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Published On: Sat, Aug 24th, 2019

Lightning strike at golf tournament, the Tour Championship in Atlanta, injure six

Atlanta police detailed the lightning strike of a 60-foot pine at the Tour Championship injuring six people, after storms suspended play and caused fans to seek shelter.

The lightning hit the top of the pine tree just off 16th tee and shattered the bark all the way to the bottom.

Witnesses say there was a flash, people huddled near the tree fell to the ground, but were moving and ambulances arrived very quickly.

Atlanta Police spokesman James H. White III said five men and one female juvenile had sought shelter beneath the tree that was struck by lightning. He said they were taken to hospitals for further treatment, all of them alert, conscious and breathing.

Ambulances streamed into the private club about 6 miles east of downtown Atlanta, where 30 players are competing for the FedEx Cup and its $15 million prize.

The players already had been taken into the clubhouse before lightning hit, and before long East Lake was hit with a ground-shaking clap of thunder.

Mark Russell, the PGA Tour’s vice president of rules and competitions, said there were dual lightning strikes to the maintenance area and the tree on the 16th hole.

Justin Thomas, who had a one-shot lead through five holes when play was halted, said players were eating in the clubhouse when “it felt like the entire clubhouse shook” from the thunder clap.

“The first I heard anything was from one of my friends who came out to watch,” Thomas said. “He said, ‘Dude, I think someone got struck by lightning right next to us.’ And then word started spreading.”

Thomas said he had left tickets for another friend who was on the opposite side of where the tree was hit.

The PGA Tour canceled the rest of golf Saturday, with the round to resume at 8 a.m. Sunday, followed by the final round.

Russell said signs were posted on scoreboards of severe weather approaching.

“When we suspend play, we encourage everybody to leave and take shelter anywhere they can,” Russell said. “We opened up hospitality areas that are grounded, a lot of other places like that. You’ve got a lot of people, and you have to do that quickly, and sometimes people don’t take shelter.”

The starting times for the third round were moved back by more than two hours to end at 7 p.m. on NBC Sports.

Russell said they were aware of a forecast for storms, but he described them as “pop-up thunderstorms.”

“We have a meteorologist on site. We can monitor that,” he said. “And a lot of times, we get lucky and we don’t get hit with thunderstorms, especially when it’s a situation when they’re pop-ups like that.”

Last week at the BMW Championship in the Chicago suburbs, Phil Mickelson was delayed getting to the golf course when lightning struck the top of his hotel, causing a precautionary evacuation.

Lightning strikes have killed 12 people in the U.S. so far this year, according to the National Weather Service. None of those deaths have been in Georgia.

 

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About the Author

- Roxanne "Butter" Bracco began with the Dispatch as Pittsburgh Correspondent, but will be providing reports and insights from Washington DC, Maryland and the surrounding region. Contact Roxie aka "Butter" at [email protected] ATTN: Roxie or Butter Bracco

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