When one of Mark Mihal's playing partners called the clubhouse at a course in Waterloo, Ill., on Friday, he had to give an assurance that he was not making a prank call. But, uh, out on the 14th fairway, he wanted the clubhouse to know, they were going to need a ladder and a rope. Oh, and call an ambulance, would you please? Because Mihal, the caller said, had disappeared into the face of the earth.
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.”
The sinkhole, Mark would also say later, appeared to be about 10-feet wide. Mark is claustrophobic, and he began to panic as he waited to be rescued. He was also in a shitload of pain, since he had dislocated one of his shoulders during the fall (and may need surgery). When a group from the clubhouse arrived, they brought a 12-foot ladder, which obviously wasn't big enough to reach Mark, who couldn't climb toward it because of what had happened to his shoulder. We suggest you read Mark's wife Lori's description of how he was ultimately rescued over at golfmanna.com, a site Mark had co-founded.
Lori, who was told over the phone what had happened while Mark was still in the hole, sums up the fear everyone involved felt. She also conveys the gratitude they all now feel considering how much worse this could have been. Toward the end, she includes this memorable line:
It reminds me of the movie Space Jam when Michael Jordan was playing golf and disappeared into the ground.