In a one-paragraph post on its website, the Florida State Golf Association declared Marc Dull the winner of the 37th Mid-Amateur Championship on May 13 after his opponent – in a tie match with two holes to go – was unable to return because of an “unfortunate injury” sustained during a lengthy weather delay.
Left unreported was what allegedly happened.
According to a police report (see below) obtained by GolfChannel.com, the Charlotte County Sheriff’s Office received a call that afternoon from Dull’s opponent, Jeff Golden, who claimed that he’d been assaulted in the parking lot at Coral Creek Club, the tournament host site in Placida. In a statement provided to police, Golden said that he was sucker-punched in the face by Dull’s caddie, Brandon Hibbs.
Both in his statement to police and in a subsequent phone interview afterward, Golden, 33, said that the alleged incident stemmed from a rules dispute on the ninth hole during the championship match. As he surveyed his putt, Golden asked Dull whether the cup was damaged or if there was loose debris around the edge.
“Don’t worry about it,” Hibbs reportedly told Golden. “If you’re going to make it, you’re going around it.”
With tensions already running high because of what he perceived as breaches of etiquette by his opponents, Golden informed the rules official in the group that he believed Hibbs’ statement constituted advice. The penalty was a loss of hole, giving Golden a 2-up lead at the turn.
At that point, Hibbs told police, he recused himself and returned to the clubhouse. Dull and Golden continued their match, heading to the 17th hole all square when they were pulled off the course because of inclement weather.
Golden told police that he headed to the parking lot at 2:45 p.m. to retrieve some dry clothes from his car when Hibbs “approached him, apologized, then punched him on the left side of the face,” causing him to fall to the ground.
“I had a moment where I was happy to see him, because the first thing he said to me was, ‘I want to apologize,’” Golden said last week in a phone interview. “By the time he finished I was being punched.”
Asked why he believed Hibbs would strike him, Golden said: “It was from the earlier ruling, 100 percent. He had anger toward me because I called him out on a ruling.”
In a statement given to police, Hibbs, 36, said that he had “been in the clubhouse the entire time and did not batter [Golden], nor was he in the parking lot.” Hibbs, who caddies with Dull at Streamsong Resort in Central Florida, did not return a message seeking comment.
Police wrote in the report that there were no witnesses to the alleged attack, nor was there any surveillance video from the parking lot. While observing Golden the officer noted “no swelling or abrasions to the face,” but there was “some redness on the inside of [Golden’s] lip.” Hibbs’ hands and knuckles showed “no scrapes or abrasions.”
Golden, however, said that there were three bloodstains on his shirt and punctures inside his mouth that proved he’d been struck. He also described himself afterward as “dizzy” and seeing “weird shades of colors,” and that the area between his wrist and thumb was “very sensitive” from catching his fall. Still feeling woozy, he met with his doctor the day after the alleged incident and also underwent a CT scan on Friday.
“I was extremely shaken up,” he said. “I had concussion symptoms.”
Golden declined to press charges – he said later that he wasn’t given the option, because of a lack of physical evidence – and refused medical attention.
Reached by phone last week, Dull said that he had no knowledge of the alleged attack and was only made aware once the police arrived. He said he had waited out the delay in a storm shelter.
“It was shocking,” he said. “[Hibbs] said to me, ‘I didn’t touch the guy.’”
Once the police left, it was up to the FSGA to determine how to proceed.
With the course now playable after a two-hour delay, under the Rules of Golf, the players were expected back on the 17th hole.
Golden asked Dull whether he would concede the match.
“I said that I wasn’t going to concede,” Dull said. “Why would I concede the match when I was sitting in the shelter, and when I come back someone is accused of being hit?”
So Golden then decided to concede, handing the Mid-Am title to Dull, the reigning FSGA Amateur Player of the Year.
“I just wanted to get home,” Golden explained later.
Asked last week for more details about the final result, Jeff Magaditsch, the organization’s director of tournament operations, said in an email that Golden “expressed concern about a wrist issue” and that “not much additional information is available.”
A day later, once the details of the police report became available, FSGA executive director Jim Demick said that Golden “didn’t want to play anymore.”
“Regrettably, the golf course was very playable and Jeff understood that he needed to resume the match,” he said. “I think he was just ready to go.”
When asked to comment on the alleged attack, Demick said that the police “found absolutely no evidence of an assault.”
Last week Golden, who qualified for the 2007 U.S. Open and is now a tennis pro at Palencia in St. Augustine, appealed the FSGA’s decision, writing in a letter that tournament officials shouldn’t have accepted his concession.
Dull said that he was “annoyed by the whole incident.”
“I think it taints the entire championship,” he said. “It’s unfortunate. No golf tournament should end that way.”