Alligator Attacks Golf Course Worker

The Associated Press
Wednesday, February 14, 2007; 5:07 PM

NEW PORT RICHEY, Fla. -- A man retrieving balls from a golf course lake was attacked by a 7-foot alligator Wednesday morning, suffering minor injuries to his foot, authorities said.

Vernon Messier, who was wearing a diver's wet suit, was standing in waist-deep water on the No. 5 hole of the Timber Greens Golf Course at about 10 a.m. when the alligator bit his left foot, Pasco County sheriff's spokesman Doug Tobin said.

Messier told deputies he gouged at the creature's eyes and tried to pry its jaws apart while trying to free himself, Tobin said. Messier refused medical treatment and said he would drive himself to a hospital.

Messier told deputies he was an independent contractor who collected golf balls from the course for resale, Tobin said. A man who answered the phone at the golf course later Wednesday said he was too busy to talk about the incident.

Tobin said he didn't know if alligators had been spotted in the lake before.

"Any time you go into the water in Florida you have to make sure you're extra careful, because alligators are definitely out there," Tobin said. "He was lucky to get away with the minor injuries he received."

New Port Richey is about 40 miles northwest of Tampa.

© 2007 The Associated Press