During the third round of the PlayGolfMyrtleBeach.com World Amateur Handicap Championship, Harry Whitt of West Point, Va., hit a good drive on the 15th hole at Indian Wells Golf Club.
But it wasn’t the best drive of his life, and he certainly didn’t want it to be the last.
Moments after hitting the shot on Aug. 29, Whitt collapsed on the tee box and his heart stopped beating.
His playing partners called the pro shop and 911, and one attempted to perform CPR.
Luckily for Whitt, Indian Wells first assistant Bobby McCullough was the pro who answered the phone, raced to the 15th tee and sprang into action. McCullough took a hiatus of six years into 2016 from his golf career to be a nursing tech in emergency at Tidelands Health Georgetown Memorial Hospital.
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McCullough took over an aggressive CPR until paramedics arrived several minutes later.
“Another person was attempting CPR and I did not feel a pulse on Mr. Whitt, so I began and took over compressions at that point,” McCullough said. “As time elapsed, I did regain a pulse and was able to feel it and sustain it.
“. . . When he left here, he had a pulse, but I honestly did not feel good about it because typically that doesn’t happen. This man being in our golf shop a week later, that doesn’t happen, but it did. It was like, ‘What?’ ”
Whitt, 65, said he was on life support on a ventilator later that afternoon at Grand Strand Medical Center when the hospital staff called his wife and son and alerted them he might not survive, and they began the fretful drive to the Strand.
“They said, ‘You all better come on, he might not make it,’ ” Whitt said. “They talked to them a couple times. About an hour after the last time, the nurse called them back and said, ‘Well, you’re not going to believe this, but he woke up and it looks like he’s going to be fine.’ ”
Whitt said the only lingering effect of the cardiac arrest is soreness in his chest from the CPR “but that’s getting a whole lot better now,” he said.
“Not many people get to die and come back and talk about it,” Whitt said. “I got real lucky. It was just like a perfect storm, to have somebody there. If I had been driving anywhere by myself or with somebody that didn’t know it, I’d have been gone.”
McCullough and Indian Wells second assistant Charlie Cox, who is also a registered nurse, said there is just a 2 percent chance of survival after that type of cardiac arrest, and of those who survive, there is a high likelihood of long-term brain damage.
“He picked a good place for it to happen,” Cox said. “An unwitnessed event like that the person dies for sure. CPR needs to be started within minutes of that happening or they don’t make it.”
Yet Whitt ended up fine.
He was in the hospital the night of the cardiac arrest, spent the entire next day in the hospital and was released on Aug. 31, about 48 hours after his heart stopped.
Whitt went to Indian Wells to meet McCullough within a few days of being released from the hospital and thanked him for saving his life.
“That was pretty powerful,” McCullough said. “It was, because that’s just not something you’re used to in the ER. . . . If they are somebody saved, they’re either kicked up to [the intensive care unit] or shipped to MUSC. You may never see them again.”
Whitt said medical tests showed he did not suffer a heart attack and doctors aren’t exactly sure why his heart stopped. “The whole situation is weird,” Whitt said.
Whitt, the treasurer of King William County in Virginia since 1996, was playing in Flight 42 for men ages 60-69 with handicaps of 16.2 to 17.4.
He was playing in his 10th World Am and he has had a good amount of success, winning his flight twice and finishing in the top six another couple times. “Either I do real good or I die,” Whitt joked.
Whitt said he doesn’t remember anything for several hours after he hit his drive down the middle on the 15th hole, which was the group’s sixth hole of the round.
From his playing partners’ accounts, he stepped back after his shot and fell backwards. “They thought I was kidding with them,” Whitt said. “I think they thought it was so good compared to how I was playing that I was just playing with them when I fell out.”
Whitt plans to return for his 11th World Am next year, and is first registered for the 72-hole Myrtle Beach Fall Classic from Nov. 12-15.
He’ll have one more person pulling for him to win his flight for a third time.
“I think that will create a bond that will last a lifetime,” McCullough said.
Golfweek event back
The sixth annual Golfweek Program Challenge will conclude Tuesday in Pawleys Island.
The 54-hole event features men’s and women’s teams from 16 colleges playing at Caledonia Golf & Fish Club and True Blue Golf Club, which have hosted the event since its inception in 2012.
It has a rare format, allowing men’s and women’s teams to compete together and separately, with winners crowned for men’s, women’s and combined scores.
The 2017 tournament was canceled due to the threat of severe weather from Hurricane Irma, but the schools are getting the tournament in before the arrival of Hurricane Florence later this week.
Campbell University returned to defend its 2016 crown against Austin Peay, Tennessee Tech, Valparaiso, Presbyterian, Florida Gulf Coast, Jacksonville State, Alabama State, Stephen F. Austin, South Dakota, Bradley, Delaware, Old Dominion and Gardner-Webb.
Tee times are from about 7:30-9 a.m. Tuesday, and men are playing at True Blue and women are at Caledonia. The tournament is open to spectators for free.