By Mike Dougherty
MAHOPAC The odds were plainly against Bob Beggs.
For the average golfer, the chance of a hole-in-one is 12,500 to 1. When the 77-year-old from River Vale, N.J. took a couple of bad swings on the 16th hole at Putnam County Golf Course last week and suffered a heart attack shortly after climbing a steep hill to the green, the likelihood of survival was even less.
Saving par was no longer a priority.
“The way it played out is just miraculous,” Jonni Beggs said Monday from the hospital room of her husband of 54 years. “There were definitely angels in place and we are thankful to God for that.”
Sometimes it really is better to be lucky than good.
Beggs was playing a casual round last Tuesday with friends and utilizing a cart, but he reportedly took a tired swing on the 140-yard par 3 that climbs to the highest point on the course. He walked to the ball, took another hack, progressed up the hillside and eventually collapsed on the right side of the green.
A playing partner immediately ran to the nearby clubhouse to get help while others began CPR.
Jimmy Gilchrist, a seasonal course employee, dialed 911 as soon as he was notified there was a problem and whispered, “heart attack” to Dave Solomon.
The assistant golf operations manager took off, running.
“Dave came straight into the clubhouse looking for the AED,” said Putnam County Golf Course general manager Mike McCall, who confirmed that 911 had been called, handed off the automated external defibrillator and headed onto the course to guide the emergency personnel.
Solomon is a 55-year-old former physical education teacher and longtime tennis and volleyball coach at Lehman High School in the Bronx.
“We are trained over and over to deal with this kind of thing,” said the longtime Danbury, Conn. resident, who retired this spring after 34 years of teaching. “Of course, that was on the Resusci Annie manikin. She’s easy. It’s a lot harder when you’re working on a real human being.”
Beggs was not breathing, and the good Samaritans involved were struggling to find a consistent pulse.
“There were three guys taking turns, doing CPR when I got there, including one regular who stopped on his way to the range,” Solomon added. “He was blue when I hooked him up to the AED. So we shocked him once, and he started to breathe and then stopped. The AED instructed us to resume CPR, then we had to shock him a second time … You could tell he’d undergone some kind of surgery before, there was a big scar down the middle of his chest.”
According to his wife, Beggs had a heart attack years ago and underwent a triple bypass.
Emergency personnel were on scene within seven minutes. A medic from TransCare EMS took over and quickly got the now semi-conscious golfer stabilized for the ride to Putnam Hospital Center on a Mahopac Falls Volunteer Fire Department ambulance.
“I was fine in the middle of everything, setting up the AED and working on Bob,” Solomon said. “You cannot make a mistake with that machine, it will not let you even if you hit the wrong button and everything made perfect sense.
“After they pulled away, that’s when I started to get nervous.”
Beggs was transferred closer to home on Wednesday, to The Valley Hospital in Bergen County.
“I’m doing pretty good,” he said by phone Monday. “I’m still weak and I need to have a stent put in here pretty soon, but otherwise, I’m OK.”
The initial prognosis might have been grim if not for a string of extremely fortunate circumstances.
Beggs collapsed a short distance from the front door of the clubhouse of the county-owned facility, which put the only AED on site within close proximity. There were players and employees in the immediate vicinity and all of them were quickly involved. The ambulance was able to drive straight onto the green, making for a quick pick up.
“It was a really good team effort,” McCall said. “Everyone was trained. Everyone responded correctly. He was definitely fortunate it happened where it did. I have already ordered a second AED just because of this incident.”
Solomon was undoubtedly the right person in the right place at the right time.
County officials were at the course last Friday to recognize all of the employees and players who displayed grace under pressure.
“It was not his time,” Solomon said. “I mean, he went down 100 yards from the clubhouse. It was not his time. Seriously, if this happens somewhere on the other side of the golf course, Bob might not be here with us now.”
In the coming days, there will be some heartfelt thank-yous.
“Everyone involved went above and beyond,” Jonni Beggs said. “I don’t know most of these people, but they are incredible friends to me now.”