He lost an eye after an errant tee shot. Now this Arizona high school golfer is back on the course

QUEEN CREEK, Ariz. — Riley Wortman was less than a year old the first time he picked up a golf club.

While he couldn’t hit off a tee, he watched his dad play on the putting green in the backyard of their Queen Creek home.

“Dad went outside all the time, and when I was 10 or 11 months old, I started crying at the back door and he finally let me out,” Riley said. “I started getting into golf like that.”

The Wortman family lives across the street from a golf course, aiding Riley’s passion for the sport. He first played a round of golf when he was 7 and today, he is a member of the Queen Creek High School golf team. He participates not only in tournaments locally but across the country and internationally.

But last year, Riley’s future on the course was in doubt, after an errant shot during a local high school tournament hit 16-year-old Riley, causing him to lose his left eye.

He needed to relearn how to read, drive and golf with his right eye doing all of the work.

shot gone wrong

Riley didn’t know exactly what was wrong when he was hit in the face with a golf ball on Sept. 23, 2021.

At the time of the errant shot, Riley said he was leading a high school golf tournament by four shots at Dobson Ranch Golf Course in Mesa.

“I think after the second hole that day, he looked at me and he was like, ‘I’m gonna win the tournament, coach,’” said Alex Lobeck, who was in his first season last fall as coach of Queen Creek’s boys’ golf team. “Obviously, I had no doubt that he was gonna win because. … that’s the best golf I think I’ve seen him play.”

Riley made it to the 13th hole, still leading the tournament. He stood next to a tree on the right side of the fairway, waiting for one of his opponents to hit. The competitor teed off and his ball ricocheted off a tree, striking Riley in the face.

“I thought I broke my nose at first,” he said. “There was a lot of blood, so I put my towel on my face. And the EMS came over and they’re like, ‘Well, it’s not your nose.’ And it turned out that it was my eye.”

At the time, Riley’s mother, Kimberly Wortman, was sitting in a golf cart and setting up her phone to film his next shot. Lobeck was at the tee box, checking in on his other golfers. After they heard someone yell “Help!” they rushed down to the fairway.

The paramedics on the scene didn’t think the injury was going to be severe, Lobeck said, because the wound on Riley’s face was below his eye.

But after Riley and his mother got to the hospital, they learned the injury was more serious than they anticipated.

“The paramedics looked at it and were like, ‘OK, as bad as the situation is, it could have been worse,’” Lobeck said. “It was making it seem like it was just gonna be a couple stitches and some pain meds and things could be OK. And as the day prolonged and his mom was communicating with me, the news got worse and worse.”

While Riley’s mother was

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By: Chloe Peterson
Title: He lost an eye after an errant tee shot. Now this Arizona high school golfer is back on the course
Sourced From: golfweek.usatoday.com/2022/06/28/arizona-high-school-golfer-riley-wortman-struck-ball-loses-eye-returns/
Published Date: Tue, 28 Jun 2022 12:00:35 +0000

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