Saturday 10 December 2016

Jason Day: My caddie turned me from a kid getting drunk at 12 to a major champion

Phil Casey

Published 17/08/2015 | 14:31

Jason Day, of Australia, hugs his caddie Colin Swatton after winning the PGA Championship golf tournament
Jason Day, of Australia, hugs his caddie Colin Swatton after winning the PGA Championship golf tournament

Not since the days of Arnold Palmer parking a trailer outside Augusta National has one of golf's major champions spent the night of their triumph in a motorhome on the grounds of the course they had just demolished.

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But then again, US PGA champion Jason Day is no ordinary major champion, rather a product of a tough environment who has repaid the sacrifices of his family to become one of the best players in the world.

As soon as he rolled his birdie putt to within inches of the 18th hole on Sunday to make absolutely certain of his first major title after numerous near-misses, Day was in tears as the enormity of his achievement hit home.

Fittingly, the first person to embrace him was his caddie and mentor Colin Swatton, followed closely by his son Dash and wife Ellie, who is pregnant with the couple's second child.

Day first met Swatton when, following the death of his father, his mother borrowed enough money to send him to the same international boarding school at Kooralbyn attended by former world number one Adam Scott and Australian athletics star Cathy Freeman.

Read more: 'I didn't think I would cry' - Jason Day tears up the record book to become a major winner

Their initial interaction resulted in an argument when Swatton, who was the golf coach, wanted Day to work on his short game. Day preferred to play the par-three course but, after reflecting on the sacrifices his mother had made, apologised to Swatton in front of the other pupils.

"It's been a long-time relationship between me and Colin," Day said after a record 20-under-par total at Whistling Straits gave him a three-shot win over new world number one Jordan Spieth.

"For him to be on the bag, not only for my first win on the PGA Tour but my first major championship win, I mean 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 winner. And there's not many coaches that can say that in many sports.

"If my dad didn't pass away [from cancer], I don't think I would have been in a good spot. Where I was based, I mean it wasn't the greatest place. Who knows where I would have been? I honestly don't know.

Read more: Jordan Spieth: It's going to be very difficult to keep hold of top ranking

"That's why a lot of emotion came out on 18, just knowing that my mom 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. We would put the kettle on and go have a shower, and then my mom 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."

Day had recorded nine top-10s in his previous 19 majors, finishing runner-up three times, third once and fourth twice, the most recent being in the Open at St Andrews, when he completed the final round with 12 straight pars and left a birdie putt on the 18th to get into the play-off agonisingly short.

Read more: 'Rehabbing' Rory McIlroy concedes world number one spot to 'deserving' Jordan Spieth

In June the 27-year-old had also collapsed due to an attack of vertigo on the last hole of his second round, He not only completed the hole but then shot 68 on Saturday to share the lead and went on to finish ninth.

"Something happened to me at the Open Championship this year," added Day, who had to settle for regular accommodation at St Andrews rather than the massive RV he prefers to drive between PGA Tour events. "I don't know what it was, I don't know how it happened, but I was sitting there before the fourth round and I felt a calmness over me.

"Something just clicked inside of me and I've been calm ever since. Even though there could be stuff flying around me out there on the golf course, the ability to keep my cool and keep calm has happened since the Open Championship.

"I said to my agent Bud Martin last week I was frustrated with the WGC finish (12th in the Bridgestone Invitational). I should have been better. And I said no one's going to beat me this week."

Read more: Dermot Gilleece: Jordan Spieth is a man to admire both on and off the course

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