Jason Day conceded his match to Pat Perez after six holes and then withdrew from the WGC-Match Play at Austin Country Club. In an emotional press conference, he revealed that his mother Denning Day has lung cancer — the initial diagnosis from doctors in Australia was that it was terminal and she was given 12 months to live. Shortly after, Day brought her to Ohio to receive treatment and the prognosis from doctors is now more promising. She is scheduled for surgery on Friday as doctors try to remove a three-to-four centimeter mass from her lungs.
Wow, I’m a bit at loss for words and this (video below) was extremely difficult to watch in person. I’m fairly certain many people can relate to seeing a loved one battle cancer — and regardless of the outcome or the severity, it’s still very emotional and scary. Day didn’t need to come into the interview room and hold a press conference to divulge the status of his mother’s health on national television.
— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) March 22, 2017
As you can see above, Day was visibly emotional when he walked into the interview room and was choked up from the start. He tearfully revealed his mother’s condition and the toll it’s taken on him. Which is completely understandable and fairly certain just about everyone can empathize.
“I’m glad I brought her over here,” said Day. “And it’s been really hard to play golf lately in this year.”
Day lost his father Alvyn, who battled with alcoholism, to stomach cancer when he was 12.
“It’s been very, very emotional, as you can tell,” he said. “I’ve already gone through it once with my dad. And I know how it feels. And it’s hard enough to see another one go through it, as well.
“So as of now I’m going to try to be back there with my mom for surgery and make sure everything goes right with her.
“I mean, once again 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. And I know my mom 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. So I’m going to do my best and try and be there the best I can for her because she is the reason that I’m playing golf today. And family is first and it’s just — it’s just a hard time.”
I’m not sure how familiar most of you are with Day’s backstory and childhood, but it’s a genuinely inspiring rags-to-riches, Cinderella story.
Here’s the short version: His mother worked multiple jobs and made many sacrifices that allowed Jason to get to where he is today. Day did not grow up with a lot. His family often went to the junkyard to find regular household stuff or whatever it was that people had thrown out, but was salvageable. Day’s father found a rusty club one day and brought it home to Jason when he was six. He once told me as a young child he used to like to hit things around the house, so his dad thought he’d like the club.
Ultimately, Day learned to play golf with that club under his dad’s strict supervision. If Day failed to meet the standards/goals set, like a score, his dad resorted to physical punishment starting when he was 10 or 11.
Around this same time at a young age, Jason started drinking and abusing alcohol. He would get angry and end up in fights. After his father passed away, Day’s mother saw the dangerous path Jason was headed toward and feared for his future. She sold their home and borrowed money to send him to boarding school, Kooralbyn International Golf Academy, which was an eight-hour drive from where his family was living at that time. That was also where Day met Colin Swatton, who was the instructor at the school and became like a father to Jason. Swatton, who is Day’s caddie, coach, mentor, etc., accompanied Jason to the States after he turned pro at 18.
The rest is history.
That’s a very condensed summary of Day’s childhood, but you get the picture. So when he says his mother is the “reason” that he’s playing golf today, it’s no exaggeration.
Day didn’t mention how long he would step away from golf. His agent Bud Martin provided more details as to Denning’s prognosis.
“The prognosis, I guess, medically, is what you would call it was more positive in that they were in, do the surgery Friday, determine what they find inside of there and go from there,” said Martin following Day’s press conference. “But their expectations are that, fingers crossed, that it’s something that’s manageable, whether it’s with chemotherapy or without chemotherapy.”
Some have raised questions as to Day’s decision to play, pointing out that if he knew his mother was having surgery, then he shouldn’t have teed off Wednesday since that took away the opportunity for first alternate Tony Finau to replace him in the field. I mean, in different circumstances, I get this perspective and I would understand people’s questions, but they’ve probably not related as closely to Day’s situation or truly understand it to a degree. I know many have loved ones who have endured cancer and empathize with the emotional toll, but there’s another component of it, too, which may not strike a chord to as many people.
I’m letting my emotions get the best of me here, but I guess I am annoyed at that perspective or those questions because it struck a sensitive chord with me on various levels. I’m going to preface what I’m going to say as speculation and simply a conclusion I’m drawing from personal experience, but I believe Day truly thought he could play and compete and stay strong for his mother. And I’m sure she insisted that he play and Day wanted to for her. I know how that feels and I’m sure I’m not alone.
Despite what’s happening in your personal life, you want to stay strong and overcome those hurdles and emotions. We need to remember we rarely know what’s truly going on in people’s lives — whether it be physical, mental, family, health, etc — even those of some of our closest friends. We keep up a front in public, but sometimes it’s suddenly may become more severe than we thought we could handle. It can happen in a split second. And it actually takes a ton of courage to recognize the situation, take pause and face the fact and come to terms that the situation and emotions are too overwhelming to handle at the moment. Which is exactly what Jason did.
“I think he feels like this is where the best players in the world are, that he has a responsibility to his fans and his mom,” said Martin. “Truthfully, the most important thing in (Jason’s mom’s) world is him playing golf and being happy.”
For what it’s worth, Finau isn’t holding a grudge or questioning Day’s decision.
That should settle it for the cynics and skeptics questioning the timing of Day’s decision. Perhaps we should all take a page from Finau’s book and find some empathy and compassion to try to comprehend in the slightest the difficult situation Jason is dealing with. He already had enough on his mind, so it’s more than understandable that the possibility of robbing Finau with the chance to qualify for the Masters wasn’t exactly at the forefront.
Like I mentioned above, Day didn’t owe us an explanation and could have had his agent release a statement about his mother’s health and pending surgery. It takes a tremendous amount of courage to bare your soul at your most vulnerable and reveal something so personal on national television.
“I didn’t want to leave you guys out in the dust and try and speculate what was going on with me and my game and how I felt, if it was my back or anything,” said Day. “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 mom going for surgery to try and get rid of this mass that’s in her lungs, which is a three or four centimeter mass, which is a pretty large mass in her lungs.”
Thoughts and prayers are with the Day family.