ORLANDO, Fla. – Pro golfer Tripp Isenhour said it was a "one-in-a-million" golf shot that killed a protected hawk and that he was only trying to scare the bird he now faces criminal charges for killing.
Isenhour spoke on the Golf Channel's PODS Championship post-round show Friday, his first public comments since news broke that he killed the protected bird Dec. 12.
Investigators say Isenhour got upset because the hawk's loud chirps interrupted the filming of his instructional video. He was charged Wednesday in Orange County Circuit Court with animal cruelty and killing a migratory bird, charges that carry a combined 14 months in jail and $1,500 in fines.
"What happened was, you know, the bird was making noise, but the fact that I was upset was inaccurate," Isenhour said. "There were several others trying to get the bird to simply fly away. That's all we were trying to do. The bird was high up in the tree and I was simply just tying to hit the tree to make the bird fly away."
Also Friday, the head of the Humane Society of the United States faxed PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem a letter urging "appropriate remedial action against Isenhour up to and including fines and suspension."
"By setting an example of compassion for the public, the PGA has the chance to make a difference for our communities and instill an ethic of animal protection," Humane Society president and CEO Wayne Pacelle wrote.
Isenhour is playing the Nationwide Tour this season after losing his PGA Tour card for the second time last year.
Because of the hawk's killing, Isenhour also lost his practice privileges at Grand Cypress Resort, where the crew was filming.
Isenhour, whose real name is John Henry Isenhour III, said it was foolish for people to believe he could have realistically hit the bird.
"That's obviously people who don't know very much about golf," he said. "To say it's a one-in-a-million shot for an accident like that to happen, you know, and when it did happen, I was very remorseful, very upset that it happened.
"The event did occur, but it didn't exactly occur that way, exactly as they described it. My reaction from the time it happened has been one of regret and remorse that it happened, because it was an unfortunate accident. We all have had unfortunate accidents happen."
Prosecutors say the 39-year-old player took several shots at the hawk, first driving to it in a golf cart after the bird interrupted filming from 300 yards away. When the bird later landed within 75 yards, Isenhour's shots got closer until he eventually hit and killed the hawk. It fell to the ground bleeding from both nostrils, witnesses told the Florida Fish and Wildlife.
PGA Tour players didn't seem too shaken.
"It's a bad break for the bird, but it sounds like there are a lot of other things people should be worried about," Mark Calcavecchia said.
"He probably just didn't think. He didn't think, 'If I actually hit the bird, what happens?"' Lee Janzen said. "A girl from North Carolina got murdered yesterday and there's no suspect. That's a lot more important. If it could have nicked him, scared him off, we'd never have heard of this. Unfortunately, the bird got hit."