A quick-thinking Florida golfer escaped the clutches of an alligator when he used his golf club to thwart the attack, he told InsideEdition.com.
Tony Aarts was coming up on the fourth hole of his golf game at the Magnolia Landing Golf & Country Club Wednesday afternoon when he suddenly found himself being dragged away by a large gator, he said.
“I heard a big splash behind me … and an alligator was right there. It grabbed my right foot,” the 75-year-old Cape Coral man told InsideEdition.com. “I was on my back and he got ahold of my foot, trying to grab me in—well, he did drag me in.”
Aarts yelled trying to get the attention of his friends, but said he realized he would have to take matters into his own hands if he wanted to make it out of the encounter alive.
“I was up to my knees and it was shaking its head, trying to wiggle me into the water. I thought ‘Oh God, I’m in trouble’ and I remembered I had the golf club,” he said.
Aarts began hitting the alligator in the head and body, but saw that those blows weren’t make much of a difference.
“You don’t want to hurt them at first … like when a dog grabs you, you might hit it but you don’t club it to death – but this wasn’t a dog,” he said. “I started hitting him in the eye—I thought that was my only chance. It let go and I scrambled backwards and by that time the guys were there.”
Aarts made it out of the encounter with three puncture wounds and considerable bruising, he said.
He was taken to a local hospital, where he was treated and released, and Aarts said he is due back for a follow-up appointment on Wednesday.
State wildlife workers captured the alligator and put it down.
There have been 388 alligator bites varying in severity—but including 24 fatalities—in Florida from 1948 to 2016, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission reports.
Aarts said he had seen the gator that attacked him before, as the nearly 10-foot long, 300-pound female stuck out.
“Not very often do you see them that big on a golf course,” he said.
He credited good luck for his ability to come out of the attack relatively unscathed.
“I was lucky because I was on slippery, grassy area. I was lucky because the lake was heavily sloped and not steep. And I had a putter in my hand,” Aarts said. “If I didn’t have a good, heavy putter, I would’ve been gone for sure. I would’ve been defenseless ... in one, two seconds I would have been gone.”
Though the encounter has left Aarts acutely aware of a gator’s power, he said it will not stop him from returning to the golf course.
“I’m going to come back on Wednesday—I want to ride around and I want to make sure I can handle being there,” he said. “If I’m going to play golf, I have to think of the ball, not the alligator.”