Golfer Accidentally Kills Hawk; Agrees To Plea Deal

ThomasSenior Writer IAugust 29, 2008

I know almost everyone who goes golfing has tried to hit an animal or a tree on purpose. For most of you, you don't have the skill to do it, that includes me too. Here's the story of one golfer who managed to kill an animal.

Back in December, Tripp Isenhour was filming a golf instructional video at the Grand Cypress Resort in Orlando, Florida. While he was filming, a hawk was making noise in a tree about 50-60 yards aways.

Annoyed, Tripp tried to get rid of the annoying bird. He took a 7-iron and started to shoot golf balls at the hawk. On the sixth shot, he managed to hit the hawk in the tree and kill it. I searched everywhere for a video of the incident, but I can't find it.

According to a report by the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commision, witnesses said that Isenhour was angry that the bird, which initially was perched in a tree about 120 yards from the set, was disrupting the filming. Isenhour said he attempted to make the bird fly away by hitting two sticks together. He also said he hit three to four golf balls into the tree, but could not see the bird.

Fish and Wildlife officer Brian Baine investigated the incident and said Isenhour was angry that the hawk was disrupting the filming, and that the golfer intended to hit the bird.

"It was one thing if he hit a couple of balls, but two elements give it away," Baine said. "The first is that he was unsuccessful the first time and did it again. The second is he didn't call me and say, 'I did something foolish. I killed a migratory bird and I'd like to make this good.' "

However, Isenhour and the film crew said that the golfer wasn't angry. Isenhour and other members of the crew did contact the local Audubon Society to inform officials about the accident and were told that if the hawk was not breathing to then bury it.

Sworn statements from other members of the crew collected by Isenhour's investigators do not corroborate the state's claim the golfer intended to harm the hawk or that he was angry.

"He wasn't angry. He didn't come off to me as being angry at all," said Ryan Krause, a crew member on the set, in a statement to Isenhour's investigators.

"He was just like trying to scare it away. He wasn't like, you know, seriously like trying to like hit the bird or do anything like that... He definitely wasn't trying to kill the bird."

Eventually, Isenhour was charged with two misdemeanors: cruelty to animals and killing a migratory bird. He could have faced fines up to $5,500 and up to 14 months in jail.

In an interview with Golfweek magazine after the incident, Isenhour said, "I'm not denying that the bird accidentally was killed by the golf ball, and we're not denying it was wrong. I did something wrong, and I have to take ownership of that."

However, a few days ago, Isenhour accepted a "no contest" plea agreement. The agreement requires Isenhour to serve one year of probation, donate $1,500 to the Busch Wildlife Sanctuary in Jupiter, Fla., and pay a $500 fine. The former PGA Tour player also will be required to undergo 40 hours of community service, and attend a four-hour anger-management class.

After news of the final verdict came, Isenhour released an official apology: "As soon as this happened, I was mortified and extremely upset and continue to be upset. I want to let everyone know there was neither any malice nor deliberate intent whatsoever to hit or harm the hawk. I was trying to simply scare it into flying away. As evidenced by our family having adopted three cats from a local shelter, I am an animal lover. We ask that everyone accept my sincerest apology, and please be respectful of my family's privacy."