As a kid, Jason Day didn’t have it easy growing up. He was born into a poor family in Australia and his mother worked multiple jobs, even taking out a second mortgage on their family home, just to put him through school.
His alcoholic dad Alvyn was the strict parent in the house, frequently dispensing justice with his fists, but he was also the one who facilitated his son’s golf game, from his first 3-wood found in a rubbish dump to the putting green he built for Day at their family home in Rockhampton in Queensland.
Through hard work, Day’s game developed fast, earning him a reputation of a golfer of huge potential but when his father died of cancer in 1999, it sent a disillusioned Day (11) into a tail-spin (of drinking binges and late night brawls) from which he almost never recovered.
That he did can be entirely put down to the brave decision by his mother Dening, to remortgage their family home in order to send Day to Kooralbyn International, an independent boarding school known for producing top-tier athletes.
Day still clearly remembers the loneliness of it all. Left to fend for himself in a new school that was in the middle of nowhere, it was a case of sink or swim, so he stopped drinking and set about realising his potential in the game.
At the boarding school — which was known for its sports programmes, Day came under the tutelage of Colin Swatton who was to become the most influential male in Day’s life: his coach, his caddie, his mentor.
Swatton was the corrective influence that Day required for his abusive, controlling father and to this day, he has never left his side.
Under Swatton’s tutelage, Day applied his mother’s work ethic to golf. On a very competitive PGA Tour, amongst the game’s best players and the toughest setups, Day spent his early years failing, and failing hard — winning only once from 2008-2013 in 129 PGA Tour starts.
By redoubling his commitment to the mental, physical, tactical and technical aspects of golf, Day gradually found a little bit more trust and confidence, culminating with him going on a winning run on the PGA Tour that has only been matched by Tiger Woods in his prime.
In full flight, Day seems to thrive under pressure, especially the “closing day” Sunday afternoons where the pins are normally in their most precarious positions and running faster than they have all week.
That he is still obsessed with working hard and being the best golfer in the men’s game says much about his mindset and nothing beats the feeling of winning consistently.
Technically, Day is a very good golfer. A student of the game, he likes to get all the information, absorb what’s right for him, and then ingrain it into his game through really hard work.
Employing driver clubhead speeds in excess of 120mph, he possesses all the power in the world, but it is his short game where he makes most of his gains.
His distance control with his wedges from 120 yards is second to none, as is his bunker play, but it is the dramatically improved performance statistics of his now-familiar high-tech mallet putter in the crucial range between four and 10 feet that catches the eye the most.
For a game that is often derided by critics for being too elitist, it is wonderful to now see Day realising his full potential.
In fact at a time when fans are perpetually disappointed by the antics of high profile athletes, Day’s ability to face down every obstacle and stay strong is inspirational because it represents everything that is good about sport.
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