The Golf Ball Injury
Story circa November 22nd, 1997 | View Post

One evening over the Thanksgiving holiday during my freshman year in college, I took to the local driving range with my little sister. I had been learning to play golf earlier in the summer. One of my roommates, Donlee Cone Smith was an accomplished golfer and a rather good teacher. I was neither, but he was doing his best with me.

The interesting thing about our local driving range is that was uniquely designed by a guy who won the lottery. Evidently he used some of his winnings to develop and presumably patent a system that automatically placed the ball on the tee for the golfer. It was a pretty cool device. All you had to do was tap your golf club on a lever and a PVC arm would drop down into place, set the ball on the tea, and then retract itself. Just when it seemed golf could not get any lazier, this guy proved the world wrong! The relevance of this detail is that one key component to golfing is how one stands relative to the tee. It took me a number of swings to find a good setup, but once I got perfectly into place, I didn't have to move. This presented a pretty big advantage to non-golfers like myself.

As a result to all of this, I was actually hitting the ball really well that evening. One after another, I was driving well beyond my typical norms. My sister, just 13 at the time, was seated in the bench behind me. If it seems strange that she was just watching her brother play golf, keep in mind that 13 is a pretty young age to be independent. I think she just enjoyed the fact that I would take her out and about, the adventure otherwise being unimportant. In this instance, it's good that she was there with me.

After I'd gone through about half of the balls, I sliced the hell out one shot. It was at this moment that a huge flaw in the driving range was inadvertently discovered. There were metal rails extending beyond the area that one could shoot. The ball I sliced hit one of these metal rails (to the right of me) and before I could even finish my swing came back and hit me square in the head over my right eye. I was likely immediately knocked unconscious. As I started to fall to the ground, the momentum from my swing continued and my golf club bent itself around the metal rail to the left of me. I have no idea how long I was unconscious for (likely only seconds), but as I was lying face down on the AstroTurf I could hear my sister chuckling behind me. She later explained to me that she thought I was just playing around as I typically did.

When I rolled over in her direction, I was holding my right hand above my eye. I could feel the injury that I had sustained, but had no idea just how severe it was. As I removed my hand, my sister screamed and realize that not only was I injured, but that I had a protrusion literally the size of a golf ball just above my right eye.

I was in a very blurred state from the injury and only vaguely remember another golfer from a few stalls down coming to my rescue. He picked me up and brought me inside insistent that the place call an ambulence. My sister instead got in touch with my parents and they came and picked me up instead. Another trip to the emergency room ensued.

I was told that I was extremely lucky the injury pushed outwardly from my skull. Evidently an inwardly bruise of that size could have resulted in serious brain injury or other complications. I was also lucky enough not to have fractured my skull. I was perfectly fine just a few days later, albeit became the only of my friends to have ever rendered himself unconscious with a golf ball.

It was many years later before I was comfortable at a driving range again.

My sister sent a package to my college dorm a week or so later. The package contained a note taped to a golf ball that read, "The golf ball that so viciously attacked you". I still have it.

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