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July 01, 2014 7:36 am

Lightning round: Golfers escape uninjured after bolt of lightning strikes near foursome

Written by Tom Lawrence

Well, it was Lightning Awareness Week.

Four Powell golfers are more aware of lightning than ever before. Ray Acker, Mike Dusenberry, Mike Foulger and Joe Hicks were on the third hole of the Powell Golf Club on Wednesday when a bolt from the sky struck with a resounding boom.

Hicks was briefly knocked to the ground and the other three men felt an impact from the lightning.

“A bit of a lapse in judgment,” Hicks said of their decision to be on the course as the storm approached.

None were injured, and they even were able to complete their round. They were playing during League Night, with Foulger and Dusenberry taking on Acker and Hicks.

They had just putted out on the third hole and were headed to the fourth, which would have been their final one after the traditional shotgun start.

Hicks said he heard a “boom” and was knocked to the grass. It felt as if something had hit him from behind, he said, but he did not see a lightning bolt strike the ground.

Acker said he was reaching down to retrieve a club when the lightning hit.

“I saw a flash. I didn’t see a bolt come down or anything like that,” he said. “It felt like someone smacked me on the back of the head.”

Acker dropped to a knee and saw Hicks go down. Then they all got off the green as quickly as possible.

“All I know is, we turned to walk off the green when it happened,” Foulger said. “I didn’t see the lightning, but when I did turn around Joe was on the ground already.”

He said he felt as if he had been “whacked on side of head, made me stumble a little bit” but otherwise was unscathed.

Dusenberry said he didn’t see anything, but he felt the impact.

“It was a chest-rattling, like an explosion would be,” he said.

Hicks quickly got on his feet, and the four golfers ran for their carts. As luck would have it, the third green is rather elevated.

“I was just excited about getting off the highest part of the golf course,” Foulger said. “We hustled off and got on the carts and took off for shelter.”

He said lightning had been striking while they were on the green. The foursome just wanted to finish their round and get off the course.

But the weather had another idea.

“Apparently we didn’t get off soon enough,” Foulger said.

“It came in quick,” Acker said. “We said, ‘Let’s get out of here. This is getting too close.’”

Hicks said he didn’t feel like the determined golfer in the famous scene from “Caddyshack,” who literally dragged caddy Bill Murray through a ferocious storm as he tries to set a course record. A missed putt costs the movie character the mark, and when he curses the heavens, a bolt of lighting slams into his raised putter.

“I wasn’t playing that good,” Hicks said with a laugh.

On Wednesday, things weren’t very funny. An ambulance arrived at the course later, and the crew checked Hicks’ and Acker’s pulse and blood pressure. They were fine.

Hicks, a Shoshone National Forest range specialist, said he has been trained to avoid ridgelines and high spots during storms. After this experience, he will heed that advice while on the course as well.

“I imagine when I’m golfing I will be a little more careful,” Hicks said.

He said he was feeling a tad tender on Thursday but was unsure if that was caused by two days of work on horseback or because of the lightning. Hicks laughed when told the National Weather Service had declared it Lightning Awareness Week.

“Very appropriate,” he said.

Foulger has encountered lightning before, when he was a kid and a bolt hit a tree and then traveled down a fence he was standing near. There was “a little bit of snap,” he said.

Acker said he has always respected lightning and tried to be safe when it appeared while he was golfing, hunting or fishing. But on Thursday, with his body feeling a little sensitive after the close call, he said he will be “more aware and cautious” in the future.

Foulger also was sore Thursday, much more so than he usually gets from a round of golf. He said he wasn’t sure if that was because of the lightning but it seemed likely.

Dusenberry said he only felt “my normal stiffness” the day after the round.

“I must have been the very luckiest of the four of us,” he said with a chuckle.

Dusenberry has been too close to lightning before. A few years ago, he and 11 other oil field workers were “essentially electrocuted” when a bolt slammed into a rig.

“We all felt it,” Dusenberry said, but no one was injured, and the rig itself was fine. However, there was $200,000 of damage to equipment.

He said this latest incident will “possibly” persuade him to get off the course in case of a storm.

“All we were trying to do was finish that hole,” Dusenberry said.

Foulger, who had read and heard reports about lightning awareness recently and knew it could be dangerous, said he has learned a lesson about what to do around lightning.

“Without a doubt. Puts a new perspective on it for sure,” he said. “I’m certainly not going to be holding a lightning rod in my hand or being in the highest point in the course.

“I’m going to call it good and go for cover,” Foulger said.

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