Golfer below par after licking ball


GOLFERS who give their golf balls a "go faster" lick before teeing-off risk ending up well below par - with a bad dose of "golf ball liver" - doctors warned yesterday.

Licking the ball is said by players to increase its speed, but it can also mean they swallow dangerous weedkillers spread across courses.

Doctors discovered the bizarre condition in a 65-year-old retired engineer in this country who found he was in the rough with abdominal pain and lethargy.

The man, who played golf every day, was found to have hepatitis, but doctors were at a loss to know how he acquired the liver disease.

Then it emerged he habitually licked his golf ball clean to make it travel faster, although signs at the course warned of the widespread use of the weed killer 2,4-Dichlorophenoxyacetic acid, commonly known as "agent orange".

Doctors diagnosed "golf ball liver" caused by the toxic weed killer.

Once the patient stopped his golf ball licking his symptoms cleared up. But then, sceptical of the medical theory, he started doing it again and ended up back at hospital.

Writing in the specialist journal Gut, Dr Connor Burke from James Connolly Memorial Hospital, Dublin, and other doctors involved in the case said: "Our patient finally accepted his diagnosis of golf ball liver". He plays golf regularly, carries a damp cloth to clean his golf ball, and remains well to date, with normal liver function tests five years after his acute presentation."

They added: "We suggest that golf ball liver is a definite clinical entity and that golfers should beware.