Below is an account written by Lori Mihal, wife of golfmanna co-founder Mark Mihal, about events involving her husband.
Friday, March 8, 2013, was the first nice day we had seen in St. Louis, Mo., in several weeks. It was a great day to get back out on the golf course and get geared up for the spring golf season.
My husband, Mark Mihal, co-founder of golfmanna, went out to play a familiar course in Waterloo, Ill., with his regular Friday foursome. He was having a great round and lots of laughs with his buddies. They were in the fairway on No. 14; Mark had already hit his second shot when he went to check out the distance for his playing partner, Mike Peters, who was getting ready to hit. Mike had his back to Mark and when he turned to say something to him, Mark was gone.
Mike could hear Mark moaning and ran in the direction where he had been standing just a few seconds earlier. It was immediately clear what had happened; the ground had caved in and Mark had fallen into the earth – 18 feet underground.
“I felt the ground start to collapse and it happened so fast that I couldn’t do anything,” Mark said later. “I reached for the ground as I was going down and it gave way, too. It seemed like I was falling for a long time. The real scary part was I didn’t know when I would hit bottom and what I would land on.”
Mark landed in mud at the bottom of the sinkhole, which was approximately 10’ wide.
“Looking up, it appeared to be shaped like a bell,” he said.
The two other golfers in the foursome, Ed Magaletta and Hank Martinez, saw Mark fall but they were further away and thought he must have rolled down a hill, until they got up to the location of the sinkhole. Ed quickly called the clubhouse and told them, first of all, that it was not a prank call. He said to bring a ladder, some rope, and to call an ambulance; that one of their foursome had fallen into a sinkhole.
Mark has always been claustrophobic. He was beginning to panic and was in shock; he was also in excruciating pain. The clubhouse respondents brought a 12-foot ladder, which they put down the side of the hole and propped on a mound of mud within it. However, Mark was another six feet below that level and had dislocated his shoulder during the fall; he only had the use of one arm and couldn’t pull himself up to the ladder.
Mark and I had recently watched the news clip on the man in Florida who fell into a sinkhole
while in his bedroom just last week. The thoughts of being buried alive were running through Mark’s mind because of that horrifying story. Dirt was falling on his head the whole time he was down below; his friends and the golf club staff knew that timing was everything and wanted to get him out as soon as possible.
Ed gave a whole new meaning to “golfing buddy,” as he volunteered to go down in the hole and tie a rope around Mark and hoist him up to the ladder so they could get him out. When Ed reached the bottom of the hole, he took off his sweatshirt and made a sling for Mark’s very noticeable shoulder injury. After approximately 20 minutes underground, they were able to get Mark out and into an ambulance.
I was at my office when I received a phone call from Mike. As soon as I saw who was calling me, knowing that they should still be playing their round of golf, I was filled with panic. As soon as I answered, I asked “What is wrong?” He said, “Mark is fine, but he has had an accident and is in an ambulance.” I don’t think he knew how to tell me that my husband had just been swallowed by the earth. It just sounds too unbelievable!
When he told me what had actually happened, I was just dumbfounded, and didn’t even know how to process it. I immediately thanked God that they were able to get him out; I, too, couldn’t help but think of the recent news buzz about sinkholes and people being lost forever.
As we’ve had a couple of days to put everything in perspective, the whole ordeal still seems so unreal. It reminds me of the movie Space Jam when Michael Jordan was playing golf and disappeared into the ground. We’re very fortunate that Mark wasn’t injured worse than he was – or even killed. It’s just another reminder to hold your loved ones close and thank God for all the blessings we’ve been given.
I know Mark’s partner, C.A. Schmidt, is researching sinkholes and golf courses for a follow-up story, so if you have any information or are an expert on the subject, he’d love to hear from you (e-mail him at cschmidt (at) golfmanna.com or tweet at @fantasygolfguy
Photo: property of golfmanna, all rights reserved