A Northern Ireland teen who came to America to watch Rory McIlroy play was “knocked out cold” during a lightning strike that injured six people at the Tour Championship Saturday in Atlanta.
Ryan Murphy, a 19-year-old is from Cookstown in County Tyrone, had spent the summer working in the United States and had planned the golf trip for a year. “He’s bruised and shaken,” his father, Terry, told the BBC. “And he wants to come home.”
Murphy had been texting his father, who was watching on TV when play was suspended because storms were striking the East Lake Golf Club area. He phoned to check on his son and when he got no answer, he and family members began calling hospitals.
After about 45 minutes, Ryan answered as he was being checked at a hospital. “I heard the beeping of machines and I knew it was medical,” Terry said. “The first thing he said to me was, ‘Don’t say anything to mummy.’ ”
According to his father, Ryan was under a tree when the lightning struck and the next thing he knew, he was “yards away” with medical personnel around him. He was in his hotel Sunday and planned to return home Tuesday to begin studying architectural engineering at Queen’s University.
The tree behind the green on the 15th hole is near the Fanzone and a structure called The Deck, both of which are popular spots, according to the Atlanta Journal Constitution.
“People come out here for a great time and you don’t expect that to happen,” Zee Abernathy, a volunteer at The Deck, told the AJC. “I was moved to tears. If there had been more people [near the strike], it could have been more tragic.”
Those hurt were alert with injuries that were not life-threatening. “You could actually feel it when it hit, through your whole body,” Scott Merrifield, who was standing a few hundred feet away, told the AJC.
According to the National Weather Service, 12 people in the U.S. have been killed by lightning strikes this year. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration notes that squatting to lower your profile should only be used as a last resort because it doesn’t significantly reduce risk. Being the tallest object increases the danger of a direct strike, so do not stand under a tall or isolated tree. Currents from a nearby ground strike kill more people than direct strikes.
If caught outside, NOAA advises:
- Immediately get off elevated areas such as hills, mountain ridges or peaks
- Never lie flat on the ground
- Never shelter under an isolated tree
- Never use a cliff or rocky overhang for shelter
- Immediately get out of and away from ponds, lakes and bodies of water
- Stay away from objects that conduct electricity (barbed wire fences, power lines, windmills, etc.)
Play in the third round concluded Sunday morning, with McIlroy and Xander Schauffle tied for second, one shot behind Brooks Koepka.
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