Isenhour Sentenced in Bird Killing

Former PGA Tour player Tripp Isenhour accepted a "no contest" plea agreement for killing a migratory bird at the Grand Cypress Golf Club in Florida last December. Settled in late August, the plea deal effectively closes the case against Isenhour, currently ranked 110th on the Nationwide Tour money list and headed to the PGA Tour's Q School later this fall.

The terms of the agreement include a year's probation, four hours of anger management classes, and 100 hours of community service, 40 of which will be served at a wildlife or animal shelter. Isenhour bought out the remaining 60 hours of community service for $1,500 and paid a $500 fine.

"To go through what I went through in March (when the charges were filed), with the media circus and everything I went through, I didn't want to put my family through [a trial]," Isenhour said. "The fact is I'm not denying the accident occurred, but it would be very hard for a jury - even though the circumstances are much different than what was reported - it would be very difficult for them to find me not guilty, given the way the law is written."

The incident took place December 12, 2007, as a red-shouldered hawk's loud chirps interrupted Isenhour while he was filming an instructional video called "Play Like a Pro." Witnesses said that the 40-year-old Isenhour, clearly annoyed at the bird squawks, deliberately tried to strike the hawk with a golf ball. After 10 tries, a ball finally struck the bird, knocking it out of a tree and killing it.

Under the agreement, Isenhour will pay $1,500 to Busch Wildlife Sanctuary in Jupiter, Fla. His attorney, Andrew Chmelir, said Isenhour agreed to the plea to save his family from further media scrutiny. "He has decided to enter a plea of convenience. The plea was negotiated with the State Attorney's Office, and it was reasonable plea," said another attorney, R. David de Armas. "He is accepting responsibility for his actions. He had wished the investigator had interviewed all the witnesses, which he didn't do."

On Atlanta's Neal Boortz Show in late August Isenhour said he was only trying to scare away the hawk, and that he wasn't angry that it was making the noises. He blamed the media for the uproar, but then admitted, "I take ownership. I made a mistake."

Isenhour didn't announce where he'd perform his community service, but one such place could be the Back to Nature Wildlife Refuge in Orlando. The facility's curator Debbie Helsel told Orlando Sentinel reporter Vincent Bradshaw that she was unimpressed with the plea agreement and the $2,000 punishment. "That just says that's all that animal's life is worth," Helsel said.