Golfer sued after Leven Links ball spotter blinded

The incident took place at Leven Links golf course. Picture: contributed
The incident took place at Leven Links golf course. Picture: contributed
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A CHAMPION golfer is being sued by a ball “spotter” who was hit in the eye and blinded by one of his shots.

David McMahon, 70, said he had just warned a pair of straying spectators of the possibility of being struck when he was felled by Gavin Dear’s ball.

He told a court that Mr Dear, one of Scotland’s leading amateur golfers at the time, ought to have been able to see him as he played the shot, and denied that he had walked out from behind a golf buggy into the flight of the ball.

Mr McMahon, a retired bus driver, of Leven, Fife, is seeking up to £50,000 damages at the Court of Session in Edinburgh.

Mr Dear, 28, now a professional player, of Scone, Perthshire, denies any negligence and insists that Mr McMahon failed to take reasonable care for his own safety and was solely to blame for the accident.

In 2008, Mr Dear was a member of the three-man Scotland team which lifted the Eisenhower Trophy at the World Amateur Team Championships in Australia.

The following year he was in the Great Britain and Ireland team which lost to the United States in the Walker Cup, and he was named Scottish Golfer of the Year.

The incident with Mr McMahon occurred in April 2009 at the Leven Links course, during the Scottish Amateur Champion of Champions competition.

Mr McMahon, a keen golfer, said he volunteered as a ball spotter at the 11th hole, watching for shots going into gorse bushes. He was standing beside his golf cart near a 4ft-high mound. Mr Dear was playing the adjacent par-5 6th hole.

“I was keeping an eye on the 11th tee. At the same time, I’m paying attention to the 6th and 12th holes. You are basically trying to look after yourself,” said Mr McMahon.

“I think (Mr Dear) could see me by the edge of the gorse because I could see him. A young girl and boy strayed off a path to the top of the mound. I went up and told them to stand back...I explained the danger of standing there. They turned round and walked off. The young girl said, ‘Thanks very much.’ I started my way back down to the buggy and had taken two or three steps and a ball hit me in the eye. After that, I don’t know...I went down. I covered my eye. I took my glove back and it was full of blood.”

Mr McMahon said there had been no warning shout, and asked what he would have done if there had been a call, he stated: “I would have become the ground. I have been hit eight times by golf balls and take my word for it, it is sore. Including this incident, this is the ninth.”

He was told that Mr Dear’s position in the case was that after hitting his long-iron second shot, and while the ball was in the air, Mr McMahon had walked out from behind the cart and straight into the path of the ball.

“No...I can’t walk out from behind the cart if I’m walking to the cart,” he replied.

The court was told that Mr McMahon had been taken to hospital and had surgery on his right eye but lost the sight in it. He had played golf off a nine or ten handicap, but now was unable to play.

Lawyers for Mr Dear said Mr McMahon had not been visible at any stage prior to the accident.

“(Mr Dear) required to play over an area of gorse bushes. He noted a golf buggy...there was no-one around the buggy. It was parked in ground under repair. He considered it might have been left abandoned as having run out of battery, as is regularly the case. He considered his shot for approximately two minutes. As the ball approached an area of gorse, suddenly and without warning (Mr McMahon) emerged from behind a golf cart,” stated the lawyers.

“(Mr McMahon) failed to make himself visible to those playing the 6th hole. He emerged suddenly and without warning into the path of a golf ball in flight.”

The hearing is expected to last for several days.