One spectator was killed and five others were injured Thursday when they were struck by lightning during the U.S. Open at the Hazeltine National Golf Club.
The spectators were standing near a tree close to the 11th tee during a delay in the tournament caused by a quick-hitting thunderstorm.
“I just felt something and then my legs went entirely numb and I went down,” said Glenn Engstrom, 36, who was in stable condition at Ridgeview Medical Center in nearby Waconia.
“Then guys behind me started yelling for help and I joined in and hollered for help,” he said in a telephone interview, adding that paramedics arrived “fairly quickly.”
William Fadell, 27, of Spring Park, died of cardiac arrest, said Dr. Dale Bohlke, director of emergency medical services at St. Francis Regional Medical Center in nearby Shakopee.
John James Hannahan, 42, of the St. Paul area, was listed in serious condition at St. Paul-Ramsey Medical Center, according to a hospital spokeswoman.
Others in stable condition at Ridgeview Medical Center were Ray John Gavin, 49, of Mendota Heights; Scott Aune, 29, of Spring Park, and Jeffrey Skalicky, 32, of Waite Park, a spokeswoman said.
Lightning struck near the 11th tee about 10 minutes after play had been suspended at 12:49 p.m. CDT.
Only 24 players in the 156-man field had completed the first round at the time. Play didn’t resume until 3:30 p.m. CDT.
“With that amount of lightning, there could have been a lot more injuries,” said Dr. Bob Nordland, co-medical director of the tournament. “We feel lucky there weren’t.”
Another tournament official said that the six spectators were clustered under a tree within 15 feet of one another when the lightning struck.
There were about 40,000 spectators on the course at the time. The course is about 30 miles southwest of Minneapolis.
The injured spectators were attended to quickly by doctors and nurses, according to an official of the United States Golf Assn., which conducts the tournament.
“Clearly, something like this is the nightmare you hope you don’t have,” said David Fay, executive director of the USGA. “We can handle the safety of the players and caddies pretty well, but when you have 40,000 people on the course, it is not an exact science in how to get them to a safe area.”
Fay added that marshals were going up and down each fairway, advising the gallery that play was suspended.
“I believe that four or five air horns were going off,” Fay said. “We have found over the last few years that it is better to use these, as no one device seems to get through on the golf course.”
The brief but extremely strong storm also carried heavy rain and winds. At least one tree was downed.
Some of the players immediately went into the clubhouse during the delay while some others huddled in a courtesy bus and a maintenance shed, waiting for play to resume.
Lee Trevino, who was struck by lightning at the Butler National course during the 1975 Western Open near Chicago, was apparently shaken by the incident. He shot a bogey and a double bogey immediately after returning to the course.
Hale Irwin, the defending Open champion, was on the 14th green at the time of the thunderstorm.
“The magnitude of the storm was pretty scary,” he said. “Obviously, there is no place for 40,000 people to hide.”
Engstrom said he never saw the lightning hit but had seen lightning around the golf course minutes earlier.
“Some guys were kidding about lightning before it hit,” he said. “I can’t remember the exact words, but they were kidding about lightning.”
Engstrom said the numbness in his legs began to go away about an hour later and he was expected to be released from the hospital Thursday night or today.
He said he planned to go back to the tournament. “I’ve got these tickets,” he said. “But if anything’s coming, I’m going to find the safest place I can.”