Last year, at the 2018 Waste Management Phoenix Open, Tony Finau was the last player left on the driving range practicing after the Wednesday Pro-Am, when he helped save a man's life.
“And it's something that I don't want to ever hopefully hear again,” Finau recalls. “An older gentleman yelling for his life. That's what it sounded like. You could see the skid marks all the way, and he was underneath the cart the whole time.”
Bill Patterson was working part time at TPC Scottsdale, as he has done so for the past 13 years, where he was overseeing the driving range throughout the tournament. Patterson was out on the range collecting the magnetic A-frame boards that are used to ientify the pros while they use the driving range. Patterson had already put two into his golf cart and was making his way around the front of the cart with the third frame in his hands.
“The third A-frame must have hit the golf cart,” Patterson recalls. “And one of those A-frames fell on the gas pedal and I was directly in front of it, so it ran me over and then pulled me underneath and then drug me about 50 feet.
“I was awake through the entire thing, but I wasn't sure what had just happened. All I know as I'm looking up, I see what I think is the undercarriage of a golf cart and I'm screaming.
“I'm just so lucky and so fortunate that it didn't land one of the wheels on my throat or on my head.”
Patterson was also lucky that Finau was still on the driving range with his uncle and coach Boyd Summerhays. Finau had already finished practicing but was hanging around the driving range talking to Summerhays, when the two of them heard Patterson screaming for his life while he was dragged across the driving range.
“That was a blessing,” Finau said. “… I finished, and we were just for some odd reasons, just talking in the back of the range for five, 10 minutes.
“If we would've left right away when I was done with my range session, I think a lot of further damage could have been done, but I was happy just to kind of be there and, and be able to rush over to him and take that cart off in.”
Finau and Summerhays sprinted over to Patterson and lifted the golf cart off of him, while a police officer called in for help and the EMTs arrived swiftly. Patterson was taken to a nearby trauma centre and was later moved to the Barrow Neurological Center for further treatment.
Patterson had two broken vertebrae, 12 broken ribs, two shoulder lacerations and multiple cuts on his arms. The doctors treating Patterson had to break two more of his ribs so that they could perform a spinal fusion surgery, which involved two 12-inch titanium rods and 16 screws, all placed in Patterson's back.
In order to recover, Patterson was placed in what is known as a neck-to-waist "turtle" body cast for two months.
"It was a joy the day I got rid of that thing, I'll tell you," said Patterson.
At the time of the incident, Patterson had no idea who lifted the cart off of his body. It wasn't until weeks later while he was in rehab that he found out it was PGA Tour superstar Finau who came to the rescue and Patterson now describes himself as his No.1 fan.
Following the incident, Finau made no public announcement about the accident and made no attempt to milk his heroic antics, which I believe says a lot about his humble character. Instead, Finau quietly check in with Tour officials and staff at TPC Scottsdale to see how Patterson was recovering.
Patterson was also trying to get in touch with Finau to thank him for potentially saving his life, but the email address someone had given him didn't seem to work.
Later that year, Patterson returned to his role at TPC Scottsdale, so when Finau returned this year for the 2019 Waste Management Phoenix Open, Patterson was keen to find Finau, and that he did.
“Once I found out he was there, I was on my way over to see him and he was getting ready to walk over to the long range,” Patterson said. “We shook and embraced. And I said, Tony, I can't tell you how much, it means to me for what you did for me.
“And he says, well, I'm just so glad to see you and see that everything has been the way it turned out for you as compared to the way it could've been.”