ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — Pro golfer Tripp Isenhour apologized for killing a hawk that was making noise while he tried to film a TV show. Now the Humane Society wants the PGA Tour to take action.
“Because of the high profile nature of this case, the PGA needs to take steps to address its interest and to make it clear that they don’t condone animal cruelty,” said Dale Bartlett, the deputy manager for animal cruelty issues for the Humane Society of the United States.
Bartlett said the organization would contact the PGA Tour on Friday to discuss the issue.
Isenhour, who plays on the developmental Nationwide Tour, was charged Wednesday with cruelty to animals and killing a migratory bird, misdemeanors that carry a maximum penalty of 14 months in jail and $1,500 in fines.
Isenhour quickly apologized Thursday.
“As soon as this happened, I was mortified and extremely upset and continue to be upset,” Isenhour said in a statement issued through his management company, SFX Golf. “I want to let everyone know there was neither any malice nor deliberate intent whatsoever to hit or harm the hawk. I was trying to simply scare it into flying away.”
The 39-year-old player, whose real name is John Henry Isenhour III, became angry while filming “Shoot Like A Pro” on Dec. 12 at the Grand Cypress Golf Club when a squawking red-shouldered hawk roughly 300 yards away forced another take.
He drove closer to the bird in his golf cart and starting hitting balls at it. The bird didn’t move and Isenhour gave up and drove away.
Isenhour started again when the hawk moved within about 75 yards, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission officer Brian Baine indicated in a report.
Isenhour allegedly said, “I’ll get him now,” and aimed for the hawk.
“About the sixth ball came very near the bird’s head, and (Isenhour) was very excited that it was so close,” Baine wrote.
A few shots later, witnesses said he hit the hawk. The bird, protected as a migratory species, fell to the ground bleeding from both nostrils.
Bartlett said Isenhour’s case, like the Michael Vick dog fighting case, is disappointing for society.
“We look up to professional athletes and we want them to reflect the best of us as a society and I think we’re appalled when it turns out they instead reflect some of the very worst attributes,” he said in a phone interview Thursday night.
Isenhour said he is an animal lover and his family has adopted three cats from a local shelter.
“We ask that everyone accept my sincerest apology, and please be respectful of my family’s privacy,” he said.
Isenhour has won four times on the Nationwide Tour, including twice in 2006. The former Georgia Tech star has played three events this year on the tour the last a 36th-place tie two weeks ago in the Moonah Classic in Australia.
Jethro Senger, a sound engineer at the shoot, said hitting the bird was “basically like a joke to (Isenhour).”
“He just kept saying how he didn’t think he could have hit it, which I think is a stupid thing for a PGA Tour golfer to say,” Senger said. “He can put a ball in a hole from hundreds of yards away, and here he is hitting line drives at something that’s, I don’t know, a couple hundred feet away?”
Senger said no one in the roughly 15-person crew intervened, and many later regretted it.
“It was one of those cases where there’s some trepidation on whether or not they should speak up and do something,” Senger said.
Senger said the killing was not captured on video. The bird was buried at the golf course and later dug up by Florida investigators.
“Americans have no tolerance for cruelty to animals. Such a petty, mean-spirited act against a wild bird is inexcusable and prosecutors are right to hold Isenhour accountable to the law,” Humane Society executive vice president Michael Markarian said in a statement released Thursday.
Associated Press Writer Kelli Kennedy in Miami contributed to this report.