Tyrone teenager ‘bruised and shaken’ after being hit by lightning at Tour Championship

Ryan Murphy was struck while following Rory McIlory at Atlanta golf course

Spectators are tended to after a lightning strike on the East Lake Golf Club course left several injured during the Tour Championship, in Atlanta, Georgia, US. Photograph: AP Photo/John Amis

Spectators are tended to after a lightning strike on the East Lake Golf Club course left several injured during the Tour Championship, in Atlanta, Georgia, US. Photograph: AP Photo/John Amis

 

A 19-year-old Co Tyrone student was one of six golf fans who were injured in lightning strikes at East Lake Golf Club in the US on Saturday during the third round of the Tour Championship.

Ryan Murphy, from Cookstown, Co Tyrone, was struck by the lightning while he was out following Northern Irish golfer Rory McIlroy at the end-of-season event in Atlanta, Georgia.

He was briefly unconscious, but his father Terry told the BBC on Sunday that his “bruised and shaken” son now “wants to come home”.

Terry said that he had been exchanging text messages with his son throughout Saturday as Ryan was providing a “running commentary” on the Tour Championship, in which golfers are competing for a share of a $60 million purse. Terry and Ryan Murphy both are members of Killymoon Golf Club in Cookstown.

Terry explained that his son, who is about to begin studying structural engineering with architecture at Queen’s University Belfast, had said in his last text that play was being suspended because of lightning storms.

Ryan’s father said he knew “in my gut” that something was wrong when he heard about the storms. The family tried phoning Ryan but there was no response. They then started ringing local hospitals. The panic lasted about 45 minutes, but then Ryan finally picked up his phone.

The first thing he said to his father was: “Don’t say anything to mummy.”

Sheltering under tree

Terry said Ryan told him he had been sheltering under a tree when the lightning struck and all he could remember was waking up “yards away” with the emergency services surrounding him.

“He’s had scans just to make sure there is no internal damage,” Terry said.

Ryan was back in his hotel by Sunday afternoon and intends to fly home to Northern Ireland on Tuesday.

Spectators pass by the lightning-scarred pine tree near the 15th green at the East Lake Golf Club in Atlanta, Georgia, US, on Sunday. Photograph: Erik S Lesser/EPA
Spectators pass by the lightning-scarred pine tree near the 15th green at the East Lake Golf Club in Atlanta, Georgia, US, on Sunday. Photograph: Erik S Lesser/EPA

He had been due to go to San Francisco and then New York before coming home to start his course at Queen’s. His father said it was “unfortunate” that he had to cancel his plans but “he’s alive”.

The Department of Foreign Affairs said it was “aware of the case” and was providing “consular assistance” to the teenager’s family.

Five other people were injured after the lightning strikes, which hit a tree close to the 15th green at East Lake.

The PGA Tour said the injuries suffered by the fans “do not appear to be life-threatening”.

“At 4.45pm there were two lightning strikes at East Lake Golf Club; a tree near the range/15 green/16 tee was hit and debris from that strike injured four people,” the tour said in a statement. “[Emergency medical technicians] tended to those fans and two others immediately and transported them from the property via ambulance for further medical attention.”