The U.S. Open golf tournament at Erin Hills has already featured plenty of drama on the course, but a series of bizarre and tragic occurrences off the course are dominating the headlines at the Wisconsin venue.
As the tournament got underway on Thursday, a blimp floating over the course crashed, exploding into a fireball after it hit the ground. The pilot of the aircraft was seriously injured, but is listed in stable condition according to the National Transportation Safety Board.
On Friday morning, eyes turned to the drinking water on the course, as a drinking station near the 12th hole on the links course was shot down following a positive test for E. coli bacteria. No one has been reported to have become sick from drinking the tainted water, but the hydration station was shut down after the positive test.
On Friday afternoon, an elderly spectator at the course died while watching the tournament, according to officials. The death was ruled to be of “natural causes,” according to a reporter familiar with the medical examiner’s report.
All of these occurrences come after the course’s checkered beginnings, which saw its original project manager imprisoned for first-degree reckless homicide in 2006. Steve Trattner, who convinced original course owner Bob Lang to buy the property that Erin Hills sits on, pleaded guilty to strangling his wife to death in the months before the course opened.
After the tragic incident, the course opened to the public and quickly gained the attention of the USGA, who agreed to host a pair of amateur tournaments at the venue even before it officially opened.
Even amidst all of the turbulent times that have embroiled the golf course, it has hosted some of the most compelling golf that the USGA has produced in recent years.
The current U.S. Open has already produced some great moments, as Rickie Fowler set a record for best first round score ever with a seven-under-par 65 on Thursday.
Amateur players are also dominating the headlines at the golf course, with several, including Cameron Champ, scampering up the leaderboard as the tournament progresses.