Golf has always had an image problem. If you think it’s a sport for delicate snobs, meet Tony Aarts.
Or more precisely, meet his right foot.
It’s currently wrapped in bandages and propped on a pillow in his Cape Coral, Fla., home. Four staples have closed puncture wounds where an alligator tried to turn Aarts into dinner.
“I feel darned lucky I’m alive,” he said.
People think football, hockey and mixed martial arts are tough, but when was the last time Tom Brady had to fight off a man-eating monster during a game?
Aarts did last week in an astronomically bizarre encounter that should give golf a jolt of street cred. The sport is not just a bunch of manicured One Percenters whose only injury risk would be pulling a hamstring trying to chase women off the premises.
Most golfers are like Tony. He’s retired from the construction business in Ontario. He’s not into manicures or pedicures.
He spends half the year in Florida, where he tees it up with buddies two or three times a week. They were on the fifth hole at Magnolia Landing Golf & Country Club, a par-5 with a big pond near the green.
Aarts hit a nice approach shot that stopped about 10 feet from the pin. He got his Cleveland putter and the other golfers went ahead in their carts.
Aarts was walking toward the green, about 5 feet from the water’s edge. He was thinking birdie.
The alligator was thinking Aarts looked pretty tasty.
“Maybe because I’m an old guy it thought it could chew me easier,” he said.
Aarts is 75, but all those years working construction have made him a tough chew. He was startled by the splashing sound and jumped.
The gator snagged him by the right ankle and dragged him toward the water.
“He was digging in sand like a dog pulling on a towel,” Aarts said.
Aarts tried to dig his heels into the sand and grass without much luck. He started pounding the gator with his putter.
“It was like hitting a barn door,” he said.
This was a John Daly-sized beast. Ten feet long and more than 300 pounds.
Aarts was in waist-deep water when it occurred to him to go for the gator’s eyes. He whacked the eye sockets four times and the monster finally loosened its jaws.
Aarts feels fortunate, but he’s also wildly unlucky. The odds of an amateur golfer getting a holein-one are 12,500 to 1. The odds of getting attacked by an alligator are 2.4 million to 1.
About 50 million rounds of golf were played in Florida last year, and there were only seven alligator attacks of any kind. They occasionally attack people bobbing for golf balls.
It’s almost unheard of for one to spring onto land and go after an adult minding his or her own business, golf or otherwise.
It’s hard to say what this particular alligator was thinking since it is now being turned into a nice pair of boots. Maybe it was still mad over the election results, or it had really bad eyesight and mistook Aarts for a pelican.
Whatever, it picked on the wrong dude.
Aarts hobbled off the course and headed to the nearest emergency room. He got there and decided it was too crowded, so he said “the heck with it” and went home.
The horrified look on his wife’s face convinced him to go back. Now she knows how Giselle Bunchen would feel every Sunday if her husband faced an alligator blitz.
“I’m sore, but I’m not going to be out very long,” Aarts said. “I’m a tough guy.”
Just look at his right foot. It has the scars to prove it.