Friday, March 15

That Terrible Sinking Feeling on the Golf Course

LAST NIGHT I READ REPORTS ABOUT the St. Louis-area man who was swallowed by a sinkhole on the 14th hole of the Annbriar Golf Club. I was aware of the story, but I hadn't actually read up on it. Since a sports radio show was going to have me on and identified the sinkhole golfer as a possible topic, I thought I better know what happened.

It's an unsettling story on many levels. Mark Mihal, a 43-year-old mortgage broker, was out with his buddies, the first golf game of the season as I understand it. Mihal is a good player, carrying a 6 handicap. He was just 1 over as he came to the par-5 14th hole. He positioned his second shot in the fairway, about 100 yards from the green.

His golf ball was in an odd-looking depression, but, according to Mihal, "it didn't look unstable." He walked over to take a look and down he went, an 18-foot free fall that injured his shoulder but could have been a lot worse. A ladder was retrieved and they got him out of the hole 20 minutes later.

"It was absolutely crazy," Mihal said.

Sinkholes Everywhere

Sinkholes, apparently, are pretty common in southwest Illinois, just across the river from St. Louis. The region is "riddled" with them, according to the geochemist quoted in the story. There are 15,000 and counting. Remind me not to play golf there. Or go there.

We've all had that sinking feeling on the golf course. A good round gone bad. A bad round gone worse.

But what about Mihal? The man was golfing his ball and having some laughs with the fellows. HIS BALL WAS IN THE FAIRWAY. Isn't that supposed to be safe? Fairways and greens, right folks? Not fairways, sinkholes, ladders and greens.

Mihal might not return to Annbriar, even though he's played about two dozen rounds there.

"It's a great course. I love the course," Mihal said. "But I would have a tough time probably walking down that hole again."

No kidding. Golf is hard enough.

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