Journey From a Lower-income, Troulbed Child, to a Champion

Jason Day celebrates with his caddie, Colin Swatton, on the 18th green after winning the PGA Championship. Day’s emotion didn’t come from losing tournaments, but overcoming a life full of personal adversity to reach this moment. Andrew Redington/Getty Images

Ian O’Connor, ESPN (

The coach and caddie hugging Day after he won the PGA Championship, Colin Swatton, would say his player came from “the wrong side of the tracks” in Queensland, Australia. So Day wanted to take you, Mr. Upper Middle Class Golf Fan, to that side of the tracks so you could understand why he kept pawing at his crying eyes before finishing off the great Jordan Spieth.

Day wanted to tell you that he was 12 when his old man died of stomach cancer, and that his mother needed to take out a second mortgage on the house and borrow money from his aunt and uncle to put him in a golf academy seven hours away. He wanted to tell you that he was getting into fights, and getting drunk at home before he was even a teenager. He wanted to tell you that his mother used a knife to cut the lawn because she couldn’t afford to fix the mower, and that she’d heat up three or four kettles so her son could take a shower in a home that didn’t have a hot water tank.

“That’s why a lot of emotion came out on 18,” Day said.

That’s why this championship meant as much to him as any could mean to any athlete. Just as he held nothing back against the relentless Spieth, Day held nothing back in describing his journey from a lower-income, troubled child to a champion who would become the first man in golfing history to finish a major at 20 under par.

Day wasn’t the most talented prospect at the academy, not even close. “He just outworked everybody,” Swatton said. “He just put in more hours than anybody else.”

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