Lee Trevino once famously gave a tip on the best procedure if you’re caught in a thunderstorm on the golf course. “Just hold your 1-iron up in the air,” he said. “Even God can’t hit a 1-iron.”
Trevino’s advice was given in jest, but the Texan 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 didn’t think it would come too much, so they stayed on course and began to enjoy a picnic beside the 13th green.
Midway through a hotdog, a bolt of lightning struck. It lifted Trevino clean off the ground and threw him down, his body shuddering with the shock. Later, a doctor examining the burns on his shoulder was amazed – she’d never seen marks like it on someone who’d survived a lightning strike.
Golf courses can be dangerous places and, over the years, there has been all manner of strange injuries on fairways around the world.
In 1975 in Indiana, Owen Cummings took a hopeful swing at his ball, which was lying in a ditch close to a wall. Amazingly it struck the wall, rebounded and went into the cup for an eagle. He won the hole but had to abandon the match. In playing the “wonder-shot,” his club head had also struck the wall. It broke off, rebounded, hit him in the face and knocked him out.
A winning fall
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 badly.
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.
In April of 1912, an actor named Harry Dearth took extreme measures 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 Illustrated correspondent 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.”