ENGLEWOOD (FOX 13) - Deputies say a contractor diving for golf balls was flown to the hospital after being bitten by an alligator along a course in Charlotte County this afternoon.
It happened at hole number six of the Palms course at the Rotonda Golf and Country Club in the community of Rotonda. Scott Lahodik was bitten on the left arm while diving and managed to break free, but suffered a significant injury to his arm.
The 51-year-old was able to crawl out of the water to go get help.
“He drove up in his utility cart. He was out of it so we didn't get a chance to talk to him much, but he did make it up here. He's a big guy; he's not a small guy,” country club general manager David Kelly recalled. “I was able to see the wound, so he did have a good hold of him. There's quite a bit of flesh wounds.”
Lahodik was flown to a hospital in Lee County where he underwent surgery.
Course officials said they’d hired Lahodik to remove all of the golf balls from the ponds at the country club. They described him as the president of Golf Balls International and said he’s been diving at courses around the country for 30 years.
Golfers on the course today agreed that it seemed like a risky job.
"It's questionable. Very questionable. I wouldn't do it,” golfer Dale Meninga offered.
“He shouldn't be in the water. That's for the gators,” Jim Healy added. “We hit the golf balls in there; the gators eat them."
The view from SkyFOX this afternoon showed a large alligator peering out from the pond while Florida Fish & Wildlife officers looked on. They seemed fairly confident that they had the correct alligator.
“In this instance, the alligator doesn’t have a body part to confirm it, but we'll find the most aggressive alligator and then we will talk to the complainant -- the guy that got attacked -- and we'll ask him how big it was and match it up that way,” explained FWC Lt. Michael Frantz.
By 5 p.m., trappers had pulled the 10-foot gator out of the water and it was on its way to being euthanized.
Alligators are a known hazard at many golf courses in Florida. The animals are often drawn to ponds and creeks along the fairways.
“This is a pretty active season right now,” Lt. Frantz continued. “Whenever it gets hot like this, the alligators get more active. I wouldn't say it's rare, but it doesn’t happen a lot either. Once a year probably we have an incident in this area."