ST. LOUIS – Mark Mihal was having a good opening day on the links when he noticed an unusual depression on the 14th fairway at Annbriar Golf Club in southern Illinois. Remarking to his friends how awkward it would be to have to hit out of it, he went over for a closer look.
One step onto the pocked section and the 43-year-old mortgage broker plunged into a sinkhole. He landed 18 feet down with a painful thud, and his friends managed to hoist him to safety with a rope after about 20 minutes. But Friday’s experience gave Mihal quite a fright, particularly after the recent death of a Florida man whose body hasn’t been found since a sinkhole swallowed him and his bedroom.
“I feel lucky just to come out of it with a shoulder injury, falling that far and not knowing what I was going to hit,” Mihal, from the St. Louis suburb of Creve Coeur, told the AP before heading off to learn whether he’ll need surgery. “It was absolutely crazy.”
Annbriar general manager Russ Nobbe described the sinkhole as “an extremely unfortunate event, an event we feel is an act of nature.”
“We don’t feel there is any way we could have foreseen this happening,” he told a Tuesday news conference.
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.