Tyrrell Hatton, the winner for the last two years, admitted he felt “devastated” after the Ryder Cup player suffered an “horrific moment” as he injured a female spectator with a wayward shot during the first round of the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship.
The unfortunate incident, which left the woman requiring hospital treatment after suffering a nasty gash on her forehead, came the day after American Brooks Koepka said he was “heartbroken” to learn that a female spectator injured by him in similar circumstances at the Ryder Cup in France last week could lose the sight in her right eye.
In this latest unfortunate occurrence to put the safety of spectators at golf events in the spotlight, the woman, who requested not to be named, was standing at the side of the 15th green at Kingsbarns, one of three courses used for the event, when she was struck by Hatton’s ball in windy conditions on the Fife coast.
She was treated on the course by paramedics as a concerned Hatton comforted her before being taken by buggy to the on-course medical centre. After being assessed there, she was then transferred to a local hospital for precautionary checks. In a statement, a tournament spokesman later said: “She received stitches to a cut on her forehead and was discharged. She will require no further treatment.” While uninjured, a male spectator was hit on the ankle by Hatton’s playing partner, Luke Donald, at the same hole – their fifth of the day – after starting at the tenth.
“It’s probably one of the worst feelings I’ve had on a golf course,” admitted Hatton, a member of Europe’s triumphant team in the 42nd Ryder Cup at Le Golf National on Sunday, after somehow managing to card a two-under-par 70 to sit just two shots off the lead, shared by Englishman Matt Wallace and Marcus Fraser from Australia, in the £3.85 million pro-am. “It’s the first time I’ve ever hit someone. So I was pretty devastated, to be honest. I was getting updates when I was out on the golf course, because I wanted to know how she was doing.
“When I finished my first nine holes, I got told that she was going to hospital to have a couple of stitches but there were no concerns from a medical point of view, which is obviously good news. But, at the same time, I’m just devastated that I’ve hit her. I will keep in touch and get regular updates.”
After it emerged earlier in the week that Corine Remande, a fan who had travelled to the Ryder Cup from Egypt to watch the Ryder Cup, could lose the sight in her right eye after being struck by Koepka’s tee shot at the sixth hole in the opening session, the three-time major winner admitted he’d been “torn up about it” and “messed up inside”. That was clearly on Hatton’s mind after this latest incident.
“It kind of reminds you that golf isn’t that important, if you know what I’m trying to say,” he added. “From that point, I wasn’t even thinking about it being hard to concentrate. I was just thinking about what had happened. But I guess having the updates helped. Her daughter was walking around with us and I had put my arm around her, the daughter, when I got up to the 15th green because she was crying. It was obviously an horrific moment.”
Koepka, who knows that feeling, was told of what had happened to Hatton after his opening round, also at Kingsbarns. “It’s unfortunate, but it’s one of those things,” said the US Open and US PGA champion after matching Hatton’s score. “I’ve been to a hundred baseball games and I sit behind the net in the first row. I’m trusting the net, but sometimes there’s a good chance the net doesn’t work and the ball comes and drills me in the face. That’s the unfortunate thing about watching sport.”
As he tries to get on with playing it after his own incident, the Floridian insisted he can’t afford to let what happened to him in France affect him psychologically. “Obviously I feel terrible about it but I can’t do anything about it now. I wish I had never hit that shot, but I still have to be able to go on and play golf.
“You see how certain instances can affect some guys. In golf, the mental psyche is very fragile and it can really be bothersome, especially if you let something really get to you. Don’t get me wrong, it has gotten me. I’m torn up about it and I was shaking yesterday in the press conference talking about it.
“But I can’t let it affect me on the golf course. You’ve still got to go out there and expect to hit the fairway. I’ve hit errant shots thousands of times and you’ve got like six seconds from when that ball is hit with the driver to when it usually lands – and in those six seconds you try to yell ‘fore’ and get everybody’s attention. But sometimes it’s hard, people are on their phones or chatting and not paying attention to what’s going on. From 300 yards back it’s really difficult to get someone’s attention in five or six seconds.”