First-round knockout: Family feud rattles Dixie Am
The Clyburn family’s annual winter golf holiday to the U.S. took a bizarre turn last week at the Dixie Amateur.
According to a Coral Springs, Fla., police report, a fight broke out Dec. 30 between family members of two players during the first round of the women’s tournament at Heron Bay Golf Club. No charges were filed, but reportedly fists flew and a driver was wielded as a weapon after a slow-play penalty led to a player’s disqualification.
Tournament officials would not comment when contacted by Golfweek, and witnesses have been reluctant to speak. But based on the police report and interviews with the Clyburn family, here is the sequence of events:
India Clyburn, 15, was making her debut on the Florida Orange Blossom Circuit. Her older sister, Holly, 20, a Curtis Cup veteran and one of the United Kingdom’s top players, also was entered in the Dixie.
India was paired with Lucia Polo of Guatemala and Vivian Gallin of Germany, and the younger Clyburn sister had her mother, Allison, on the bag.
According to India’s father, Paul, the group was warned about slow play at the turn. By the time the threesome reached the 18th hole, the girls were approximately 35 minutes behind the group in front. Officials determined that only Polo, 16, would receive a penalty.
Upon being informed of a slow-play penalty at the scoring table, Polo refused to sign her scorecard and was disqualified. Paul Clyburn said Polo’s father, Ricardo, cursed at tournament officials and Gallin’s mother before making his way to the Clyburns, who were standing near the clubhouse. According to Paul Clyburn, Ricardo Polo hurled a string of profanities at Allison Clyburn, prompting her husband to demand an apology.
Paul Clyburn said he was then pushed by a member of the Polo family, and Clyburn pushed back. Ricardo Polo took the head cover off of his daughter’s driver and, according to the police report, began to lash out with the club. The elder Clyburn said he threw a punch, was jumped by Polo’s brother/caddie Diego and ducked to avoid the flailing club. According to the report, India Clyburn was struck in the upper right leg and incurred a bruise.
“All I was trying to do was dodge this driver,” Paul Clyburn said. “It was whishing about.”
Lucia Polo, contacted by phone at the family’s residence in Greensboro, N.C., where she trains at the Precision Golf School, would not comment. A message left with the family was not immediately returned.
Holly Clyburn, who eventually finished fourth in the tournament after jumping into the first-round fray trying to protect her younger sister, said India was badly shaken.
“She was just crying and couldn’t settle down for two hours,” Holly said.
The Polo family left for the parking lot and Paul Clyburn followed before a tournament official urged him to stop, saying a pro-shop worker had called 911. The Polos departed in a dark-colored SUV before Coral Springs police arrived.
Dave Salerno, tournament director of the Dixie Amateur, was listed as a witness in the police report. When Golfweek tried to reach Salerno for comment, he declined through a ClubLink spokesman.
Paul Clyburn signed a waiver of prosecution, according to the police report. He told Golfweek that he declined to press charges, in part because of living overseas.
“If we were from the United States, of course we would have done it, no problem,” Clyburn said.
Lucia Polo recently won the Peggy Kirk Bell Girls Golf Tour Fall Invitational with rounds of 70-72. She tied for seventh at the Doral/Publix Junior Classic.
Paul Clyburn said it wasn’t until the next day that he noticed a large bruise on his back and felt soreness from the incident. He was in Sebring, Fla., this week with his two daughters, who were competing at the Harder Hall Invitational. Polo was not entered.
– Julie Williams contributed