The international golf community is in mourning this week after a prominent Scottish-born caddie was killed when he was struck by a car while crossing busy County Road 39 in Southampton on his bike on Friday evening.
This week, friends of Neil S. Fyfe, 29, fondly recalled the popular caddie, saying that he had a generous nature that could not be matched. Mr. Fyfe, who recently moved to Southampton Village from Jupiter, Florida, came to the East End to work at the Sebonack Golf Club, where he accumulated many friends after years working as a caddie.
“In my 18 years in the golf business, he was one of the best guys I have ever met,” Jason Bunge, caddiemaster at Sebonack Golf Club, said on Monday. “He was very kindhearted, and everyone who met him liked him.”
Mr. Fyfe was riding his bike in a crosswalk, attempting to reach the south side of County Road 39 at 6:28 p.m. on Friday evening when he was struck in the eastbound lane of the highway by a red 1990 Jeep driven by 21-year-old Jesse Werner Steudte of Southampton, according to Southampton Town Police.
According to police, civilians in the area immediately started CPR on Mr. Fyfe, who was then transported to Southampton Hospital by Southampton Volunteer Ambulance. He was pronounced dead a short time later.
Mr. Steudte was treated on the scene for minor injuries. He was arrested and taken to Southampton Town Police headquarters and charged with DWI, a misdemeanor.
This week, police confirmed that a Breathalyzer test was not administered at the accident scene, but said that he was arrested after police observed that he was intoxicated.
The road remained closed for seven hours and was reopened at 1:30 a.m. while the scene was investigated by Southampton Town Police, the New York State Police Forensic ID and Collision Reconstruction Unit, and the Suffolk County district attorney’s office. The Southampton and North Sea fire departments responded to the scene.
Mr. Steudte posted $25,000 cash bail following his arraignment at Southampton Town Justice Court on Saturday.
At the arraignment before Town Justice Edward Burke Sr., Mr. Steudte pleaded not guilty to the charge of DWI. At the same time, the prosecution promised that additional felony charges would be filed if blood tests on samples taken just after the accident show that he had been drinking. Results should be available in two weeks.
On Sunday morning, Mr. Steudte’s attorney, Colin Astarita of Southampton, raised the possibility that the crash might have instead been caused by Mr. Steudte suffering a seizure, noting that his client has recently been diagnosed with epilepsy and has just begun a medication regimen, making him unable to return to college for his spring semester this year.
There are driving restrictions in place in New York State pertaining to maintaining a license with epilepsy, including doctor’s evaluations and not driving for a certain period after the last known seizure. It is unclear at this time if the Department of Motor Vehicles was aware of the diagnosis, or whether there were restrictions on Mr. Steudte’s license.
During the arraignment, Mr. Astarita stated that it is possible that signs of being drunk exhibited by his client immediately following the crash arose from shock after the accident.
“At this time, Jesse is obviously devastated by what has happened, and the Steudte family continues to keep Mr. Fyfe’s loved ones in their thoughts and prayers,” Mr. Astarita said. “I have been involved in many of these cases, both as a prosecutor and a defense attorney. There is a huge emotional content from all parties involved, and regardless of the legal outcome, both sides always pay a big price.”
According to Mr. Bunge, Mr. Fyfe had a dream to caddie for the Professional Golfers Association tour. Mr. Bunge, who said he had known Mr. Fyfe for several years through working together, said he will be missed in the golfing community.
Mr. Fyfe had worked at several golf courses over the past few years, including the famous Bears Club in Florida. He is widely reported to have caddied for a range of professional golfers and celebrities.
“He was always professional and always upbeat,” Mr. Bunge said. “He was always positive. Every member or guest who came across him really liked him—he was a special kid.”
This week, Hampton Bays resident Scott Thayer, who said he administered CPR to Mr. Fyfe while awaiting police, said he did what he could to help Mr. Fyfe. He added that Mr. Fyfe had been thrown from the crosswalk—where, police confirm, he had the right of way and was crossing legally—and was found several feet from both the car and his bike.
“I did what I could to save him,” said Mr. Thayer, who was assisted by an unidentified teenager on the scene. “I have kids myself, and I would hope someone would help them if something happened, so I tried.”
One friend of Mr. Fyfe, Frank Weatherwax, the assistant caddiemaster at Sebonack, said he had known Mr. Fyfe for roughly 18 months; they used to work together at the Bears Club. This week, he remembered Mr. Fyfe’s good nature, recounting how for the past few years Mr. Fyfe had caddied at a benefit golf tournament honoring the late grandson of Bear Club owner Jack Nicklaus. At the end of the event, the caddies were paid for helping. Mr. Weatherwax said each year Mr. Fyfe would donate his earnings back to the cause, the Nicklaus Children’s Health Care Foundation.
“In the caddieing business, a lot of guys are hardened type of personalities,” Mr. Weatherwax said. “But not him. He was always trying to help somebody, give guys money who needed it. He was a very high-character individual, compassionate and selfless.”
Mr. Fyfe will be transported back to Scotland for burial. He leaves behind both his parents, a sister and his fiancée.
“We are all just distraught over this,” Mr. Weatherwax said. “It is just very, very sad to lose such a giving, kindhearted, selfless guy who always put other people in front of himself.”