From lightning strikes to unfortunate ricochets, golf can be a dangerous business. Here’s a look at some strange, cautionary tales from the fairways.
Look before you leap
Playing in the 1957 Bing Crosby pro-am, Tony Lema played a superb shot on the ninth hole. He was so pleased with it that he jumped up in celebration. Unfortunately, he’d forgotten he’d made the stroke from the edge of a 20-foot cliff. When he came down, he stumbled and tumbled over the edge. He fell to the bottom, hurting himself quite badly.
Good news, bad news
Indiana 1975, Owen Cummings found his ball in a challenging position, in a ditch against a wall with the hole directly behind him. Cummings attempted a near-impossible rebound shot. Amazingly it struck the wall, pinged backwards and went into the cup for an eagle. He won the hole, but had to abandon the match. In playing the “wonder-shot,” his clubhead had also struck the wall. It broke off, rebounded, hit him in the face and knocked him out.
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Once is unlucky, twice just careless
Jim Armstrong, a golfer from Phoenix, Arizona, hit a drive that struck the tee markers in front of him, ricocheted back and belted him square on the forehead. When he’d regained consciousness, he teed it up a second time. Incredibly, this effort hit the same marker and came hurtling back at him again, this time catching him on the knee. After that he decided enough was enough and he hobbled back to the clubhouse.
Trevino’s near death experience
Legendary golfing wit Lee Trevino once gave an excellent tip on what to do if you find yourself out on the golf course and a surprise thunderstorm hits.
“Just hold your 1-iron up in the air,” he said. “Even God can’t hit a 1-iron.”
The Texan might have been joking on this occasion, but he could speak from experience. At the 1975 Western Open, the siren sounded to warn players and spectators of an approaching storm. Trevino and playing partner Jerry Heard thought it wouldn’t come to much, so they stayed on course and began to enjoy a picnic beside the 13th green.
Halfway through their hotdogs, a bolt of lightning struck. It lifted Trevino completely off the ground and threw him back down again, his body convulsing with the shock. A doctor who later examined the burns on his shoulder couldn’t believe her eyes – she’d never seen marks like it on someone who’d survived a lightning strike.
In April of 1912, an actor named Harry Dearth seemingly went to extreme lengths to protect himself on the golf course. He turned up on the first tee at Bushey Hall Golf Club in Hertfordshire wearing a suit of armour.
One of Dearth’s motivations may have been self-preservation, but his primary objective was to win a bet. He’d made a wager he could beat Graham Margeston over nine holes, sporting a suit of armour he’d previously worn to play St George on the stage.
Despite being severely restricted in his swing, and rather hot and uncomfortable, Dearth put up a brave fight and lost only narrowly, by 2&1. The pair then agreed to double or quits on the final hole. Dearth won and they shook hands, all even.
A golf journalist who’d been sent to cover the strange contest stated that Dearth; “looked every inch the polished golfer. In fact, better polished than anybody we’ve seen on the links.”