By Adam Schupak
ORLANDO, Fla. – After Marc Leishman drained a 51-foot bomb for eagle at the 16th hole Sunday and got up and down at the 18th for his first PGA Tour title since 2012, his 5-year-old-son, Harvey, tugged Leishman’s arm and asked, "Daddy, can we go get the trophy?"
"We'll get it in a minute," said Leishman, who shot 11-under 277 at Bay Hill Club and Lodge to win the Arnold Palmer Invitational.
Moments later, wife Audrey dived into Leishman’s arms and they embraced. It was a poignant moment, especially given the trying times that the Leishman family faced in the past two years.
Leishman was at Augusta National preparing for the 2015 Masters when he received a distressing phone call. His wife had been diagnosed with acute respiratory distress and toxic shock syndrome. She was placed into a medically induced coma in a hospital near their Virginia home. Her last words to her husband before falling unconscious: “Please look after my cats, and take the kids to get their Easter bunny photos.”
Imagine those words and being told that the love of your life and mother of your two young children has a slim chance of surviving.
"If Audrey had passed away, I was going to be a dad and that was it,” he said. “It didn't cross my mind to keep playing golf. I think the hardest part for me and the boys was that right around the time where it happened – that month, I would say. That was the hardest part for us."
Miraculously, Leishman's wife survived. Her first words to Marc: "Sorry about the Masters."
"When I woke up, it was a big relief for them, and that’s when my nightmare started," Audrey said. "That’s when I realized what had happened to me and how sick I really was."
During last year’s Arnold Palmer Invitational, she took their two children, Harvey and Ollie, now 3, to two Orlando theme parks but ended up hospitalized with dehydration and fatigue. In May, she had a tonsillectomy. Her health soon stabilized, and in September, her infectious-disease doctor gave her a clean bill of health.
"It was one of the best days of my life," Audrey said. "He said that I was released and told me to have a good life."
As if this story doesn't already have a happy ending, the couple are expecting their third child, a daughter, in mid-July.
Leishman's victory here comes with a berth in the Masters. He tied for fourth in the 2013 Masters, enjoying a front-row seat as fellow Aussie Adam Scott, the eventual winner, holed a clutch birdie putt on 18 to make a playoff with Angel Cabrera.
Augusta National holds polarizing memories for Leishman, 33. Audrey, who had not witnessed any of his seven previous worldwide victories, already was imagining getting their boys fitted for outfits to caddie for dad at the Masters’ Par 3 Contest. Meanwhile, Marc couldn't remember the details of the exchange with his wife at the scoring trailer Sunday, but he knew he'd never forget that hug.
"It was just a really good moment for her to be there, and just that hug was extra special because she knows how hard I work, and she works really hard, too,” he said. “She gives up a lot of things for me to do what I do. So this is for our whole family ... we'll really enjoy this one."
Adam Schupak has written about golf since 1997 for the likes of Golfweek, Golf World and The New York Times. He is the author of Deane Beman: Golf's Driving Force. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org; Twitter: @adamschupak