• Hatton’s errant shot opens debate once more

    Tyrrell Hatton at the Dunhill Links
    Another fan struck

    If you can successfully claim for being hit by a golf ball, spectator sport may be all but over.

    This a very real thought doing the rounds at the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship here, and in all likelihood all over the golfing world.

    Just a week after double US Open champion Brooks Koepka’s errant drive at the par-4 sixth hole at Le Golf National in the Ryder Cup struck a woman, Corine Remande, in her right eye – she has been told she will lose her sight in the eye as a result – a wayward five-iron at Kingsbarns by defending Dunhill Links champion Tyrrell Hatton saw his golf ball strike a woman on her forehead. Mercifully, the damage is not permanent and after being sent to hospital for a few stitches, all appears to be well.

    Mrs Remande now intends suing the Ryder Cup organisers in the interests of spectator safety. And if successful, then – this may seem far-fetched at this stage – in theory golf could be over as a live spectator sport. And other sports could follow suit. A cricket ball, for instance, can cause a lot of damage to a fan in the grandstands taking the full force of a mighty six.

    Corine Remande’s mishap was a tragic, horrible fluke but, in truth, the marshals could not be blamed for not doing their job. The sixth hole is a 360-yarder with a slight dog-leg so the big hitters – like Koepka – could choose either to play it safe and lay up, or go for the green by cutting the corner. It’s precisely why spectators gathered near that green to see if any of the golfers could find the putting surface. The golfer crying “fore” from the tee, over 300 yards away, just isn’t effective. And the marshals near the green would have had no idea if Koepka was “going for it” as he was in the first group out that day, and a trend hadn’t yet been established as to what the players were, as a rule, opting to do at hole No 6.

    There is also the very important issue of individual responsibility.

    If you’re a spectator behind the ropes at a golf tournament, be aware of what’s going – although, admittedly, it’s often difficult to pick up the flight path of a golf ball, be you the player, caddie, spectator or marshal.

    Koekpa admits to being “completely torn up” about what happened, that a woman should lose the sight of one eye because of him. “You try to yell ‘fore’ but you’re 300 yards back and the ball’s only in the air for about six seconds. So it’s not easy, especially since people may be chatting on their cell phones or not paying attention to the golf.”

    Hatton, who is bidding to win the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship for the third straight year, said he was “devastated” that his loose five-iron shot ended up hitting the woman – who did not want to be named. “I felt so bad about it, but what can you do? All you can do is shout ‘fore’. You can’t do more than that. But something like that is very unnerving, and I’m so sorry for her.”

    Time will, of course, will tell what legal outcome will emerge from Mrs Remande’s intention to sue. But golf purely as spectator sport from the confines of a sofa? That won’t go down too well.

    – By Grant Winter at the Home of Golf


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