Struck in head …

Curtis plunked by professional golfer at Honda Classic

Warren resident, who winters in Sunshine State, upbeat, 'wicked sore'
By Mark Haskell | Mar 05, 2014
Courtesy of: Allen Eyestone/Palm Beach Post Ed Curtis of Warren and Florida, right, is attended to by medical personnel Feb. 28 during the second round of the Honda Classic after being struck in the head by a ball hit by professional golfer George McNeill.

Palm Beach Gardens, Fla. — It certainly has been an eventful year on the links for Warren resident Ed Curtis.

While one year ago he hit a memorable shot on the golf course, it was the shot he took recently he likely will remember forever.

The 67-year-old Curtis and his wife, Shelley, who live in Florida during the winter, were taking in the second round of the Honda Classic golf tournament on Friday, Feb. 28 at PGA National Golf Club in Palm Beach Gardens.

Curtis and his wife were seated near the 18th green behind the ropes that keep fans back when Curtis was struck in the forehead by a ball on the fly hit by golfer professional George McNeill.

The 18th at PGA National is 556 yards from the black tees, thus, golfers often attempt to get on the green in two strokes, thus usually hitting a fairway metal or long iron on the second shot.

Getting his ball on the green in two shots was, at least, McNeill's intention.

“We're watching the players way out on the fairway hit and you can see them at that distance hit, but you can't see where the ball goes,” Curtis said. “So as soon as you see them swing and make contact, all heads turn toward the green and the bunkers to see where the ball landed. Well this particular shot ... I found it all right.”

The ball ricocheted off Curtis' head and went between two bunkers near the green and McNeill was able play the ball where it ended up, after striking Curtis. He got up-and-down from there and made a birdie on the hole.

Under U.S. Golf Association rules, when a spectator is hit, the golfer is to play the ball as it lies.

McNeill finished the round at 3-under par and made the cut for the weekend and third and fourth round play. He ended up finishing the event tied for 12th at 4-under par along with 11 other golfers.

“Had he not hit me or if the ball had gone array, he'd have ended up with a triple-bogey or something and he never would have made it to Saturday and Sunday play,” said Curtis.

After being struck, Curtis was taken to a local hospital where he was diagnosed with a hematoma, or a localized collection of blood outside the blood vessels, usually in liquid form within the tissue.

But he did not go to the hospital before McNeill came over to check on him.

“He thanked me,” said Curtis, who added that McNeill autographed his glove and gave it to Curtis as a keepsake of the event. “He called it an assist.”

Curtis said the ice he had to hold on his head to take the swelling down hurt more than the hit itself. He said the bump had swelled to “about four times as big” before he put the ice on. From there, the swelling “had pretty much gone down 98 percent,” despite it still being “wicked sore.”

“What it said on the discharge papers was [In] 2-3 days have your primary physician check it out," Curtis said.

Curtis and his wife returned to the Honda Classic on Saturday and took in the third round, but watched the final round from their Palm Beach Garden home on Sunday.

Curtis left a written message for McNeill on Saturday to let him know he was alright and would be in attendance for the third day of the tournament.

With the wind blowing significantly Saturday, thus making the opportunity to hit one's ball to the 18th green on the second shot nearly impossible, McNeill took a more conservative approach to the green.

With Curtis watching his every move.

Curtis said as McNeill approached the green he was looking in the direction of the initial incident and located him.

“I put my hand up and said, 'George, I'm fine [and] everything's good' and I gave him a thumbs-up,” said Curtis. “And he gave me a thumbs-up back. That was neat.”

After finishing the round, McNeill walked over to talk to Curtis again before shaking his hand and departing for the clubhouse.

“He was thankful I was OK,” said Curtis. “But leaving the note for him I think made it easy for him Saturday to play too knowing he didn't have to have me on his mind wondering, 'I wonder what happened to that guy?' He is a nice fellow.”

Curtis said he and McNeill exchanged information and may play a round of golf in the future as both are Palm Beach Garden residents.

Curtis worked for Dragon Cement in Thomason for 44 1/2 years and also was in the military and the Coast Guard reserves. He has played golf “on and off” for many years and has held golf memberships at both the Rockland Golf Club and Goose River Golf Clubs in the past.

Almost a year ago to the day on March 2, 2013, Curtis carded his second career hole-in-one on the 245-yard, par-4 first hole at Lone Pine Golf Course in West Palm Beach, Fla. when his tee shot bounced into the cup. An ace on a par-4 is called an albatross.

Russell Henley won the 2014 Honda Classic, as he bested Rory McIlroy, Ryan Palmer and Russell Knox on Sunday, March 2 in a four-golfer playoff on the final day of the event.

Comments (2)
Posted by: Deborah E McNeil | Mar 07, 2014 17:33

Glad all's well. Strange that it was a McNeil who hit you! Take care!

Posted by: Francis Mazzeo, Jr. | Mar 06, 2014 09:03

Glad your okay Ed. I'd say "now that's using your head"  but it would be inappropriate.

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