‘Free Scottie!’ Scheffler superfans show support at PGA tournament after golf No 1’s arrest

Prompt release from jail to play in tournament sparks questions over preferential treatment

Oliver O'Connell
New York
Sunday 19 May 2024 14:29 BST
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Scottie Scheffler pleads for help after being detained by police

Fans of Scottie Scheffler showed up to support the world’s No.1 golfer at the PGA Championship in specially-printed t-shirts following his arrest for assaulting a police officer on Friday.

A number of supporters were seen around the PGA Championship at Valhalla Golf Course in Kentucky wearing “Free Scottie” tees after Scheffler spent several hours that morning in a Louisville jail.

One fan was in an orange jumpsuit similar to the one Scheffler wore when his mugshot was taken at the jail. The t-shirts were available for purchase in the parking lot, according to the Associated Press.

“He’s the best guy out there right now, both as a player and a person,” John Glenwood, of Louisville, told the AP. “We’re here to support him.”

However questions were raised over why the golfer was released so quickly from jail after being charged with a felony and several misdemeanours.

Spectators wore Free Scottie t-shirts and one wore an orange jumpsuit like shown in the Louisville Metro Corrections mug shot of Scottie Scheffler at the 2024 PGA Championship second round on 17 May
Spectators wore Free Scottie t-shirts and one wore an orange jumpsuit like shown in the Louisville Metro Corrections mug shot of Scottie Scheffler at the 2024 PGA Championship second round on 17 May (USA TODAY Sports via Reuters Con)

The 27-year-old Texan was arrested outside the club just after 6am on Friday, taken to jail, dressed in an orange jumpsuit and had his mugshot taken.

In addition to the assault felony, he was charged with criminal mischief, reckless driving and disregarding signals from an officer directing traffic — all misdemeanours.

He was released and made his 10am tee time on Friday in the second round of the tournament.

“A man drags a cop with his vehicle and hospitalizes him. He’s arrested ... charged with a felony ... and then immediately released so he can make his tee time? Did I get that right?” said Ricky L. Jones, a University of Louisville professor of pan-African studies, on the social platform X.

Bill Miller, a local golf fan who was at the course on Friday, said it cast Louisville and the police in a negative light.

Masters champion Scottie Scheffler is escorted by police after being handcuffed near Valhalla Golf Club, site of the PGA Championship golf tournament, early Friday, May 17, 2024
Masters champion Scottie Scheffler is escorted by police after being handcuffed near Valhalla Golf Club, site of the PGA Championship golf tournament, early Friday, May 17, 2024 (ESPN/AP)

“It’s just another bad look for the city,” Miller said. “I’d want to understand what the cop was trying to do. But it’s sad.”

Scheffler was arrested after trying to drive into Valhalla Golf Club in heavy traffic caused by an earlier, unrelated accident in which a male pedestrian died after being struck by a shuttle bus.

According to the police report, Detective Bryan Gillis stopped Scheffler’s car and “attempted to give instruction” to the Masters champion, who is competing in the US PGA Championship.

The report alleges Scheffler refused to comply and “accelerated forward, dragging Detective Gillis to the ground”.

After being released on his own recognizance and driven to the course, Scheffler carded a second round of 66 to lie three shots behind halfway lead Xander Schauffele.

“As far as best rounds of my career, I would say it was pretty good,” Scheffler said, after playing the round.

Golf world number one Scottie Scheffler says he stretched in a jail cell on Friday morning, after being arrested just hours before his tee time at the PGA Championship
Golf world number one Scottie Scheffler says he stretched in a jail cell on Friday morning, after being arrested just hours before his tee time at the PGA Championship (AP)

“I definitely never imagined ever going to jail, and I definitely never imagined going to jail the morning before one of my tee times.”

Scheffler’s lawyer insists he is prepared to go to trial if the charge of assaulting a police officer is not dropped.

“They’ll either be dropped or we’ll go to trial because he didn’t do anything wrong,” Steve Romines, Scheffler’s lawyer, told Golf Channel.

“So we’re not interested in any sort of settlement negotiations or anything like that. It was just a big miscommunication.

“There had been a traffic fatality down the road and so there were differing traffic directions going on and traffic control officers were advising different things.

Fans wear shirts of Scottie Scheffler in his mugshot during second round of the 2024 PGA Championship at Valhalla Golf Club on May 17, 2024
Fans wear shirts of Scottie Scheffler in his mugshot during second round of the 2024 PGA Championship at Valhalla Golf Club on May 17, 2024 (Getty Images)

“Scottie was advised by one officer to go around and turn left into the facility. But the officer who charged him obviously didn’t know that. So, that’s where the miscommunication occurred.”

The golfer is set to be arraigned on Tuesday but that could be rescheduled. Romines added: “We will enter a plea of not guilty and get the next court date.”

Mr Romines represented the boyfriend of Breonna Taylor, who was fatally shot in her home by Louisville police in 2020, in a civil lawsuit against the city.

Louisville Mayor Craig Greenberg told local media outlets on Saturday that there is no police bodycam footage of Scheffler’s arrest.

The officer was directing traffic at the time, and the department’s officers typically don’t record video with their body cameras while directing traffic, Kevin Trager, the mayor’s press secretary, wrote in a text message to an AP reporter.

With reporting from agencies

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