Message claims that attached photographs depict a golfer whose arm was bitten off by an alligator when he attempted to retrieve his ball from an on-course pond.
The photographs are genuine but the description is not accurate. The images do not depict a golfer who was attacked while retrieving his ball. In fact, they show the results of an alligator attack on snorkeler Bill Hedden at Charleston, South Carolina’s Lake Moultrie recreation area in September 2007. In 2009 a Beaufort, South Carolina, golfer really did lose part of an arm to an alligator while attempting to recover his ball. However, the photographs in this message have no relation whatsoever to the Beaufort incident.
Subject: What is a Golf Ball Worth?
From Berkeley County South Carolina. Don’t go fishing for your golf ball …..
What is a Golf Ball Worth?
(Note the hand in the gator’s mouth)
This email arrives with a series of grisly photographs showing the aftermath of an alligator attack in which a man lost his arm. One image (not included here) shows the alligator swimming with the unfortunate victim’s arm still held in its mouth.
According to the description that accompanies the images, the victim was a golfer who was attempting to retrieve a lost golf ball from an on-course pond when the alligator struck.
However, while the photographs are genuine and depict a real incident, the alligator attack shown in the images did not involve a golfer nor did it take place on a golf course. In fact, the photographs show an alligator attack on 59-year-old Bill Hedden that took place in September 2007. At the time of the attack, Mr Hedden was snorkeling at Charleston, South Carolina’s Lake Moultrie recreation area. Some of the photographs in the series can be seen in a September 17, 2007, article published on the Underwater Times website. The article notes:
CHARLESTON, South Carolina — A man is hospitalized in Charleston after an alligator bit off one of his arms at a Lake Moultrie recreation area.
Bill Hedden, 59, is being treated at the Medical University of South Carolina hospital. Hedden’s family has told the hospital not to release any information about his condition.
Hedden was snorkeling in a Lake Moultrie recreation area when the gator attacked him about 3:45 p.m. Sunday.
A later news article notes that Mr Hedden made a full recovery and has adjusted admirably to the loss of his arm:
Hedden, a retired U.S. Navy master chief, has returned to his full-time job as a weld inspector at Jacobs Engineering in Goose Creek, said his son, Brian Hedden.
Brian Hedden said his father is not the complaining type and has adapted well to having only one arm.
“He mows the lawn and fixes the car. He’s doing just what he did before,” Brian Hedden said.
In the message currently circulating, the photographs depicting the attack on Bill Hedden have apparently been falsely associated with an unrelated alligator attack in which a golfer really did lose part of his arm while attempting to retrieve his ball. An October 2009 article published in The Seattle Times notes:
BEAUFORT, S.C. —
Officials say an alligator bit off part of a golfer’s arm as he leaned over to pick up his ball at a private South Carolina course.
The man, who is in his 70s, was retrieving his ball from a pond when the 10-foot alligator bit him at Ocean Creek Golf Course in Beaufort County. The gator pulled the golfer into the pond and ripped off his arm in the struggle. His golf partners were able to free him.
Another article about this attack identifies the golfer as James Wienzek of Ohio, but his current condition is unclear.
Thus, although it is certainly true that a golfer was attacked while in the process of recovering his lost ball, the photographs in the circulating email do not depict that particular attack. To reiterate, the alligator attack shown in the photographs occurred at a different time and in a different part of South Carolina and the victim was not playing golf at the time.
However, as the attack described above illustrates, gator attacks on golfers are not unprecedented. In 2007, another golfer playing on a course in Venice, Florida was bitten on the arm by an alligator as he reached into a pond.