ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — Tripp Isenhour has never gotten this much attention for a single golf shot. Really, he’s never gotten this much attention, period.
Isenhour said it was a “one-in-a-million” golf shot that killed a protected hawk and that he was only trying to scare the bird he now faces misdemeanor criminal charges for killing.
“It was unfortunate, but there’ll be plenty of time for me to tell my story,” Isenhour said on the Golf Channel’s PODS Championship post-round show Friday, his first interview since news broke that he killed the protected bird Dec. 12.
“It’s one of regret and remorse that it happened, because I’m certainly sorry to hurt a migratory bird, or any bird for that matter.”
PGA Tour players didn’t seem too shaken.
“It’s a bad break for the bird, but it sounds like there are a lot of other things people should be worried about,” Mark Calcavecchia said.
Others were more upset. The head of the Humane Society of the United States faxed PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem a letter urging “appropriate remedial action against Isenhour up to and including fines and suspension.”
Isenhour also lost his practice privileges at Grand Cypress Resort, where the crew was filming. He is playing the Nationwide Tour — a minor league of sorts to the PGA Tour — this year, but has played two years on the big tour. He lost his card both times after failing to finish in the top 125 money winners.
It’s doubtful most sports fans, save the fervent golf fans, had heard of Isenhour before this week.
Investigators said Isenhour killed the hawk because he was upset it was making noise as he tried to film an instructional video. He allegedly first drove in a golf cart toward the bird, then 300 yards away, to hit balls at it. When the hawk later landed within 75 yards, Isenhour’s shots got closer until he eventually hit and killed it. The bird fell to the ground bleeding from both nostrils, witnesses told the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.
“I can’t deny the accident did happen, but we tried to do everything we could after it happened to make things as proper or right as we could,” Isenhour said.
The golfer, whose real name is John Henry Isenhour III, said it was foolish for people to believe he could have realistically hit the bird.
“That’s obviously people who don’t know very much about golf,” he said. “To say it’s a one-in-a-million shot for an accident like that to happen, you know, and when it did happen, I was very remorseful, very upset that it happened.”
But film crew members who witnessed the killing saw it differently.
“He was just going strangely out of the way to go after it,” said Jethro Senger, a sound engineer at the shoot. “And it was almost, the whole thing was basically like a joke to him. The balls were getting closer and closer. ‘Haha, look how close that one came.’ ‘That one was even closer.’
“I yelled at him,” Senger said. “I said, ‘What did you expect was going to happen?,” Senger said. “I said, ‘You’re a pro golfer, you’re hitting line drives right at it.”‘