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Tee time causes trouble - Golf course suffers backlash from errant shot

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It must have been a really bad swing. That being said, California-based American Golf Corporation, which runs the golf course at Dyker Park, is disclaiming responsibility for damage caused to a car parked on Seventh Avenue near 92nd Street, adjacent to the links, after the ball took a very wrong turn a couple of months back, landing outside the course, and inside the car, shattering its rear window on the way. Bay Ridge resident Jack LaTorre, whose car was damaged in the October 20 incident which occurred after he had driven an elderly neighbor to Victory Memorial Hospital, said that his concern is not only for the damage to his property but for the potential danger that the situation appears to present. But, he said, he has run up against a brick wall in his communications with American Golf, which has contended that the golfer who hit the ball, and not the corporation, is responsible for the damage. The corporation took this position shortly after the accident occurred, when LaTorre said he reported it to the assistant manager of the golf course. This occurred, said LaTorre, despite the fact that, “The assistant manager didn’t seem all that surprised. It can’t be all that uncommon for a ball to travel out of the course at a high rate of speed at that location.” Subsequently, LaTorre contacted American Golf’s corporate headquarters, but has gotten no satisfaction from them either. Rather, he said he received two short letters from the company denying his claim. In the second, Claims Administrator Deborah Kanner wrote, “We have looked into the area, and we feel that we have adequate protection in that area.” “I’m not trying to make enemies,” LaTorre told this paper. “My main feeling is God forbid somebody gets hurt and I didn’t do anything to bring it to people’s attention. I really don’t think that American Golf is a good corporate neighbor.” This is not the only time recently that an errant golf ball has caused damage beyond the golf course fence. Josephine Beckmann, the district manager of Community Board 10, said that she had received three phone calls in the space of two weeks, including one from LaTorre, complaining about flying golf balls. While his car window was shattered, the other two residents told her, said Beckmann, that their cars had been dented and that a golf ball had been lying nearby when the damage was discovered. Based on all of this, Beckmann said, she had requested that the city’s Department of Parks & Recreation look into the matter. “I asked for a survey of fencing in the area. If it is a problem, there is a lot of pedestrian traffic there,” Beckmann remarked. A concern about flying golf balls leaving the confines of the park had also been raised regarding one section of the junior golf facility currently being constructed at Dyker Beach Park on the 14th Avenue side, Beckmann added, noting that the organization that is building that facility, “Said they would put some kind of mesh in the area,” to keep the golf balls inside. “This may be another area where that’s warranted,” Beckmann went on. “If there’s a problem, they should put in a higher fence, or mesh, or plant some trees as a buffer.” Mark Friedman, senior vice president and general counsel for American Golf, said that, “Obviously, lots of golf course are built adjacent to roads, homes and so on. From time to time, people hit really bad golf shots. It’s been pretty well established wherever we do business that the person launching the golf ball outside of the course’s boundaries is typically responsible for his or her actions. “That’s not to say we’re unsympathetic to the gentleman’s situation,” Friedman went on. “If we believe there is a more chronic problem, customarily there are a number of steps we take to mitigate the risk. We post signs, 150-yard markers to give golfers a target. We make sure the tee box is aligned with the center of the fairway, so the golfer pulls the ball in the right direction. Yet, despite these measures, people sometimes hit horrendous shots. If we are notified that someone’s car or person has been struck, we will make an effort to find the responsible person. Sometimes people do the right thing, sometimes not.” The city’s Parks Department has said it will contact American Golf about the problem. “We can talk with American Golf about the height of the fence and see if that can be addressed,” noted agency Spokesperson Phil Abramson. In addition, Abramson said, the Parks Department, “Can offer the complainant an opportunity to file a property damage claim with the city of New York comptroller’s office if he is dissatisfied with the outcome with American Golf. Dyker Golf Course is a city golf course. The perimeter sidewalk would be considered part of city-owned property. If an accident results from city property, an individual can file a claim with the city.”

Posted 7:07 pm, October 10, 2011
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