T.J. Auclair is a Senior Interactive Producer for PGA.com and has covered professional golf since 1998, traveling to over 60 major championships. You can follow him on Twitter, @tjauclair.
Fairway sinkhole swallows golfer at Illinois golf course
Series: Golf Buzz
Published: Tuesday, March 12, 2013 | 10:36 a.m.
Sinkholes seem to be taking over the news these days and, as it turns out, at least one golf course.
A sinkhole, defined as, "natural depression in a land surface communicating with a subterranean passage, generally occurring in limestone regions and formed by solution or by collapse of a cavern roof," swallowed a golfer in a fairway at Annbriar Golf Course in Waterloo, Ill., on Friday.
Waterloo is about 30 miles south of St. Louis.
Luckily the golfer, Mark Mihal, lived to tell the story of his ordeal after dropping 18 feet into the sinkhole (giving new meaning to, "I'm going to the golf course for 18.").
While golfing with friends at the Annbriar Golf Course near here Friday, Mihal, 43, a mortgage broker from Creve Coeur, abruptly dropped into the ground on the fairway of the 14th hole. It was the first time a person -- and not a ball -- has disappeared beneath the turf in the course’s 20-year history.
It also was the first time in the memory of folks who study sinkholes in Illinois that a person has fallen into one.
“I was standing in the middle of the fairway,” Mihal said Monday. “Then, all of a sudden, before I knew it, I was underground.”
Mihal said he fell into the mud floor of an enclosure shaped like a bell, up to 18 feet deep and 10 feet wide. The rescue was precarious, he said, because no one knew whether the surface hole would grow or the enclosure would collapse.
A companion called the course’s pro shop, where general manager Russ Nobbe gathered some rope and a ladder and rushed to the rescue. Mihal had dislocated his shoulder, so Ed Magaletta, a friend and a real estate agent, climbed down and put a rope around Mihal’s waist so he could be hoisted to safety.
The rescue reportedly took less than 20 minutes, but had to seem like an eternity.
Mihal isn't ready to quit golf as a result of the terrifying incident, but admitted to the Post-Dispatch, “It’d be kind of strange playing that hole again, for sure.”
Follow T.J. Auclair on Twitter, @tj_auclair.