have been very tough for me to come back from a major championship such as this if I didn’t finish it off,” Day said. “Knowing that I had the 54-hole led or tied for the 54-hole lead for the last three majors and not being able to finish, it would have been tough for me mentally, to really kind of come back from that.
“Even though I feel like I’m a positive person I think that, in the back of my mind, something would have triggered and I would have gone, ‘maybe I can’t really finish it off’.
“Jordan said to me in the scoring hut, ‘There’s nothing I could do.’ It’s a good feeling when someone like Jordan, who is playing phenomenal golf right now, says that. Because it means that he left everything out there on the golf course and my play this week was just so much better, well better than everyone else. And that feels good to me, because I was the last man standing, which is great.”
Day, who is No3 in the world, already has Spieth’s position in his sights. Between that duo and Rory McIlroy, the wider context relates to rude health at the summit of world golf.
“As long as I am healthy, I feel like I’m going to be there a long time,” Day insisted. “I still want to accomplish that No1 goal of mine, which is to be the best player in the world. I’m still motivated and still very hungry for that, even after this win.”
This article was written by Ewan Murray at Whistling Straits, for theguardian.com on Monday 17th August 2015 03.18 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010