Brooks Koepka has spoken of his heartbreak after a spectator, Corine Remande, lost the sight in her right eye after being struck by the American’s tee shot at the Ryder Cup on Friday.
The 49-year-old woman told the AFP news agency that “the bullet” had left her “right eyeball exploding” and, despite assurances that the hospital visit was just a precaution, scans showed a fracture of the right socket and the explosion of the eyeball which the surgeons managed to sew back together at a specialist eye hospital. They couldn’t save her sight.
Speaking at the Dunhill Links at St Andrews, Koepka said: “There is nobody that feels worse about this than I do. It was a tragic accident, I’m heartbroken and all messed up inside.
“In my career it will definitely be the one shot that I regret. Yesterday (Tuesday) was probably one of the worst days of my life. She’s not going to be able to see out of an eye ever again and I hit the golf ball. And that’s upsetting. Just because I hit a golf ball someone lost sight in one eye. It’s not a good feeling.”
He added: “I wasn’t told until I got to the course. I’m not the biggest person on social media, so when I got here and had about seven missed calls and 25 text messages I was like, ‘What’s going on?’ Then I was told the news and obviously I am heartbroken.
“My stomach sank. I spent an hour and a half of my round on the phone trying to understand what was going on because it’s hard to get the real story of what was going on. I didn’t know if it was fake or not and you want to find out. It’s sad and I really am torn up about it.”
As for Ms Remande she now faces the possibility of taking legal action.
“Quite clearly, there is responsibility on the part of the organisers,” said Ms Remande who had travelled to France from Egypt with her husband for the matches and is now recovering at her parents’ home in Lyon.
“Officials did not shout any warning as the player’s ball went into the crowd. More than anything I want them to take care of all the medical bills to make sure there is no risk of infection. Once I was taken away, I didn’t hear anything from the organisers.”
Her husband Raphael added: “In the best-case scenario, she may be able to see shapes after the bruising eases in a month or so.”
Videos show that Koepka and others on the tee did shout fore but, as the American explained at the time, sometimes it can prove to be of little help.
“You can yell fore but it doesn’t matter. If you’re 150 yards, you’re shouting fore, you can hear it. But from 300 yards, even if none of us said fore, she’s going to get hit, and that’s the unfortunate thing. They can’t hear from 300 yards and the wind is blowing – fore doesn’t really matter, but we did say it.”
Risks for club golfers
We spoke to Golf Care, the largest specialist golf insurance provider in the UK, and they highlighted a case where a mishit shot resulted in a lost eye and a £400,000 legal battle.
Anthony Phee was visiting Niddry Castle in West Lothian when, while walking between holes, he was hit by a tee shot from James Gordon.
There was a shout of fore and Phee ducked and put his hand up but it didn’t stop the ball hitting him in the eye, which exploded on impact. Phee sued Gordon and the club and the judge ruled that both were liable, attributing 70% liability to the player and 30% to the club. Gordon, it was ruled, should have foreseen the risk.
And so the Court of Session awarded the near £400,000 damages – Gordon appealed but still had to pay around £80,000 in damages.
Just for the record if you are playing golf and your ball hits another golfer, a car or a building, you might well be liable for substantial damages.