Emerging from a troubled youth to become the best golfer in the world takes love and support. The Aussie champion tells us where he found it. As told to Di Webster.
2000: I was 12 when I met my coach and caddy, Colin Swatton. My dad, Alvin, who introduced me to golf, had died six months earlier and I was going off the rails at home in Rockhampton. Mum took a second mortgage so I could board at Kooralbyn International School, south of Brisbane, where Colin was the golf coach. I needed a father figure and he filled that spot – but not immediately. When we met, we had an argument. He wanted me to work on my chipping and I wanted to play holes. After that, I went to the par-three course and thought about all the people who’d made sacrifices and believed in me and I realised I was acting like a fool. I apologised and we haven’t fought since. We’ve been together for a good 16 years and he’s been my caddy since I turned pro in 2006. I couldn’t play golf without him.
Twinsburg, Ohio, US
2005: I met my wife, Ellie, when I was 17 and she was 19. She was a waitress at an Irish pub, Mavis Winkle’s, in Twinsburg, Ohio. I was too shy to talk to her but I thought she was gorgeous. I found out that Colin had her number and I texted her: “This is Jason Day from Australia. Do you remember me?” She said yes and we started talking. When I went back in 2007, she watched me play. I won. She had no idea what golf was. Our first date was at a restaurant called Applebee’s in Columbus, Ohio. Afterwards, all I wanted to do was play golf and see Ellie. I knew I wanted to be with her for the rest of my life. I was 21 when we got married. Golfers are selfish and your personal life can get hit by the sacrifices you make to be a better player. To have a person who’s so solid, who loves me as much as anyone could, means everything.
2011: At the Australian Open in 2011 – five years after I turned pro – I got paired with Tiger Woods at The Lakes Golf Club. As a kid, I watched him play in the ’97 Masters on TV and read his book – that’s what inspired me to put in the hours, make the sacrifices and work towards being the best golfer in the world. He was my idol. When I came onto the scene, I said hello to him every now and then but I never had the guts to say, “Let’s do a practice round.” I didn’t know if he knew who I was and I didn’t feel I was a good enough player. Suddenly, I’m playing with him in Sydney in front of my home crowd. It was surreal and a moment I’ll never, ever forget. I’m now really close to Tiger. He became such a dominant force in the game and to be able to pick his brain and play against him – not only as an individual but also a peer – is awesome. ￼
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