In a hole: Mark Mihal's round went so wrong
In a hole: Mark Mihal's round went so wrong

A man climbed out of a deadly sinkhole alive after the earth opened and swallowed him up during a round of golf.

Mark Mihal was sent tumbling into darkness when a sinkhole suddenly opened beneath his feet at the 14th fairway of the course in Waterloo, Illinois.

The frightening incident happened just days after a man was killed while lying in bed in his home near Tampa, in Florida. Buddy Wicker vanished down a sinkhole which opened without warning. Rescuers were unable to get his body back above ground for days afterwards.

His golfing buddies frantically called the clubhouse for help after disaster struck the foursomes group

Mihal described what it is like inside one of dark subterranean caverns which have made so many headlines in recent weeks.

"Looking up, it appeared to be shaped like a bell,"

"I felt the ground start to collapse and it happened so fast that I couldn't do anything," Mark said later. "I reached for the ground as I was going down and it gave way, too. It seemed like I was falling for a long time.

"The real scary part was I didn't know when I would hit bottom and what I would land on," he told Golfmanna magazine.

Wife Lori Mihal added: "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.

"Mark has always been claustrophobic. He was beginning to panic and was in shock; he was also 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.

"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. "

"The thoughts of being buried alive were running through Mark's mind.

"Dirt was falling on his head the whole time he was down below; his friends and the golf club staff knew that timing was everything and wanted to get him out as soon as possible.

Golf partner Ed Magaletta bravely descended into the hole on a ladder and helped injured Mihal make the ascent.

Lori said the incident was "unreal."

"I was just dumbfounded, and didn't even know how to process it. 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.

"We're very fortunate that Mark wasn't injured worse than he was - or even killed. It's just another reminder to hold your loved ones close and thank God for all the blessings we've been given."

A giant sinkhole that swallowed several homes is seen in Guatemala City February 23, 2007. Three people were confirmed missing, officials said.