Getting panicky and knowing his shoulder “was busted,” Mihal assessed his dilemma in pitch darkness as he rested on a mound of mud, wondering if the ground would give way more and send him deeper into the pit that was 10-feet wide at the opening, then broadened out into the shape of a bell below the surface.
“I was looking around, clinging to the mud pile, trying to see if there was a way out,” he said. “At that point, I started yelling, “I need a ladder and a rope, and you guys need to get me out of here.’”
A ladder hustled to the scene was too short, and Mihal’s damaged shoulder crimped his ability to climb.
“At some point, I said, ‘I need to get out of here. Now,’” Mihal recalled.
One of his golf partners, a real-estate agent, made his way into the hole, converted his sweater into a splint for Mihal and tied a rope around his friend, who was pulled to safety.
While disturbing, such sink-holes aren’t uncommon in southwestern Illinois, where old underground mines frequently cause the earth to settle. In Mihal’s case, the culprit was subsurface limestone that dissolves from acidic rainwater, snowmelt and carbon dioxide, eventually causing the ground to collapse, said Sam Panno, a senior geochemist with the Illinois State Geological Survey.
That region “is riddled with sinkholes,” with as many as 15,000 recorded, Panno said.
Nobbe told the AP other golfers are not in danger and the Annbriar course will remain open while officials seek geologist recommendations for what to do about the 14th hole’s sinkhole.
“Every geologist we’ve talked to says it is unreasonable and unnecessary” to survey the entire grounds for other sinkhole threats, he added.
Mihal, meanwhile, is debating a return to Annbriar.
“It’s a great course. I love the course,” Mihal said, having played Annbriar a couple dozen times during the past decade. “But I would have a tough time probably walking down that hole again.”