Heard's point of
entry was his groin, on which the tip of his umbrella rested. (On the other
side of the lake, Nichols and Tony Jacklin were hit by a separate bolt.) Heard
felt every muscle in his body roll up like a party favor. His hands clenched
and he couldn't open them. Heard had been so confident of his talent that he
once joked he could fall out of a car on the 1st tee at the start of every
tournament and still make $100,000 a year. After being struck he told himself,
"I'll never play golf again."
Nichols spent two nights in the hospital. ( Jacklin suffered only ringing in his
ears.) Because flooding on the course caused play to be suspended, Heard had
all day Saturday to recover and by Sunday he felt well enough to continue.
Amazingly, he shot 72--73 to finish fourth, five strokes behind winner Hale
Irwin. Heard didn't realize the extent of his injuries until four weeks later,
at the Canadian Open. There Trevino told him, "My back's really
mine," Heard replied. �They saw the same specialist, but while Trevino
opted for back surgery, Heard got a second opinion: Rest and hope for the best.
was bedridden for three months and sat out most of the '76 season, during which
his wife divorced him. He returned to the Tour in '77 and played in pain,
trying to find a swing that didn't hurt. His back went out while he was playing
in Japan. In the months that followed he grew fat and irritable. "I used to
wake up and be in a good mood," he says of the days before he was injured.
"Then I started waking up and my back hurt."
As it turned out,
the lightning had damaged Heard's spinal cord and cauterized nerve endings in
his tissues. Despite constant twinges, he won the '78 Atlanta Golf Classic. He
still couldn't get through a full shot, so he hit slap-hooks around Atlanta
Country Club, but he made a bunch of putts and finished 19 under. Figuring the
victory was a fluke, Heard finally had the operation that had helped Trevino.
"It relieved a lot of aches," Heard says.
Trevino won nine
more tournaments on the PGA Tour, but Heard never regained his form. He
couldn't hit a cut the way he used to, and he had never been good at tinkering
with his swing, even in his prime. "Jerry was a guy who played very
instinctively," says Nicklaus. The once preternaturally cocky Heard became
afraid to swing. He quit the Tour in 1980. Three years later, broke and living
in North Carolina, he heard about an opening as director of golf at South Seas
Plantation on Captiva Island, Fla. Heard used a friend's credit card to call
the club, then borrowed cash from his parents to pay his airfare to Florida. He
was hired and stayed for almost two decades.
storms have swept over a major championship tournament with such frightening
intensity as the one that disrupted the 1991 U.S. Open. The sky, implacable,
walked on stilts of rain, and forked lightning splayed theatrically on opening
day at Hazeltine National in Chaska, Minn., near Minneapolis. More than 40,000
people were on the heavily wooded course when the rain started falling in
swaying curtains, and many took cover under the trees.
spectators stood side by side under a 30-foot weeping willow near the 11th tee,
one of the lowest spots at Hazeltine. "With its canopy, that willow looked
like a great umbrella," says Ray Gavin, one of the six. "When I was
running to the tree, I saw lots of people under a giant oak and hundreds more
who refused to leave the metal bleachers. I thought, Those fools are going to
get hit by lightning."
Two quick cracks
of thunder later, Gavin and the others under the willow fell like duckpins.
"Actually, we didn't fall," says Gavin's friend John Hannahan. "We
melted." A bolt had deflected off the tree and jumped to the six
bystanders. The lightning had penetrated Gavin's shoulder and exited through
his hip. It came into Hannahan through one foot and came out through the
Gavin, now a
65-year-old retired sales manager, was knocked unconscious. When he came to,
paramedics were putting him on a gurney. "It dawned on me that from the
neck down, I couldn't move," he says. "Not my toes, not my feet, not my
hands. I thought I was paralyzed. I thought, My God, I'm going to be a burden
to my family forever." Happily, the feeling in his body returned within six