Golfer uses putter to fight gator at Magnolia Landing

Reporter: Lois Thome
Published: Updated:
This alligator attacked a golfer on the course at Magnolia Landing Golf and Country Club in North Fort Myers (Photo via Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission).

NORTH FORT MYERS, Fla. Every golfer needs a putter he can rely on — especially when an alligator decides to play through.

North Fort Myers resident Tony Aarts used his Cleveland Golf putter to subdue a 10-foot gator that attacked him Wednesday as he was approaching the fourth hole at Magnolia Landing Golf & Country Club.

“As I was walking about 5 to 6 feet away from the water I heard a splash, and as soon as I heard that splash I knew it was an alligator, and he got me,” Aarts said.

The gator grabbed Aarts by his right ankle. He wound up on his back and rolled into the nearby water hazard as they struggled.

“I remember having a club in my hand, and as soon as he had me in the water up to my waist, I started hitting him over the head,” Aarts said.

The gator didn’t give up easily, and soon the water was up to Aarts’ chest.

“He was looking at me with his big eyes, and I kept hitting him,” Aarts said. “And I’m thinking I’m getting deeper and deeper, and I thought you’re not gonna get me.”

A subtle change of club technique helped turn the tide in Aarts’ favor.

“I started hitting him in the eye socket,” Aarts said. “I hit him three times and he let go of my foot, so I crawled back out and by that time the guys were there.”

The guys were officers from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, who captured the gator and put it down.

Aarts has been living in Florida for more than 35 years and has seen plenty of gators — just not this close.

“It’s a good thing I had that putter,” he said. “It’s a good, solid, heavy putter.”

The fight left him with an amazing story to tell, as well as some advice to impart to others on the course.

“I guess a golfer should always keep a club in his hand,” Aarts said.

And FWC has advice for anyone who comes across an alligator they believe could pose a threat: Call FWC’s toll-free Nuisance Alligator Hotline at 866-FWC-GATOR (866-392-4286).

The FWC uses contracted nuisance alligator trappers to remove alligators believed to pose a threat to people, pets or property.

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