On-course fight breaks out among playing partners during pro golf qualifier, arrest made

The Wichita Eagle (TNS)

Derek Fribbs drove more than seven hours to play in Monday’s qualifying round at Sand Creek Station Golf Course in Newton, Kansas with hopes of earning his way into the Korn Ferry Tour field at this week’s Wichita Open.

What he got instead was a front-row seat to a fight between two golfers that ended with one being arrested.

The story of the fight has since gone viral, thanks to a blog post in The Firepit Collective. In an interview with The Wichita Eagle, Fribbs said it was surreal to be there.

“I think anybody is going to be a little shaken up when you show up to play in a Monday qualifier and end up seeing a fight,” Fribbs said. “It was just a bad situation.”

According to the Newton Police Department, Luke Smith, a 20-year-old from Covington, Tennessee, was booked Monday into the Harvey County Detention Center on one count of misdemeanor battery. The case will be forwarded to the Newton City Prosecutor’s Office for a review of charges.

According to Fribbs, who said he told the same details to the police, the incident stemmed from frustration centered around Smith, a junior-to-be on the Tennessee-Martin men’s golf team, and his father, Oliver, his caddie, for not helping Austen Dailey, another golfer in the playing group, look for lost balls and also because the father-son duo didn’t replace the pin in the hole on some greens.

The frustration boiled after Dailey completed the seventh hole because the group was already two holes behind the pace of play.

“If we could get some help looking for balls and get a flag stick every once in a while, maybe we could catch up,” Fribbs said he recalled Dailey saying to the father and son.

According to Fribbs, Oliver Smith took offense and began berating Dailey for his quality of play and how it was slowing down the group.

“He started yelling that his son wasn’t here to babysit or look for golf balls,” Fribbs said. “The dad is definitely the one who escalated it and then the son is the one who fought.”

Fribbs said he was already on the No. 8 tee box when the fight began. Newton police say Luke Smith punched Dailey, tackled him, and held him down until he said “uncle” before releasing him.

Fribbs said he rushed back to try to break up the fight, but Oliver Smith grabbed his son’s putter and waved it at Fribbs to prevent him from intervening.

“He was holding the putter and looking like he was ready to swing it at any time,” Fribbs said. “I didn’t want to get hit with a putter. It was just a mess. It was tough to watch.”

The Korn Ferry Tour released a brief statement about the incident on Monday evening to Golfweek.

“The Korn Ferry Tour is aware of the incident that occurred at today’s qualifier in Newton, Kansas,” the statement read. “The individuals involved are not current Korn Ferry Tour members. We are in the process of gathering more details and have no further comment at this time.”

The UT Martin athletic department also sent an official statement to The Eagle concerning Smith.

“In discussing the matter with head golf coach Austin Swafford, we are still in the process of gathering facts from yesterday’s incident involving our student-athlete Luke Smith at the Wichita Open,” the statement read. “Even though Luke is playing in the tournament unattached from the university, we still hold our student-athletes to a high standard on and off the course. Any disciplinary issues will be dealt with internally.”

Fribbs, a professional golfer who is trying to gain full-time status on the Korn Ferry Tour, decided to continue playing on his own. He finished Monday with a 7-over 79.

He even gave his statement to the police while playing hole No. 10.

“I just always think you should finish a round,” Fribbs said. “If you’re going to start a round, then you’ve got to finish it. I’ve never dropped out of one before, so I guess this is probably the worst-case scenario and I still stuck it out. It obviously wasn’t the best situation.

“But I was joking with the police officer that I’ve never played in a tournament with an armed caddie before.”