A putter saved his life!

May 25, 2017

In September of 2014, I had the opportunity to play golf at an exclusive course in Pawley's Island, South Carolina, while attending a wedding. This was my first time playing in the south, and numerous signs around the parking lot, driving range and putting green warned of alligators, lurking unseen in water hazards.

The morning of my first round of golf, my wife and I had breakfast in the clubhouse overlooking the eighteenth green, which had a water hazard along the back side. Not wanting to seem like an overly cautious, northern bumpkin, I casually asked our waitress if she had ever seen a gator around the green or fairway.

She answered, "Ya'll should have seen Old Buck sunning himself yesterday," she replied. "Old Buck," I repeated?

"Yes, Old Buck," she repeated, "he's a 10-footer who lives in the pond and comes out on sunny days to sun himself, near the green."

As I tried to finish my breakfast, three thoughts went through my mind: 1. Don't be ill, 2. Don't stick your hand in the water to retrieve a ball, and 3. Thank God it was going to be an overcast day. I am happy to say, I did not see a gator the entire round, although, I am positive many reptilian eyes watched our foursome walk the course.

But now I am going to tell you about Tony Aarts, a golfer who had a different encounter than I did. In February of this year, Mr. Aarts was playing with friends at the Magnolia Landing Golf and Country Club (located in North Fort Myers, Florida) when he hit an iron shot ten feet from the pin.

As he was walking down the fourth hole fairway, he pulled his putter out of the bag, in anticipation of a birdie, but when he passed by a water hazard, he heard a big splash. "As I was walking about 5 to 6 feet away from the water, I heard a splash and knew it was an alligator," he said. "I jumped, but he had me."

The gator grabbed him by the ankle and started pulling him toward the water, as Mr. Aarts fell on his back and rolled into the water. As he struggled to escape, he remembered clutching his putter and took action. "I was able to stand up on one leg, but he had me up to my waist in the water, so I started hitting him over the head," he recalled to a local news station. "He didn't let go, so I hit him in the eye socket three times and he finally let go of my foot and I crawled out of the pond and was helped to safety by my friends."

An ambulance was called and Mr. Aarts was taken to a nearby hospital for treatment. He survived the incident, with only a few stitches. (The local fish and wildlife officials trapped the offending alligator and put it down, for public safety.) As Mr. Aarts left the hospital he said, "It's a good thing I had that putter in my hand, it saved my life."

In keeping with the reptilian theme, here are a few other golf courses to be wary of when you tee it up on the first hole. At the Lost City Course in Sun City, South Africa, there are numerous holes with wildlife problems, but the par three, thirteenth hole is one of the most dangerous in the world. There are nine bunkers and water hazards around the green and at last count, there are 38 Nile crocodiles living around the hole. Some of those crocs are estimated to be 15 feet long.

Continuing around the world, the Singapore Island Country Club has a different reptile problem.

In 1982, during the Singapore Open, golfer Jim Stewart encountered a 10-foot cobra near his ball in the rough and used his five iron to kill it before his next shot. So look before you step!


19th hole trivia

• In 2003, Roy Williamson was bitten by a rattlesnake when he reached for his ball in the rough at Henderson Golf Club in Savannah, Georgia.

• Alligators first appeared during the Paleocene Period, some 37 million years ago.

• Biologists believe the name alligator was derived from the Spanish word, el lagarto, which means lizard.

I tried to impress our waitress by using the southern term "gator," instead of alligator. She wasn't impressed.

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