For Missourian Mark Mihal, an early season round of golf with his buddies in Waterloo, Illinois, turned into a near-death experience. His group was on the 14th hole standing in the fairway minding their own business when all of a sudden one of the golfer's in their group plunged nearly 18 feet into one of nature's freak wonders - a sinkhole. Now normally when you hear the words SINK and HOLE on a golf course you picture yourself on the green after sinking a putt into the hole. In Mark Mihal's case, he was standing on the fairway until he was suddenly IN a hole described as about 18 feet deep and 10 feet wide. A gaping hole that sucked him in so fast he couldn't even react. His buddies were freaking out and immediately called into the pro shop for some help in extracating him before he went even deeper or got smothered by falling mud and dirt.
As someone who works in a golf shop on occasion, I couldn't even imagine getting this call. Where do you begin? First, CALL 9-1-1 and get some pros there in time before matters get any worse. But the quick thinking General Manager of Annbriar Golf Course, Russ Nobbe, grabbed a ladder and some rope and scurried out to help in the rescue of one of his patrons. Mihal had suffered a dislocated shoulder so one of his friends, Ed Magaletta, shimied down the rope and slipped it around his waist so the guys standing on top could pull him out without doing further damage. Within 20 minutes of falling into the earth, Mihal was back on terra firma - shaken, in pain, but grateful to be alive. He said all he could think about while he was down in the hole was the poor guy in Florida who fell into a sinkhole that opened up under his bedroom and has still not been found.
Personally, I had never heard of any sinkholes in Illinois but they must exist because the Tribune reported "it was the first time in the memory of folks who study sinkholes in Illinois that a person has fallen into one." I just wondered after reading this what HAS fallen into our Illinois sinkholes? Trees, squirrels, deer, or in truth, our state's economic situation - now that's a sinkhole!
Going back to working in a golf pro shop, we get all kinds of calls from people being hit by golf clubs, carts, golf balls, and being stung by bees. But last year on our opening day, we had one of our regulars drop like a rock out on the course. Just by coincidence, one of my co-workers was out on the course playing golf with her husband and she raced over to see what was going on. By that time, a man from another group had called into the pro shop to say a man had collapsed on the course. Gratefully, our Park District which owns the course, had us all go through extensive safety & CPR training so we wouldn't freak out in situations like this one. I immediately called 911 and realized someone out on the course must have already done so as the sirens were screaming and heading into our parking lot. I raced out and got a golf cart ready to go and rushed the EMT's out to the hole where our golfer had collapsed. My co-worker was leaning over and talking to Peter W. but he was out cold. The EMT's jumped out of the cart and did their thing - hooking Peter up to wires and all that good stuff they do - and in the end, saved his life. He had suffered a ruptured aorta which is almost always fatal but we were told much later that due to the quick response of the staff and getting the EMT's there so fast, not to mention some very gifted surgeons, Peter is alive, well and back to playing golf.
I did ponder the fact that in our safety, CPR and other training, we were NEVER taught how to handle a golfer falling into a sinkhole. Who would have thunk it? Maybe someone should add this to the curriculum of the safety training courses now that his actually come to pass. We can only hope that the only things sinking into the holes on our golf course are golf balls and NOT golfers!
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