Caddies trade punches at Australian Open
Resentment boils over on chipping greenMICHAEL CHAMMAS
It was a case of caddy whack on the opening day of the Australian Open at the Lakes.
In the type of incident reminiscent of Happy Gilmore attacking Bob Barker during the Pepsi Pro-Am in the 1996 movie, the morning began with drama when two caddies were involved in an altercation on the chipping green.
Grant Buchanan and Matt Kelly, on the bags for James Nitties and Marc Leishman respectively, came to blows about 11.15am.
Fairfax Media saw punches being thrown before the pair fell to the ground and continued wrestling in front of players and spectators. ''Matt was a good friend of mine, [or] so I thought,'' Buchanan said. ''He said some things that offended me and I approached him to clarify it and clear the air, and he pretty much laughed in my face.''
What began as a war of words a couple of days ago at the Star casino ended in embarrassment for the pair and tournament officials. The men were eventually separated, but not before Kelly sustained a cut above his lip and was forced to leave the course to wash the blood from his face.
It isn't the first time Kelly has been involved in a fight that has landed him in hot water. He faced court last year after an alcohol-fuelled brawl in his Victorian home town of Warrnambool.
He pleaded guilty and was not convicted and avoided a $2500 fine for recklessly causing injury and resisting police, although he was convicted on the minor charge of being drunk and was fined $150 and banned from the city centre between 9pm and 6am for a year.
PGA Tour of Australasia officials approached Kelly and Buchanan when they returned to the clubhouse after their round, with investigations into the matter to continue today.
''I regret it but I was put in an awkward situation, I guess,'' Buchanan said. ''I'm a passionate person and when people say things about myself and friends who I care deeply about, it's hard. Sometimes people say things and think nothing should come of it. But I just think sometimes people should be responsible for what they say.''
While it appeared Buchanan got the better of Kelly in the set-to, it was Leishman who won the battle of the golfers on the course.
Nitties had a disappointing afternoon, shooting five over to finish the day in 100th position. Leishman, who was followed by former Australian Test captain Ricky Ponting, was impressive in shooting two under.
- Sydney Morning Herald