Jamie Lyon | 35 | Rugby League Legend | Paladin Golf Tours Host

ALWAYS wanted golf clubs when I was a kid, but it was hard getting your hands on anything growing up in the remote town of Wee Waa in north-west New South Wales. One Christmas, Mum and Dad got me a 5-iron from K-mart in Tamworth and I think that was about as far as I got with owning a full set of clubs. Luckily we lived across the road from a park so I put the 5-iron to good use and developed a real liking for the sport.

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Wee Waa has a little nine-hole course with 18 different tee positions. It has grass greens that are maintained by a team of club volunteers – that’s the way we operate out bush. It’s a fun, little track … plenty of kangaroos, snakes and other wildlife to keep you on your game. I do miss having a hit around there. I still get back from time to time to play and do some boar hunting (Lyon’s hunting exploits earned him his nickname, ‘Killer’).

“I always found golf to be a great distraction
before
or after a game of footy”

When I first cracked the NRL in Sydney with the Parramatta Eels in 2000, I started playing golf with some of my teammates … guys like Brett Hodgson, Pat Richards and Jason Moodie. But it wasn’t until I switched to the Manly Sea Eagles in 2007 that I really got serious about my golf, due largely to club legend Steve Menzies, who was absolutely obsessed with the fairways. He quickly got me hooked and together we started playing at Monash Country Club before I later joined Wakehurst and Mona Vale golf clubs on Sydney’s Northern Beaches. Now that I’ve just bought a house on the NSW North Coast near Lennox Head, I’ll look at joining either Ballina or Byron Bay golf clubs in the coming months once the family and I escape the Sydney rat race.

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Jamie Lyons

I always found golf to be a great distraction before or after a game of footy. As a professional rugby league player and the physical and mental stress that came with it, I loved getting outside and having a hit a few hours before kick-off. I did it regularly with guys like Brent Kite and Jake Trbojevic at Manly because it took our minds off the game and helped settle the nerves. Now that I’ve retired from footy, I hope to play a lot more golf and work on my 5-handicap.

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My new job at Paladin Sports – a sporting goods brand based in Sydney and with operations in New Zealand and the United Kingdom – is certainly helping me get out and play more golf. I fell into the new gig by chance through a lady at the Manly Sea Eagles who started working at Paladin and one day suggested I come down and meet the team. I was lucky enough to land a part-time role that eventually turned into a full-time one when I hung up the boots. What initially started as a job primarily in sales has now expanded into running golf tours and, given my love for the game, I jumped at the opportunity to host these tours. I’ll continue to help build this side of the business from my new home up north. The boss has told me he’d like to see me take six to seven golf tours a year, including one to see a Major championship overseas. We’ve grown a bit of a following in a very short time and I think it’s because we just have so much fun on and off the fairways and play world-class courses like New Zealand’s Cape Kidnappers.

 

I’m currently in the process of locking in some new tour destinations. In October we are going to Queenstown in New Zealand and I’m also keen to run a few local tours to the New South Wales Hunter Valley, Adelaide and even the Gold Coast. I’m always on the lookout for some good overseas golf destinations. That will be a big focus for Paladin Golf Tours over the coming 12 months.

Jamie Lyons

Golf is not an easy game, that’s for sure. One day you’re holing everything and then the next day you can’t get it close. I can only imagine how the pros feel when this happens. But that’s the best thing about golf, right? It’s so unpredictable and you can never really master it. You just want to improve every time you step on the tee. That challenge of getting better is what hooked me.

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Rugby league has produced some pretty handy golfers in recent years. Former Australian and NSW Origin player Braith Anasta got down to scratch or better. I played a few rounds with him during an Origin camp and he was a flusher. Former St George Illawarra player Ben Hornby was also very good. Although I haven’t played with him yet, I believe Jared Waerea-Hargreaves from the Sydney Roosters is very gifted with the golf clubs – he may have even looked at turning pro before football came knocking.

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Jamie Lyons

My favourite courses? Well, I’ve knocked over Ellerston – Kerry Packer’s exclusive course in the Hunter Valley. That was my all-time favourite and will be hard to beat. I played it twice over two days and I would go back there in a heartbeat. I played Cape Kidnappers for the first time a few months ago on my first tour. That was pretty special. I love Lake Karrinyup in Western Australia and I have a soft spot for Kooindah Waters on the NSW Central Coast, where I hold a small ambassadorial role. Mollymook down on the NSW South Coast is another sleeper – a great little course you have to play.

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I’m a bit of a geek when it comes to golf equipment. For a kid who started out with a lone 5-iron, I’ve gone through countless sets of sticks over the years. I’m currently using Ping and I’ve got to say I love all their new gear, particularly the G Series driver.

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My short game has got me out of a lot of trouble over the years. I work pretty hard at it. There’s nothing better in golf than to be able to pull off a good chip shot to save par or, better yet, set up a birdie.

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We all have favourite golfers, just like kids have favourite footballers. For me, I love the way American Gary Woodland plays. He can really get it out there. Louis Oosthuizen is another favourite I like to watch. He’s got the best swing in the game. And like everybody, I spent countless hours on the couch Jamie Lyons

It’s sad to see Tiger struggling these days. As a rugby league player, I can sympathise with the physical challenges you face as you grow older in your chosen sport. For me, I had a bad hamstring and it was getting so hard to compete with the younger players who were more athletic and stronger than I was. It was frustrating because I could still get out on the park but I could never play to my potential because I could never get back to 100 percent fitness. If I didn’t do my ‘hammy’ last year I would have played another year of rugby league, for sure. But I knew it was time. Tiger must be wondering how much longer he can continue trying to get his body right. The golf swing is such a complex series of moves that requires so many muscles and joints to work in tandem at 100 percent. You never want to write off a champion, but once damage has been done to these moving parts, it’s pretty hard to reverse that damage.