Robert Allenby – Aiming For A Cure
By John Pugsley
Courtesy of Seabreeze Publications
Robert Allenby, the Australian professional golfer who certainly has made a name for himself in the industry, has taken his passion from the green to a new level. Well, let’s just say it’s an ace. Allenby is known worldwide as one of the top golfers in the world, but very few people know about his commitment and dedication to helping kids with disabilities and medical complications.
Born the youngest of four, golf has been a part of his life since the age of seven. Times were tough growing up. And, when he was 13 years old, he lost a close friend to leukemia. That single event changed his life forever.
“We were both 13 years of age and that’s when it all started,” Allenby shared.
Around this same time, he met a professional who befriended and coached him for 18 years. Growing up in public housing wasn’t easy, he admits, but soon Allenby received golf training in a state-run program for promising youth golfers that provided him with instruction and access to a sports psychologist.
He loved the sport and stayed with it. In 1992 he turned professional. He was soon successful, topping the PGA Tour of Australasia Order of Merit in his first season and again in 1994.
Allenby knew it was the perfect time to raise awareness for another uphill battle well worth fighting – cancer. He became a patron and spokesperson for Challenge Cancer Support Network, an organization that brings support to the lives of children and families living with cancer as they face the pressures of a life-threatening illness. And, much like the children they dedicate their lives to, they themselves were struggling to survive. Allenby remembers their first fundraising event, a dinner with a few hundred people.
“We made just shy of $100,000 in the first year. And, time has gone on over the past 20 years, and we’ve raised over $20 million,” Allenby says proudly. “So I took it from nowhere, to the biggest major charity event in Australia.” He also adds that for the last 14 years they have grown to over 1,000 attendees annually.
Allenby continues to play some events on his home tour and has won 13 events, including one as an amateur. He began to play on the European Tour and it was his principal tour until 1998. He won four tournaments on the European Tour, including three in 1996, when he finished third on the Order of Merit. He was featured in the top 10 of the Official World Golf Rankings. He might even have become the leading money-winner on the European Tour that season had it not been for the car accident in Spain that sent his vehicle crashing into a brick roundabout.
“I was out for 91⁄2 hours in a short coma,” Allenby says. “All the doctors were surprised I made it through.”
Though he was in ill health, Allenby refused to give up for the season. He flew to Spain for the tour’s final tournament, hobbled to the tee, drove the ball and promptly withdrew. By teeing off, Allenby secured the $170,000 last-place prize, thus ensuring a third-place finish in money standings and an invitation to the U.S. Masters the following spring. He donated the money to Challenge Cancer Support Network.
Allenby now plays primarily in the United States on the PGA Tour. In 2005 he became the first golfer to win the “triple crown” of the Australian Masters, Australian PGA and Australian Open in the same year.
In December 2009, Allenby became the first Australian to win the Nedbank Golf Challenge in South Africa, by defeating Henrik Stenson in a playoff. It was his first professional win in four years, but he did not have to wait long for the next as he returned home to claim his fourth Australian PGA Championship title the following week.
Three years ago Allenby faced another tragedy – his mom passed away from lung and kidney cancer. He explains how she loved her pink rose bush in the front garden and, even though she was terminally ill, she wanted to water it herself to her life’s end.
“I carried her around the house for the last two weeks of her life,” he recalls. “Every day I had to pick her up, take her out to the rose bush, sit her down and give her a hose. She would water it nonstop,” he shares.
Since her passing, Allenby wears pink shirts on Sunday in remembrance of his mother and to show support of women living with cancer.
Since that time, Allenby played for the International Team in the Presidents Cup in 2011 as one of Greg Norman’s captain’s picks. It was played at his favorite course, the Royal Melbourne Golf Club, his hometown course that he first played when he was 12 years old.
“I’ve worked my butt off to achieve what I can out of this game,” Allenby said. “My parents gave me a chance when I was 18 and I took it.”
To help him improve his game, he gets plenty of sleep and exercise, especially in preparation for tournaments. In addition, he continues to work with a sports psychologist who helps him improve his breathing patterns in stressful situations to lower his heart rate, helping to improve his game.
“Breathing is probably the most important part of golf,” Allenby says. “People think you need to hit all these balls. You have to do this. You have to do that. You need to do that to a certain extent because you’ve got to get the feel for certain shots, but the most important part is right between your ears. If you don’t practice your breathing and you’re in a tough situation and the pressure is on, then all of a sudden your heart rate starts racing, you can’t control it and you’re going to get a bad shot.”
He also has his own foundation. He recently hosted the second annual Bluewater Golf and Fishing Invitational tournament to benefit special needs kids and children with cancer in Palm Beach County. He thanks the participants, sponsors, donors, volunteers and guests who helped raise a lot of money to help children in the area. Allenby lives in Admirals Cove and enjoys deep-sea fishing and spending time with his two children, Harry and Lily. He explains that despite his success, he has always tried to “make sure they’re grounded kids.”
“Sure they could be spoiled flying on private jets and going on private boats, living a great life. But I tell them every day ‘Hey, this is not reality,’” he shares. “Reality is where your mom and I grew up. We grew up with nothing. We worked our way up.”
So true ... Now that’s a double eagle.
August 21, 2012
June 27, 2012