Robert Allenby sounds at peace, his mind finally clear. He’s standing at 11,000 feet, presiding over the marriage of his caddie, Danny Stout, and Sam Troyanovich, an LPGA tour pro who just finished her rookie season. They are in front of a small group of family and friends, all of whom are dressed in ski clothes, Sam included, on top of a mountain in Aspen, Colorado. At Stout’s request, Allenby knows to keep things short and sweet, even though there is no rush on a clear 35-degree day in the Rocky Mountains.
You may be wondering how this is possible. A simple Google search will yield, among other things, horror stories of Allenby’s reputation with caddies. Now, he’s officiating his new caddie’s wedding. Troyanovich is fully aware of the absurdity.
“People say, ‘Wait, what? [Danny] caddies for Robert Allenby? Isn’t he awful? Isn’t he such a jerk?’” she says. “And we’re like, ‘No, he’s amazing. We love him.’”
Four years ago this week, Allenby went through what remains one of the most bizarre incidents in golf. The four-time PGA Tour winner was allegedly kidnapped, robbed and beaten outside a wine bar in Hawaii shortly after he missed the cut at the Sony Open. The following day, he posted a picture of wounds he suffered on his face that quickly went viral, causing everyone to ask questions about what exactly happened.
To this day, what occurred in that two-hour period remains unclear. Multiple witnesses disputed his original story in the coming weeks, leading many to believe Allenby had made it up. It should be pointed out that a man was eventually arrested and pleaded guilty to using Allenby’s credit cards, but that didn’t exactly clear anything up.
The Internet, as is often the case, was not kind. Allenby quickly went from thinking he was a victim of an ugly crime to a drunk who had one too many. He did his image no favours when he and his caddie parted ways in the middle of a round later that summer at the RBC Canadian Open over a bad club selection. A year later, he was arrested and charged with disorderly conduct and criminal trespassing at an Illinois casino following a missed cut at the John Deere Classic.
But it’s the Hawaii incident that remains synonymous with the now 47-year-old tour pro. For a player who made more than $US27 million, reached as high as No.12 in the world and nearly won the 2010 Players Championship, it’s not an ideal way to be remembered.
Allenby, with the help of his wife of three years, Kym, his family and his new close friends Stout and Troyanovich, is doing his best to change that. It’s not been easy, both on the course and off, but the Victorian is on the way back, which didn’t seem realistic in the immediate aftermath of the episode at the Sony Open.
“I can openly say that Hawaii destroyed me,” Allenby said over the phone from his home in Jupiter, Florida. “It hurt me mentally, and because of it, I was out on tour and trying to play my best and people were making smart-ass comments about what they thought, because of what had been reported.
“It made it really tough. I got a lot of death threats and all sorts of stuff like that. It really killed me inside, I started seeing therapists for it. I went through a bit of depression. I was depressed for probably the past few years.”
Understandably, this mental state had an adverse effect on Allenby’s game. Since the missed cut at the Sony Open, he has played in 54 PGA Tour events, missed 40 cuts and withdrawn three times. He hasn’t found much success on the Web.com Tour either, though he did tie for fifth at the 2017 Chitimacha Louisiana Open. In his other 17 Web.com starts, he’s managed just one top-25. His home country has been a bit kinder, where he finished T-10 at the 2016 Australian Open and T-16 at the Australian PGA this past December.
But on-course results don’t even begin to paint the picture of Allenby’s life since that strange night in Hawaii. Yes, there’ve been downs, plenty of them, but through it all his support system has never wavered.
“It’s been a long road, but at the same time I feel like I’ve pushed through and I can see the light at the end of the tunnel now, which is such a relief,” he said.
Stout and Troyanovich in particular seemed to have had an enormous impact on Allenby. The relationship began when JoJo Pyland, Allenby’s good friend and caddie at the time, couldn’t carry the Aussie’s bag at the 2017 Digital Ally Open, instead referring him to Stout, who he assured Allenby would love. On the 13th hole of the second round, Stout feared this not-yet-existing relationship was over, especially as thoughts of Allenby’s past history with caddies filled his head.
“I thought he was going to fire me after the first tournament that I worked for him,” said Stout, who played college baseball at Southern Mississippi before spending some time in the Milwaukee Brewers farm system. After shoulder surgery cut his baseball career short, Stout gave professional golf a shot, playing on the Hooters Tour and Tar Heel Tour.
After failing to call Allenby off an aggressive play into a par 5, Stout knew he was in trouble when the shot ended up short-sided in a bunker, with no chance to get up and down for birdie. Allenby went on to bogey the hole and miss the cut by two shots.
“It wasn’t a mistake, but I knew the club we were hitting was the wrong club and I just didn’t want to tell a guy who had been one of the best players in the world that I was right and he was wrong since he seemed so confident,” Stout remembered.
Allenby’s reputation with caddies at the time suggested that he and Stout would shake hands and part ways right there. In addition to the story that he and Mick Middlemo split mid-round at the Canadian Open, there were other stories from his past loopers. He was known as “The Beast” according to one of his former caddies, Cameron Ferguson. He’s employed more than 24 throughout his career, and an anonymous looper once said “there’s definitely some sort of split personality there … it can be hell.”
Stout was certain he’d be the latest victim.
“After the tournament was over I was sure that was the end of it, but I told him I wanted to talk about that shot and I said I was wrong, and I just wanted to let him know that was my fault and wanted to know how to do it in a better way in the future.
“It took him by surprise, and he ended up inviting me to dinner with he and his wife that night and we got to talking about caddieing and going forward from there. By the end of dinner we were setting up hotel rooms for the next week and where we’re going to be. Since then I’ve been with him every tournament he’s played in that I could be at.”
A month after the Digital Ally Open, Allenby missed the cut at the WinCo Foods Portland Open at Pumpkin Ridge in Oregon. Stout missed two different flights that weekend, and when Allenby informed him he didn’t get in to the Web event the following week, he stuck around. The LPGA Tour was in Portland the following week, so Stout rolled the dice and tried to see if he could get a bag. He ended up caddieing for Emily Tubert, and on the putting green he met Troyanovich, who was playing in just her third career LPGA event. The two chatted a little and thought nothing of it.
A few months later, in December 2017, the two crossed paths again and hit it off. In early January, Stout visited Troyanovich in Jupiter and just a few weeks later they went to Australia with Allenby, who helped Troyanovich get into a few Australian events with her new LPGA status, including the Victorian Open. They stayed in Allenby’s house for the week, but couldn’t find Troyanovich a caddie. By sheer luck of the draw, Allenby’s tee time was in the early part of the morning and Troyanovich’s tee time in the afternoon. So Stout caddied for both, immediately rushing to Troyanovich’s bag once Allenby was done with his round. The rest, as they say, is history.
Over the next year Stout, Troyanovich, Allenby and wife Kym became incredibly close. They all travel together, play golf together, practise together, you name it. They’ve gotten so close, in fact, that when they were all out for drinks one night, Stout pulled Allenby aside with an important request.
“Danny’s like ‘I’ve got a ring, I’ve got a ring,’” Allenby says. “‘She’s finally got a week off, and I didn’t want to ask her during a tournament. I wanted to ask her during a week off.’
“So he says, ‘Can we go back to your house, I want to propose to her at your house.’ And I’m like, ’Aw mate that’s very nice of you.’ So we come back to the house, he got down on one knee and my wife filmed it and Samantha was in shock and, like, ‘Are you kidding me?’ I can’t say the exact words, but there was a little bit of a swear word in there. So we were right there when he proposed.”
If this all sounds like it happened quickly, that’s because it did, and it’s all thanks to Allenby. Had he gotten into that tournament in late 2017, Stout and Troyanovich may have never met. Instead, within a year, they were getting engaged under his roof, and on that same night, Stout and Troyanovich had an idea.
“So they said, ‘Alright, Father Bob, we want you to be ordained and to marry us.’” he said. “I’m like alright, I think Father Bob rings a good tune to it.”
Troyanovich’s parents were a bit apprehensive about the idea at first. They’d never met Allenby, and only knew what anyone with an Internet connection could find out. Last month, in Aspen, Robert and Kym met Samantha’s parents for the first time the night before the December 7 wedding. Safe to say, it went well.
“By the end of the night, Robert and my dad were buddies,” Troyanovich said. “Robert and Kym already invited my parents down to Jupiter to play golf and pickleball, a new favourite activity of ours.”
“It’s funny, because I ordained one of my best mates to marry my wife Kym and I in Napa the week before Frys.com [Open] about three years ago,” Allenby said. “So I kind of knew the gist of what to do and what not to do. But Danny was always like, ‘You’ve got to make it short mate, people are going to be cold,’ but it was like the opposite. It was 35 degrees, beautiful sun, white snow everywhere. Pretty cool.”
The whole situation sounds like a far cry from the story people most associate with Allenby, and they all realise there’s not much they can do to change that. All they know of Allenby is what they have learned over the past year, that he’s a great friend who would do anything for them.
“He’d give us the shirt off his back,” Troyanovich said. “He’s helped us in so many ways, not just with the Australia trips but since moving down to Jupiter, he and his wife welcome us as part of their family. He’s turned a new leaf we feel, and he’s actually starting to play some really good golf, which is exciting.”
“It’s really gone from a player-caddie relationship to him being my best friend,” Stout said.
It’s exciting too, for Allenby, who knows ordained ministry can only get him so far. His game is coming back, already showing signs in early December at the Australian PGA. “It was the best that I’ve seen him play since being with him,” Stout said. “If he played like that in the upcoming season, I think he’d have a very successful year.”
In the meantime, Allenby is training and practising as hard as ever, saying that he’s in the best physical shape of his life. Most importantly, though, is that he’s mentally sharp again.
“My confidence is coming back, which is probably the most important part because I lost my confidence there [after Hawaii.]
“When I was down in Australia playing just a few weeks ago, the voices in my head finally dissipated and I’m like, ‘Oh my god, this is such an amazing feeling.’ Like I said to Danny at the [Australian] PGA, this is the first week in a few years that I actually feel like I belong on the golf course again and feel like I can actually physically play the game back to the ability that I know I have played it before, and I’ve been top 15 in the world before.”
He’ll have to make the most of limited amount of starts, which he will get as part of the past champions category. In July, when he turns 48, he’ll also be able to play some on the Web.com Tour, which has a special eligibility ranking for PGA Tour members at the age of 48 and 49 who want to sharpen their game before beginning their PGA Tour Champions careers. He’ll also try and get into the first few events of the Web.com Tour season this month.
When and if he does complete a comeback of sorts, he’ll have Danny, Sam and his family to thank. Most importantly, his wife Kym.
“She’s done everything in her power to make sure that I get myself back on track, and that’s where I am now.
“It’s been a lot of pain and a lot of hard effort to get to it, but I feel amazing and I definitely owe it to my wife, and my family, and some great friends. You find out who your real friends are when you go through an experience like that, that’s for sure.”