Edinburgh, Fife & East Scotland

Man blinded in one eye by golf ball at Leven Links loses case

David McMahon Image copyright Ciaran Donnelly
Image caption David McMahon was hit in the right eye and suffered a rupture during the Scottish Amateur Champion of Champions contest at Leven Links in April 2009

A ball spotter at a golf tournament in Fife has lost a bid to sue a professional player for damages after he was blinded in one eye by a ball.

David McMahon was hit in the right eye and suffered a rupture during the Scottish Amateur Champion of Champions contest at Leven Links in April 2009.

He subsequently raised a legal action for £50,000 against Gavin Dear.

A judge ruled Mr McMahon had not proved that the injury he sustained was caused by Mr Dear's fault and negligence.

Mr Dear is a former Walker Cup player who turned professional later in 2009.

At the Court of Session in Edinburgh, Lord Jones heard that the amount of damages had been agreed between lawyers in the action, but liability remained at issue.

He held that Mr Dear did not breach any duty of care owned to the ball spotter. He said the golfer had played his shot in "the ordinary course of play".

Flight path

The judge said: "The danger of being struck by a ball was a risk incidental to the competition which was accepted by the pursuer (Mr McMahon) when undertaking the task of officiating."

"The defender (Mr Dear) had not committed an error of judgement that a reasonable competitor being a reasonable man of the sporting world would not have made," said the judge.

Lord Jones said he was not persuaded on the evidence in the case that if the player had shouted "fore" when he saw his ball begin to veer left about halfway along its flight path that the accident would have been avoided.

"There was no properly reasoned evidence based on scientific criteria before me which would have entitled me to hold it established that the pursuer would have reacted in time to avoid being hit," said the judge.

Mr McMahon, who was a member at Leven and a regular golfer, had volunteered to act as a ball spotter on the 11th hole at the course. He took up a position in rough between the 11th fairway and the 6th hole.

Mr Dear was on the course and was playing the 6th but had hit a tee shot onto the 12th fairway at the course.

In his action Mr McMahon said he noticed two spectators on a mound and went up to warn them they should move out of the way of the golfer playing towards the 6th.

He claimed that Mr Dear, from Perthshire, knew, or ought to have known, that he was in line with the path of his ball to the 6th hole.

Mr Dear maintained in the case that neither Mr McMahon nor the two spectators were visible to him.

It was claimed the risk of such injury was implicit in the role of ball spotting on a golf course and it requires the spotter to be in the vicinity of where a ball is anticipated to land.

Mr McMahon, a retired bus driver, was to look out for balls hit into the rough or gorse at the course by players.

Mr Dear told the court that he played at least 20 rounds at Leven Links.

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