A promising young golfer is in hospital with spinal injuries after being crushed by a huge oak tree as he teed off during a tournament in Pinner.
Witnesses say Kumar Starkie-Gupta, an up-and-coming county player from The Broadway, Stanmore, is “lucky to be alive” after the enormous 150-year-old tree fell on top of him after it was uprooted by high winds yesterday morning.
The 18-year-old was standing on the first tee at Pinner Hill Golf Club in Southview Road at 9am when his opponent, 17-year-old Michael Griffiths, heard a loud cracking noise.
Mr Griffiths managed to dive out of the way as the tree came down, but Kumar was crushed by the falling branches.
Fellow players ran to help the teenager, who was narrowly missed by two large boughs that pierced the ground on either side of him.
Paramedics and the fire brigade were called to the scene as fellow players and course staff ran to help.
The Stanmore College pupil managed to pull himself out and walk away from the incident, but he remains in Northwick Park Hospital with a suspected cracked spine.
It has since emerged that Kumar and Michael had taken the earlier tee-off time after four members who were due to have the slot arrived late.
Club manager Alan Findlater said: “Without doubt he’s lucky to be alive. Everyone was astounded he managed to walk away. When I saw it afterwards I couldn’t believe the size of the tree.
“It was very fortunate, the way it came down just around him. His partner heard the noise and managed to dive out of the way but he was standing over his shot.
“They were on the tee five minutes before they should have been because the other guys were late. It was a lucky escape for all of them really.”
Mr Findlater said the club carries out regular tree monitoring across the course, but insisted that the oak tree had been assessed as healthy and safe at its most recent inspection.
Kumar, a member at Stanmore Golf Club, plays off a handicap of just one and has hopes of making it into the professional ranks.
He was about to start playing against Pinner Hill member Michael in their leg of a Middlesex-wide knockout trophy named The Gowland when the tree came down.
Mr Findlater said: “We have lost a couple of trees overnight before in high winds but this is the first time one has ever come down during play."
On the safety checks carried out on the tree, he added: "It was not listed on our Safety Management System as a risk.
"We do routine inspections on hundreds of trees during our course maintenance and log any potential risks and take remedial actions to remove when necessary, as we have done already to date and taken several down that were highlighted over the last few months.
"But I could not give an accurate date (of when this tree was last inspected). Very soft ground and high winds will not necessarily be identified, as this was deemed a healthy tree."