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The common link? Pain on course

Injuries and athletics go hand in hand.

But until smashing my leg into a curb, then running over it with a golf cart – while it was twisted 180 degrees backwards – I never realized how dangerous golf could be.

Golf? Yep, golf.

I wrote a column about my ordeal in May to tee up this season’s Journal Golf Page and asked readers to send in some of their more bizarre golf-injury stories.

I’ve learned there are a lot more ways than you’d think to get hurt on the links.

“I’ve heard a lot of them over the years, said Matt Molloy, director of golf, Sandia Golf Club. “We had a guy last year who hit a ball really low, it hit a cart sign rock, bounced back and hit him right in the forehead. You could see the imprint of the ball on his head. He just wanted to keep playing. And there was another guy who hit his ball into a bush. He went in and found it. He backed into the bush and got into his stance, and a snake bit him. We called the paramedics, and he said he felt fine. They said, ‘You could be fine, or you could go home tonight and die.’ We didn’t know what kind of snake it was. They took him to the hospital.”

So in this, our final edition of this summer’s weekly golf page, are some of the more notable mishaps golfers sent us. Some are funny, others gruesome.

One was really tragic.

A Journal reader who asked not to be identified gave an account of a member of his foursome in 2010 who suffered a fatal heart attack on the third fairway of the Dam Nine at Arroyo del Oso.

Volunteers performed CPR, and the reader said players in group did all they could to keep him alive.

But the reader said players behind them asked the valiant volunteers – while they were trying to save a life – things like “Should we skip the hole?” and “Can we play through?” The man died before paramedics got there.

Of course, having a heart attack on a course is most likely a coincidence. Golf isn’t exactly a strenuous sport. But that doesn’t mean you can’t get battered chasing around a little white (orange, pink, two-tone or green) ball.

The other stories are all injuries that were suffered while playing the game.

Many – as in my case – could have been avoided with a little more common sense.

Now, these tales shouldn’t dissuade anyone from hitting the links. On the contrary, they should teach us lessons on what to do while we are on them.

I just hope I can finally learn to keep my left leg in the cart while driving.

Coyote ugly

Several years ago, my husband, Phil, was in Tucson visiting family for Easter. He went out with a foursome on a private course in the retirement community where his parents lived. It was the third hole, and he was readying his second shot from the fairway – knowing he had to give the ball a good smack to get it over a small arroyo standing between him and the green. He was wearing shorts (because, well, it was Tucson). He set his stance, drew back the club, and – amid panicked shouts from his golf buddies – looked down. There he saw a scrawny coyote wrapping its jaws around his right ankle! He hit the animal with his club until it finally let loose and ran off into the shrub. The coyote barely broke the surface of his skin, but Phil certainly endured weeks of painful rabies vaccinations. – Tracy Kjelland

Cart burn

It was right before the fall semester of my senior year at La Cueva, and I working at Four Hills (now The Canyon Club). I had just clocked in, probably about 30 minutes, and was running carts to the cart barn from the pro shop to clean them. I had my foot hanging out of (the) cart, driving and not paying attention. I went through a narrow gap and hit my foot against some railroad ties. My foot got caught and was twisted, and I broke it. I was in a cast about six weeks. The cast had to be set at a weird angle. It wasn’t like a shoe because I couldn’t stand on it. The bottom of the cast was at the tip of my toe and I had to use crutches about six or eight weeks. I was about as mad as I was injured. I missed the fall season, which is a big recruiting time in college. At that time, I lost interest in golf a little, and didn’t think I wanted to play in college.

But I won state that spring and was recruited to New Mexico State.

I keep my leg in the cart all the time now, but the last few months it’s still been hurting because didn’t have surgery. Sometimes, when I hit balls, it hurts. I hope it doesn’t get that bad, but I still might have to have surgery. – Patrick Beyhan, ex-La Cueva and NMSU star, now on PGA Tour Canada

Ball shark

Jack Thomas, a former Rio Rancho City councilman, Sandoval County Commissioner and State Representative, was playing No. 8 on the Star Nine at Santa Ana when he hit his ball in the water, but near the edge where it was retrievable.

So he gets his wedge and very carefully goes down the steep concrete embankment and manages to get his ball, but it slips from his club. So he very carefully maneuvers on the embankment and gets the ball again with his club, but again it slips.

In the meantime a fellow player brings him a ball retriever and suggested to Jack that using the retriever might be easier. No, Dr. Jack was persistent that he could retrieve his ball with his club. Then his feet gave way and he starts slipping into the water and tries grabbing onto the embankment, but manages to gash his thumb. His fellow players help him get out of the water and Jack, bleeding profusely from his thumb, goes home and then to urgent care for repair of his thumb. So Jack was out of commission for a few days until his thumb and ego healed.

What kind of a pendejo (fool) who has at least a dozen golf balls in his bag and hundreds of golf balls at home try to retrieve a golf ball on a steep embankment? Only Dr. Jack. – Tom Gallegos

“I’ll tell you what kind of pendejo,” Thomas told the Journal with a huge laugh. “A cheap one. But that’s how we golfers are. I had seven dozen brand new ones in the garage, but wasn’t going to let that one go. I was bleeding so profusely, I was worried about a shark attacking me.”

A stitch at wrong time

I am a golf duffer, a bad one, despite over a dozen lessons from (Los Altos director of golf) Chris Moya and his father (Eddie Moya). I played football, baseball and winter soccer in high school and had my share of cuts, bruises, a few stitches and a broken tooth, but no broken bones.

About nine years ago in a four-person scramble at Arroyo del Oso, I was playing injured. A few days earlier I had a cancer removed from the back of my right hand, and five or six stitches closed the hole. As I drove to the fifth tee box, the cart wheel hit the railroad ties along the tee box and the steering wheel spun viciously counterclockwise whacking my already wounded hand. There was a lot of pain in two middle fingers. I taped the injured fingers together and played on. After we finished, a high school trainer on a another team examined the fingers and pronounced them broken, probably cracked. This was confirmed the following week by X-ray when the doctor removed the stitches. What hurt almost as much were my teammates who noted my game improved with the injury and threatened to break some fingers right before we played again. – Walter Blood

Watch the birdie

I was playing the 18th hole at the course on (Kirtland Air Force) Base. I hit my drive under a tree on the left side of the fairway. Apparently there was a hawk’s nest close by. As I addressed my ball, the hawk landed on my head and dug its talons into my scalp, drawing blood. I kicked the ball out from under the tree, hit quickly and made my way up the fairway. It was the oddest “birdie” I’ve had. – Ginny Clark

Broken Broker

At Arroyo del Oso with my wife one very pleasant afternoon, we arrived at hole 12 – a par 3 with an elevated tee, across an arroyo, to an elevated green. To reach the green, one had to navigate a narrow bridge. I’m certain that you know what happened next. Sure enough, with my foot dangling off the edge of the cart, I became entangled in the iron crossbars of the bridge. My ankle caught the bars and snapped with a most ugly sound. I yelled at my wife to “throw it in reverse,” but as she was on the wrong side of the cart, she could not.

I did manage to back up and extricate my foot from the bridge. Quickly, we drove up the hill and parked under a tree where we assessed the damage. My ankle was swollen, turning purple, and hurting like heck! We called the pro shop, and they brought me a bag of ice and sympathetically offered to call the paramedics. We declined their offer, indicating that we would simply go to the E.R. that was just down the street. Once there, we waited for 45 minutes only to learn that it would probably be another two hours before I could be seen. With that, we decided it would be quicker to drive back to Grants, where we lived, and be treated at our local hospital.

My wife drove, and I moaned all the way. I was treated and then referred to Gallup where they had the facilities to set and cast my foot in a walking cast which I wore for a month. I was then able to return to work, and did I mention that my job was in the pro shop at the Coyote Golf Course? One of my many responsibilities was the renting of golf carts! I always reminded players of a key rule about golf carts: “Be certain to keep your hands and feet inside the cart, at all times!” – Dale Broker

Bone Appétit

Here is a bizarre golf injury that happened to me back in the early 1980s.

On the first tee at Arroyo del Oso golf course, a beautiful drive past the crest of the hill to the right of the fairway. Pin back left, perfect angle 200 or so yards out. I got my persimmon wood with lead weighting and started to take my practice swings and line up the perfect shot. On the third practice swing, I felt a pop and pain. My elbow hyper-extended and the bone popped out of the joint. I looked down and saw the bone sticking out past the joint, but it didn’t break the skin. I called to my brother to get my clubs and we started to walk back to the clubhouse. I went to the front desk and asked for a rain check, and they asked why. I showed them my arm with the bone sticking out and one of the employees almost lost his lunch. They gave me my rain check and then it was off to the hospital.

It took three doctors (two to hold me down and the other to pop it back into place). Three tries later it was back in place. I got a cast and then it was time to walk home. A few miles later and I was home thinking about when can I go golfing again. Good to say it has never happened again and I can still play pretty good even with the thought “is it going to happen again?” – Myke Wallace

It’s all in the wrist

I started learning golf (in Santa Fe) at the age of 70. I am now 75. Every spring, summer, or fall I have continued to take classes through the community college, and this summer I joined the Ladies of the Links Golfing Association (LLGA) at the public golf course. I am taking a LLGA basic clinic golf course this summer on Saturdays.

On April 16, 2014, I was in a community college golf class on the 9-hole Great 28 at the Marty Sanchez golf course. I was the first to tee off and was particularly confident, because I had practiced diligently on the driving range before the class. As I reminisce, my mind and emotions were thinking that I will show the class how much I have improved by driving the golf ball a long ways and landing on the green. I swung very hard (that strategy is called ” killing the ball” which my teacher had told me many times to never do!) and topped the ball, turned completely around, lost my golf club, and landed on my back putting almost all of my weight on my right wrist. I had never broken a bone before, but the minute I hit I knew that I had broken my wrist. The instructor never saw me fall and was shocked to turn around and see me on my back (a particularly unusual position for a golfer).

Then the whole class went into action! They eventually decided to make a sling out of a jacket. The poor instructor had to leave the class and kindly drove me to urgent care. The urgent care center was out of ice, so I had to watch my wrist swell larger and larger as we waited for about an hour to see a doctor. Eventually they found a small ice pack that helped for a little while.

I love golf, so in a little over three months (and after two surgeries) I was back at the golf driving range. I now swing with caution and focus, staring down the back of the ball and swinging gently using common sense. Breaking my wrist was a hard lesson for learning that golf is much more than “killing” the ball! – Carolyn Robinson

Do the limb-bone

We’re playing at Los Altos one day last year, four of us in two carts. We’re on No. 16. I’m with my buddy in a cart, and the other two are in another cart. We’re waiting in the fairway after hitting our drives. We’re waiting and waiting, and don’t see them. We look back, and one of the guys is laying on the cart path by the tee box. He had his foot out of the cart, and he caught it against the curb and drove right over it. It snapped his foot and all the ligaments, and cut a hole in the top of his foot that was exposing the bone. He passed out when he saw his bone and ligaments. – Eric Marquez, Ladera clerk

Head first

“The worst I ever heard about was what happened to Adam Geier. He was an assistant pro here (at Sandia Golf Club),” said Matt Long, the head professional at Sandia Golf Club. “He was playing near Alamogordo, I think at White Sands (Golf Club) with a friend. The friend had a shot from the bunker and hit a bad shot. The ball stayed in the bunker, and his friend got mad and threw his club, trying to hit the side of the bunker. But the club cleared the bunker by just enough that it sailed an extra 50 feet and hit Adam right on the head.

“I believe he was pronounced DOA when the paramedics got there,” says Matt Molloy, director of golf at Sandia. “Fortunately, they were able to stabilize him. But he was knocked out by the club and it was stuck in his head.”

The Journal was unable to reach Geier by the time if went to press.

“Adam always used it as a reason to never get mad on a golf course,” Long said. “He said when he used to hit bad shots, he’d get to the point that he would throw a club. But not after that. He used to give junior golf lessons here, and the first thing he would do was use the incident as an example of why you should never get mad on the course and throw a club. He’d tell the story, then let the kids feel the scar in his head. That was pretty effective.”

So what does this all mean?

Freak accidents will always happen. But stupid ones don’t have to. Keep those limbs in cart, don’t throw clubs, stay out of lakes, and mostly – let the game give you what you are seeking.

A great time.