Survivors Recall Day Lightning Struck Hazeltine
They never will forget June 13, 1991. A lightning strike on the first day of the U.S. Open killed spectator Billy Fadell and left five others hospitalized after they stood under a tree during a driving rainstorm on the 16th fairway.
With a major tournament returning to Minnesota for the first time since 1991, at the same course no less, the survivors are thinking even more about what happened.
'The one thing that still haunts me is that the Fadell boy was only 27,' said survivor Ray Gavin, a retired sales manager from Mendota Heights, Minn. 'I was just one week shy of my 50th birthday. Why was he killed and not me?'
Glenn Engstrom, who lives in the St. Paul area, also survived the strike.
'I just thank God every day that I'm still around,' Engstrom said. 'It was a really sad deal. That kind of stuff shouldn't happen. This is a festive-type event.'
Engstrom, 47, will be at the tournament this weekend with tickets courtesy of Hazeltine. He watched practice Monday and went with some friends to the spot where the lightning bolt hit.
The tree was cut down shortly after the accident, but it's not something that fades easily from memory.
Gavin and John Hannahan, who on Friday plan to make their first visit to the course since that weekend, were facing east on the ridge overlooking Lake Hazeltine and the 16th fairway when Gavin was startled by the sight of a blimp suddenly veering away from them.
'I was like, 'What the heck is going on?'' Gavin said. 'Then John told me to look over my shoulder. It was like night and day -- I've never seen anything like it. The sky was green. It was like someone was pouring water out of a pail.'
'Before we knew it,' Hannahan said, 'it was an all-out, belly-washing thunderstorm.'
They were nowhere near their car, and without a VIP pass to allow them entry into one of the hospitality tents, the pair found a small tree to stand under. They quickly were joined by four others who were also lured to Hazeltine's most famous hole. Gavin and Hannahan noticed that fans in the bleachers were getting soaked, afraid of losing their prime seats.
'How stupid,' they thought, turning to watch people huddle under large evergreens nearby.
'I'm like, 'Those dummies -- they're going to get hit,'' Gavin said. 'Well, guess who got hit?''
Because the willow tree's leaves retain water more easily, it turned into a lightning rod.
The six people fell like dominoes.
Fadell, standing between Gavin and Hannahan, died before he reached the hospital. Hannahan's heart stopped. The others were temporarily paralyzed.
'The next thing I knew, somebody was trying to put me on a gurney,' said Gavin, who didn't find out until more than five hours later in the hospital that Hannahan was OK.
Engstrom recalled seeing a reprinted newspaper photograph that showed the men lying on the ground after the strike. Engstrom's hands were covering his face.
'I'm sure I was crying,' Engstrom said.
Since that summer, severe weather-detection systems have been upgraded at PGA events. Still, it's up to fans to heed the warnings.
'If lightning would've hit 50 yards to the northeast, it would've killed 100 people,' said Hannahan, 54. 'It's nothing to fool with. It's not worth a spot in the bleachers.'
Gavin and Hannahan, whose families gather each year to commemorate their brush with death, went to last summer's U.S. Open at Southern Hills Golf Club in Tulsa, Okla., as VIP guests of the U.S. Golf Association, to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the tragedy.
Engstrom used to take pictures of lightning during storms, and he even won a contest at work for one of his photos. 'Since then, I've kind of put those pictures away,' Engstrom said.
He still golfs, but it's tough to do when the horizon turns stormy.
'My game suffers big time,' Engstrom said, recalling a particularly difficult outing a few years ago. 'I just wanted to get in the clubhouse. I was running out and hitting shots ahead of the group, going along the tree line. I didn't want to be out in the open.'
Fill Coverage of the 84th PGA Championship
Cabreras win PNC Father/Son Challenge
ORLANDO, Fla. - Angel Cabrera and Angel Cabrera Jr. closed with a 12-under 60 for a three-shot victory in their debut at the PNC Father/Son Challenge.
The Cabreras opened with a 59 at The Ritz-Carlton Golf Club and were challenged briefly by the defending champions, David Duval and Nick Karavites, in the scramble format Sunday. The Argentines went out in 30, and they had a two-shot lead with Cabrera's son came within an inch of chipping in for eagle on the final hole.
They finished at 25-under 199 for a three-shot victory over Duval and Karavites, and Bernhard Langer and Jason Langer. The Langer team won in 2014.
Mark O'Meara and Shaun O'Meara tied for fourth at 21 under with Jerry Pate and Wesley Pate.
Cabrera wasn't even in the field until two-time U.S. Open champion Curtis Strange and his son, Tom Strange, had to withdraw.
Duval and his stepson went out in 28, but the Cabreras regained control by starting the back nine with back-to-back birdies, and then making birdies on the 13th, 14th and 16th. The final birdie allowed them to tie the tournament scoring record.
''This is certain my best week of the year,'' said Cabrera, the 2009 Masters champion and 2007 U.S. Open champion at Oakmont. ''To play alongside all the legends ... as well as playing alongside my son, has been the greatest week of the year.''
The popular event is for players who have won a major championship or The Players Championship. It is a scramble format both days.
In some cases, the major champions lean on the power of their sons for the distance. O'Meara said Saturday that his ''little man'' hit it 58 yards by him on the 18th. And on Sunday, Stewart Cink said son Reagan told him after outdriving him on the opening four holes, ''In this tournament I may be your son, but right now I'm your Daddy!''
Jack Nicklaus played with his grandson, G.T. They closed with a 64 and tied for 15th in the field of 20 teams.
Rose wins; Aphibarnrat earns Masters bid in Indonesia
Justin Rose continued his recent run of dominance in Indonesia, while Kiradech Aphibarnrat snagged a Masters invite with some 72nd-hole dramatics.
Rose cruised to an eight-shot victory at the Indonesian Masters, carding bookend rounds of 10-under 62 that featured a brief run at a 59 during the final round. The Englishman was the highest-ranked player in the field and he led wire-to-wire, with Thailand's Phachara Khongwatmai finishing second.
Rose closes out the year as perhaps the hottest player in the world, with top-10 finishes in each of his final 10 worldwide starts. That stretch includes three victories, as Rose also won the WGC-HSBC Champions and Turkish Airlines Open. He hasn't finished outside the top 10 in a tournament since missing the cut at the PGA Championship.
Meanwhile, it took until the final hole of the final tournament of 2017 for Aphibarnrat to secure a return to the Masters. The Thai entered the week ranked No. 56 in the world, with the top 50 in the year-end world rankings earning invites to Augusta National. Needing an eagle on the 72nd hole, Aphibarnrat got just that to snag solo fifth place.
It means that he is projected to end the year ranked No. 49, while Japan's Yusaku Miyazato - who started the week ranked No. 58 and finished alone in fourth - is projected to finish No. 50. Aphibarnrat finished T-15 in his Masters debut in 2016, while Miyazato will make his first appearance in the spring.
The results in Indonesia mean that American Peter Uihlein and South Africa's Dylan Frittelli are projected to barely miss the year-end, top-50 cutoff. Their options for Masters qualification will include winning a full-point PGA Tour event in early 2018 or cracking the top 50 by the final March 25 cutoff.
Cabreras take 1-shot lead in Father/Son
ORLANDO, Fla. - Two-time major champion Angel Cabrera and Angel Cabrera Jr. birdied their last three holes for a 13-under 59 to take a one-shot lead Saturday in the PNC Father-Son Challenge.
Cabrera, a Masters and U.S. Open champion, is making his debut in this popular 36-hole scramble. His son said he practiced hard for 10 days. What helped put him at ease was watching his father make so many putts.
''We combined very well,'' Cabrera said. ''When I hit a bad shot, he hit a good one. That's the key.''
They had a one-shot lead over Mark O'Meara and Shaun O'Meara, who are playing for the first time. That included a birdie on the last hole, which O'Meara attributed to the strength of his son.
''My little man hit it 58 yards by me on the 18th,'' said O'Meara, the Masters and British Open champion in 1998. ''It's a little easier coming in with a 6-iron.''
Defending champions David Duval and Nick Karavites rallied over the back nine at the Ritz-Carlton Golf Club for a 61. They are trying to become the first father-son team to repeat as winners since Bernhard and Stefan Langer in 2006. Larry Nelson won two years in a row in 2007 and 2008, but with different sons.
''I'd imagine we have to break 60 tomorrow to have a chance to win, but hey, stranger things have happened,'' Duval said. ''I've even done it myself.''
Duval shot 59 at the Bob Hope Classic to win in 1999 on his way to reaching No. 1 in the world that year.
Duval and his stepson were tied with Bernhard Langer and 17-year-old Jason Langer, who made two eagles on the last five holes. This Langer tandem won in 2014.
Jack Nicklaus, playing with grandson G.T., opened with a 68.
Woods' 2018 schedule coming into focus ... or is it?
Two weeks after his successful return to competition at the Hero World Challenge, Tiger Woods’ 2018 schedule may be coming into focus.
Golfweek reported on Saturday that Woods hopes to play the Genesis Open in February according to an unidentified source with “direct knowledge of the situation.”
Woods’ agent Mark Steinberg declined to confirm the 14-time major champion would play the event and told GolfChannel.com that Woods – who underwent fusion surgery to his lower back in April – is still formulating his ’18 schedule.
Woods’ foundation is the host organization for the Genesis Open and the event supports the Tiger Woods Learning Center in Anaheim, Calif.
The Genesis Open would be Woods’ first start on the PGA Tour since he missed the cut last January at the Farmers Insurance Open.