Lynch: Scottie Scheffler got cuffed, but golf world’s reaction was even more embarrassing

Lynch: Scottie Scheffler got cuffed, but golf world’s reaction was even more embarrassing

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — It’s been 14 months since the Department of Justice found the Louisville Metro Police Department routinely violated civil rights — including by making unlawful arrests during traffic stops — but you’d be forgiven for thinking such heavy-handedness was unprecedented until the world’s No. 1-ranked golfer was hauled off in handcuffs outside Valhalla Golf Club in Friday’s pre-dawn hours.

The particulars of what transpired around 6 a.m. will be litigated in due course. The only uncontested fact is that a traffic stop was in place after an unrelated accident claimed the life of a man working at the PGA Championship. Scottie Scheffler, still almost three hours from his 8:48 a.m. tee time but apparently eager to get started on his pre-round routine, steered around the stop and attempted to turn into the golf club’s driveway. The LMPD incident report offers a sober account of the ensuing altercation between the Masters champion and a police officer, during which the cop claims he was dragged by Scheffler’s tournament-supplied vehicle.

“Detective Gillis stopped subject and attempted to give instructions. Subject refused to comply and accelerated forward, dragging Detective Gillis to the ground. Detective Gillis suffered pain, swelling, and abrasions to his left wrist and knee. He was transported to the hospital for further medical treatment by emergency medical personnel,” it states.

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The report concludes with a line that seems almost parodic given the $18.6 million Scheffler has earned on the golf course this season: “Detective Gillis’ uniform pants, valued at approximately $80 were damaged beyond repair.” The golfer was charged with second-degree assault of a police officer, criminal mischief, reckless driving and disregarding signals from an officer directing traffic.

“It was a very chaotic situation, understandably so considering the tragic accident that had occurred earlier, and there was a big misunderstanding of what I thought I was being asked to do,” Scheffler said in a statement, in which he also expressed sympathy to the family of the deceased. “I never intended to disregard any of the instructions.  I’m hopeful to put this to the side and focus on golf today.”

A booking photo of Scottie Scheffler by Louisville Metro Police after a traffic incident before the second round of the PGA Championship golf tournament at Valhalla Golf Club. Mandatory Credit: Courtesy Louisville Metro Police via USA TODAY NETWORK

What we’re left with is a police officer who will (fairly or otherwise) be accused of overreacting, an embarrassed golfer who will (fairly or otherwise) be accused of acting as though laws don’t apply to him, and a luckless Lexus executive who will (fairly or otherwise) be rethinking the value of supplying courtesy tournament cars to professional golfers.

Compared to the loss of life, the Scheffler incident is minor. The golf world’s reaction to it was revealing nonetheless. There were ample social media posts and text messages that ranged from humorous to heretical, but some themes quickly emerged that were more exasperating than entertaining.

How can this be allowed to happen? Louisville is a crime-infested city, so helluva job for arresting a golfer! The mayor must do something! Where’s the governor? The chief of police must get to the jail and personally provide Scheffler an escort to the golf course! Why hasn’t the PGA of America marched its 30,000 members to the precinct? (Okay, that one is an exaggeration, but we’d have gotten there if Scheffler had been detained much longer).

It was a tsunami of entitled privilege underpinned by a conviction that the worlds top golfer simply cant be treated in this manner, that he has a tee time in a major championship, that hes attempting to win the second leg of the grand slam, that hes a God-fearing model citizen facts presented as though they are exculpatory. None of which actually matter a damn, and are arguments that Scheffler himself wouldnt be so crass as to present. Even if the cop overreacted, Scheffler had no business ignoring law enforcement orders not to move his car a lesson delivered much more harshly to many a citizen not fortunate enough to carry on with their day. 

The aftermath of the fatal accident caused an enormous traffic snarl, so the PGA Championship delayed tee times by 80 minutes. Having posed for his mug shot in an orange jumpsuit — a ritual humiliation that treats traffic infractions and terrorism equally — Scheffler arrived at Valhalla at 9:12 a.m. and teed off 56 minutes later. He birdied his first hole and the insular golf world sighed in relief that disaster had been averted.

Meanwhile, the Jefferson County Coroner’s Office said it had received “a couple of calls” about the man killed outside Valhalla. Identification was delayed until his family was notified.

He was John Mills, his name finally released about the time Scottie Scheffler made the turn in his second round, his grand slam hopes still very much alive.

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