News & Opinion

Olesen incident adds to world's turbulence

In a world that is dealing with shootings in El Paso and Dayton, pro-democracy demonstrations in Hong Kong and, well, fill in the blank, it might be easy to gloss over what happened last week on a flight from Memphis to London.

On that British Airways flight, a world-class golfer allegedly committed a sexual assault by groping a sleeping woman. And, to further jeopardize the safety of the flight, he reportedly urinated in the aisle of the first-class cabin.

Thorbjorn Olesen, European Tour
Thorbjorn Olesen has been suspended by the European Tour as he faces an Aug. 21 court date on sexual-assault and other charges.

Such action is beyond disgusting and could be found to be criminal, but it also could have been potentially much worse.

Thorbjorn Olesen, 29, of Denmark, is an up-and-coming professional golfer with five European Tour victories, a Ryder Cup appearance and more than $14 million in career earnings. Last year, in his debut in the biennial series, Olesen thumped American Jordan Spieth, 5 and 4, in singles Sunday as the Europeans won.

That match-play victory for Olesen against a three-time major champion might be the last line of his professional biography. Olesen faces an Aug. 21 hearing in Uxbridge Magistrates’ Court to answer charges of sexual assault, being drunk on an aircraft and common assault.

On Wednesday, the European Tour suspended Olesen, saying only that he will not be eligible to compete pending the outcome of the legal proceedings.

The European Tour is walking a fine line because Olesen was only charged and not found guilty. In reality, though, he likely would not have appeared at a tour event until his legal issue was resolved.

Nonetheless, the tour did the right thing in suspending him.

The bigger question: How does someone get so intoxicated to do things that at least seem to be so out of character?

Olesen’s reputation on the European Tour is nothing like the crazed mad man who is alleged to have roamed the skies over the Atlantic. While I would not, perhaps you can forgive or excuse such behavior, but you still must ask, Why?

Olesen is not talking, which is understandable. In a statement, his attorney, Paul Morris, said that Olesen has cooperated fully with police but that he will not comment any further.

Olesen has taken down his Twitter account, which he has used to communicate with fans. His personal website remains operational, and its last posting was Oct. 5, 2018, when he recalled his Ryder Cup victory against Spieth.

According to a schedule on his website, Olesen planned to compete in the Scandinavian Invitation on Aug. 22-25 in Gothenburg, Sweden.

It’s clear that Olesen will not make that appearance.

If you would choose to make light of the incident in the air, remember that the woman whom Olesen is accused of groping could be someone’s mother, daughter or sister.

If Olesen truly was so far out of control, he could have done something more heinous than urinating on the floor. Though it's not possible to open a pressurized plane’s door in flight, other potential perils exist on a jetliner that could cause harm.

It seems farfetched, until it doesn’t.

Alex Miceli is the founder and publisher of Morning Read. Email: alex@morningread.com; Twitter: @AlexMiceli