Deadly Hooks and Slices

By Randall MellOctober 21, 2010, 4:53 am

The news this week that a California man was killed by an errant golf shot makes you shudder.

And then it makes you wonder.

If you play enough, you might have been hit by an errant shot, or had a close call. Or you may have hit somebody with an errant shot, or caused some other kind of damage when you turned your golf ball into a dangerous little missile.

With literally millions of lamely guided missiles filling the air over golf courses every day in the United States, who is liable when injury or damage occurs? Or in these extreme cases, when death occurs?

Because let’s face it, most of us who play the game don’t know where our ball’s going half the time.

“One thing we know about the game is that golfers inherently stink,” says Matt Martin, an expert in liability in the golf industry for Addison Law in Dallas.

Even the best players in the world hit lousy shots. A few years back, Phil Mickelson broke a man’s wristwatch with a bad shot at the CA Championship at Doral and handed the man a wad of cash so he could buy a new one. Mickelson felt responsible, but, legally, was he?

According to KABC-TV in Los Angeles, Hiroshi Tango, 69, was hit in the back of the head earlier this month by a playing partner’s errant shot after Tango walked ahead of his partner as they played the ninth hole of the Los Serranos Country Club in Chino, Calif. The TV station interviewed a course marshal, who said Tango had walked ahead about 20 yards, left of the ninth fairway, when Tango’s playing partner pulled his shot. The ball hit Tango in the back of the head.

Tango was air lifted to a nearby hospital, where he died nine days later.

The tragedy raises a number of questions, including the question of liability, both legal and ethical.

Generally, says Rick Woulfe, an attorney at Bunnell Woulfe in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., a golfer is not legally responsible for damage his errant shot caused if he’s acting in a manner most people would deem reasonable and he hits a bad shot.

“The standard is simply negligence,” said Woulfe, a decorated amateur golfer. “It’s not that different from cars colliding in the street. Sometimes, accidents are accidents. Sometimes, somebody is negligent.”

Negligence, Woulfe said, is defined as the failure to exercise reasonable care.

Four years ago, the Hawaiian Supreme Court upheld a lower court's ruling that a golfer may not be held liable for unintentionally hitting another golfer with an errant shot. The lower court dismissed Ryan Yoneda's lawsuit against Andrew Tom, whose errant shot hit Yoneda in the left eye.

Chief Justice Ronald Moon wrote that it's “common knowledge that not every shot played by a golfer goes exactly where he intends it to go.” The court specified that a golfer who intentionally hits a ball to inflict injury, or recklessly hits a ball knowing injury is likely, is not protected.

Martin said the difficulty in mastering the game of golf factors into the application of law.

“There’s an assumption of risk doctrine, the same law that applies if somebody’s sitting in a baseball stadium and gets hit by a line drive,” Martin said. “One of the risks of being out on the golf course is that you might get hit.”

If you’re going to sue somebody because they injured you or damaged your property with an errant shot, you are probably going to have to prove negligence on the part of the player who hit the errant shot.

“It's absolutely not a black-and-white issue,” Martin said.

Negligence can be a simple thing. While you might believe yelling “fore” after hitting an errant shot is a common courtesy in golf, Martin will tell you it’s become more. He’ll tell you it can be a legal defense.

“There are one or two cases where a golfer did not yell fore, and the courts held the golfer was negligent for not doing so,” Martin said.

Tango isn’t the first person to die after being hit by a golf ball.

Five years ago, a golf course marshal named Dale Parlin at Lake Arlington Golf Course in Arlington, Texas, died of a cerebral hemorrhage after being hit in the head by an errant shot. Sadly, his 31-year-old son hit the shot. Parlin was 150 yards from the tee box taking cover in a stand of trees when his son hooked a shot that ricocheted off the trees.

In 1986, Jane Perkins, 62, of Warren, Mich., died after she was hit in the head by an errant shot by her husband, a retired automobile engineer. She was seated in a golf cart left of the teeing area when hit.

While golfers may be spared legal liability for injury or damage they cause, there’s another question players must wrestle with. Do they feel ethically accountable? It’s a different question. Golf, after all, is supposed to be a game that aspires to something higher, a game with honorable traditions. Does honor dictate something different than the law dictates? That’s a question for philosophers to ponder.

Woulfe says he once watched a playing partner hit a shot through a small window of the front door of someone's home. Woulfe said the man left a note on the door saying he was sorry and that the homeowner should call him.

While Woulfe’s playing partner probably could have avoided legal responsibility for breaking the window, he made himself responsible anyway. Golf’s a complicated game, especially when our shots go astray, and so many of them do.

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Four top finishers in Japan qualify for The Open

By Associated PressMay 27, 2018, 10:19 am

IBARAKI, Japan – Shota Akiyoshi of Japan shot a 2-under-par 70 on Sunday to win the Mizuno Open and qualify for The 147th Open.

Akiyoshi offset three bogeys with five birdies at the Royal Golf Club in Ibaraki, Japan, to finish 1 under overall and secure his first ever tournament win on the Japan Golf Tour.

Michael Hendry of New Zealand and Japanese golfers Masahiro Kawamura and Masanori Kobayashi were tied for second one stroke off the pace to also qualify for The Open at Carnoustie, Scotland, from July 19-22.

Hendry, who led the tournament coming into the final round, came close to forcing a playoff with Akiyoshi but dropped a shot with a bogey on the final hole when he needed a par to draw level.

Hendry will make his second appearance at The Open after qualifying at the Mizuno Open for the second year in a row.

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Lewis hopes to win at Volvik with baby on the way

By Randall MellMay 27, 2018, 12:55 am

Stacy Lewis was listening to more than her caddie on her march up the leaderboard Saturday at the Volvik Championship.

Pregnant with her first child, she is listening to her body in a new way these days.

And she could hear a message coming through loud and clear toward the end of her round at Travis Point Country Club in Ann Arbor, Mich.

“The little one was telling me it’s dinnertime,” Lewis said.

Lewis birdied five of the last six holes to shoot 5-under-par 67 and move into position to make a Sunday run at winning her 13th LPGA title. She is two shots behind the leader, Minjee Lee, whose 68 moved her to 12 under overall.

Sunday has the makings of a free for all with 10 players within three shots of the lead.


Full-field scores from the LPGA Volvik Championship


Lewis, 33, is four months pregnant, with her due date Nov. 3. She’s expecting to play just a few more times before putting the clubs away to get ready for the birth. She said she’s likely to make the Marathon Classic in mid-July her last start of the season before returning next year.

Of course, Lewis would relish winning with child.

“I don’t care what limitations I have or what is going on with my body, I want to give myself a chance to win,” she told LPGA.com at the Kingsmill Championship last week.

Lewis claimed an emotional victory with her last title, taking the Cambia Portland Classic late last summer after announcing earlier in the week that she would donate her entire winnings to the Hurricane Harvey relief efforts in her Houston hometown.

A victory Sunday would also come with a lot of emotion.

It’s been an interesting year for Lewis.

There’s been the joy of learning she’s ready to begin the family she has been yearning for, and the struggle to play well after bouncing back from injury.

Lewis missed three cuts in a row before making it into the weekend at the Kingsmill Championship last week. That’s one more cut than she missed cumulatively in the previous six years. In six starts this year, Lewis hasn’t finished among the top 50 yet, but she hasn’t felt right, either.

The former world No. 1 didn’t make her second start of 2018 until April, at the year’s first major, the ANA Inspiration. She withdrew from the HSBC Women’s World Championship in late February with a strained right oblique muscle and didn’t play again for a month.

Still, Lewis is finding plenty to get excited about with the baby on the way.

“I kind of had my first Mother’s Day,” Lewis told LPGA.com last week. “It puts golf into perspective. It makes those bad days not seem so bad. It helps me sleep better at night. We are just really excited.”

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Rose hasn't visited restroom at Colonial - here's why

By Nick MentaMay 27, 2018, 12:20 am

In case you're unaware, it's pretty hot in Texas.

Temperatures at Colonial Country Club have approached 100 degrees this week, leaving players to battle both the golf course and potential dehydration.

With the help of his caddie Mark Fulcher, Fort Worth Invitational leader Justin Rose has been plenty hot himself, staking himself to a four-shot lead.


Full-field scores from the Fort Worth Invitational

Fort Worth Invitational: Articles, photos and videos


"Yeah, Fulch has done a great job of just literally handing me water bottle after water bottle. It seems relentless, to be honest with you," Rose said Saturday.

So just how much are players sweating the heat at Colonial? Well, it doesn't sound like all that water is making it all the way through Rose.

"I haven't even seen the inside of a restroom yet, so you can't even drink quick enough out there," he shared.

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Up four, Rose knows a lead can slip away

By Nick MentaMay 26, 2018, 11:21 pm

Up four shots heading into Sunday at the Fort Worth Invitational, Justin Rose has tied the largest 54-hole lead of his PGA Tour career.

On the previous two occasions he took a 54-hole Tour lead into the final round, he closed.

And yet, Rose knows just how quickly a lead can slip away. After all, it was Rose who erased a six-shot deficit earlier this season to overtake Dustin Johnson and win the WGC-HSBC Championship. 

"I think I was in the lead going into the final round in Turkey when I won, and I had a four-shot lead going into the final round in Indonesia in December and managed to put that one away," Rose said Saturday, thinking back to his two other victories late last year.

"I was five, six back maybe of DJ, so I've got experience the other way. ... So you can see how things can go both ways real quick. That's why there is no point in getting too far ahead of myself."


Full-field scores from the Fort Worth Invitational

Fort Worth Invitational: Articles, photos and videos


Up one to start the third round Saturday, Rose extended his lead to as much as five when he birdied four of his first six holes.

He leads the field in strokes gained: tee-to-green (+12.853) and strokes gained: approach-the-green (+7.931).

Rose has won five times worldwide, including at the 2016 Rio Olympics, since his last victory in the United States, at the 2015 Zurich Classic.

With a win Sunday, he'd tie Nick Faldo for the most PGA Tour wins by an Englishman post-World War II, with nine.

But he isn't celebrating just yet.

"It is a big lead, but it's not big enough to be counting the holes away. You've got to go out and play good, you've got to go out positive, you've got to continue to make birdies and keep going forward.

"So my mindset is to not really focus on the lead, it's to focus on my game tomorrow and my performance. You know, just keep executing the way I have been. That's going to be my challenge tomorrow. Going to look forward to that mindset."