St Louis mortgage banker and avid golfer Mark Mihal was with three friends at the Annbriar Golf Course near Waterloo when he suddenly disappeared into the turf on the fairway of the 14th hole.
The 43-year-old fell into a bell-shaped enclosure below the green that measured 15 feet deep and 10 feet wide, surprising his golf pals and the course management who said this was the first time anything like this had happened in Annbriar's 20-year history.
'I noticed this anomaly in the fairway and went to have a look but, by the time I took one step, I was gone, I was underground,' Mihal told MailOnline.
'When I went through (the opening) I couldn't see anything, I didn't know how far I was going or what I was going to hit.'
He said, after plummeting through the earth, he landed on a pile of mud in a cavernous space that could have fit up to 10 people.
'I was just lying on the side of the mound,' he said. 'There was some room in there, it was sort of like a room or a cave. It wasn't confining. It was very dark, though after a while my eyes got used to it. But I couldn't look up because there was stuff still falling.'
The rescue was precarious as no one knew whether the hole would expand, swallowing more people. The fact he dislocated his shoulder in the fall didn't help either.
'I knew the only way to get out was straight up and I didn't have the use of my left arm,' he said.
Sinkhole: The 43-year-old fell into a bell-shaped enclosure below the green that measured 15 feet deep and 10 feet wide, pictured
Friends: Mihal's friends, pictured, managed to hoist him out of the hole by tying a rope around his waist
His friends - Mike Peters, Ed Magaletta and Hank Martinez - called the golf course's pro shop and, armed with a rope and a 12-ft ladder, general manager Russ Noble rushed to help out.
Magaletta, a local real estate agent with whom Mihal had been playing golf for years, bravely volunteered to climbed down into the enclosure where he tied the rope around his friend's waist so the team could pull him to safety.
'Ed came down to get me. He made a sling out of his jacket and tied a rope around me, which the others used to pull me from the top and he pushed me from underneath,' Mihal said.
The whole rescue took just 20 minutes, but the father said, during the terrifying ordeal, he couldn't help but think of the sinkhole that two weeks ago swallowed 36-year-old Florida man Jeffrey Bush, who remains missing.
'That crossed my mind when I was actually falling. Is this how I'm going to go out? In a sinkhole,' Mihal told MailOnline.
14th: The sinkhole opened up as Mihal was standing on the fairway, pictured, of the 14th hole
He said he was pretty eager to get out as soon as possible, fearing the ground beneath him would continue to sink.
'I felt quite stable on the mud, but when I looked around me there were some cracks where there was just blackness so I think (the hole) was just going to keep going,' he said.
Mihal pushed the thoughts of February's deadly sinkhole out of his mind and focused on how he was going to get out with his left arm out of order. He also thought about how fortunate he was not to have been golfing alone that day.
'If you're playing by yourself and waiting for someone to find you you'd be waiting a long time,' he said.' Fortunately, it wasn't an elderly person or someone on their own. Or an entire golf cart. We were told to park the carts off the ground that day.'
Mihal added: 'Maybe I'm lucky and unlucky,' referring to having his friends on hand to help.
While he never would have suspected a 15ft sinkhole on the course, Mihal, who had played at Annbriar more than 10 times in the past, said he did notice something odd on the 14th hole fairway before he dropped through the earth.
Avid golfer: Mihal, pictured on another course, is an avid golfer but says he will probably not play at Annbriar again
Scene: The sinkhole opened up on the fairway of the 14th hole, circled, on Annbriar Golf Course
He said Peters was sizing up a shot and Martinez and Magaletta were having a break in a wooded area nearby when he saw a dip on the green and went to take a look.
'I noticed this anomaly in the fairway, it was a bathtub size depression, and I thought to myself "that is unfair to have that there," he said.
'It didn't look unstable, I was just thinking how would you play a shot from there.'
Recovering: Mihal, pictured, is undergoing medical tests to make sure the dislocated shoulder is the only injury he came out of the hole with
Mihal is undergoing medical tests to make sure the dislocated shoulder is the only injury he came out of the hole with. He had an MRI today to determine whether the arm requires surgery.
The health scare is quite enough for 43-year-old's family, who have been supporting his wife, Lori, through chemotherapy for breast cancer.
Lori wrote an account of her husband's sinkhole survival on a golfing website Mihal co-owns, golfmanna.com.
'He was having a great round and lots of laughs with his buddies,' she wrote.
'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.'
Lori said Mihal is claustrophobic and began to panic when he realized his predicament and his injury meant he was 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,' she wrote.
'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.'
Lori said Peters called her once Mihal was out of the hole and in an ambulance on his way to hospital.
Unbelievable: Mark Mihal's wife, Lori, pictured right, said the whole story was 'unbelievable'
'As soon as I answered, I asked "What is wrong?" she recalled. '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!'
She said when her husband told the story of what had happened she was 'dumbfounded.'
'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.'
She said the bizarre incident reminds her of the movie Space Jam in which Michael Jordan disappears into the ground while playing golf.
'We're very fortunate that Mark wasn't injured worse than he was – or even killed,' she said. 'It's just another reminder to hold your loved ones close and thank God for all the blessings we've been given.'
Geologist Philip Moss said sinkholes are common in St Louis because the limestone bedrock often dissolves in rainwater creating a cave below the surface. But he told the St Louis Post-Dispatch the openings are generally visible.
'This guy just really was in the wrong place at the wrong time,' Moss said.
Mihal said the Annbriar course had been one of his favorites and he and his golf pals - the Friday Foursome - have enjoyed playing it for years.
'It's one of the better, if not the best public course in the area,' he said.
But while he's sure to continue his golfing hobby after his shoulder recovers, Mihal will be giving that particular green a wide berth.
'I think its just a little too weird,' he said. 'I don't think I'd be very comfortable playing that hole again.'
DANGER UNDERGROUND: WHY DO SINKHOLES OCCUR?
Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2292176/Mark-Mihal-sinkhole-15-ft-sinkhole-swallows-golfer-St-Louis-course-rescued-friends.html#ixzz2NNlqyaX0
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