It was supposed to be a normal day of practice for the Mesquite High School golf program at Western Skies Golf Course in Gilbert on Thursday, Aug. 15.
The team began its day like usual, spending roughly 45 minutes on the driving range before going out on the course.
But this day quickly turned into something nobody involved in the Wildcats’ golf program would have ever imagined.
“We were hitting range balls with him and about 5 minutes later he was gone,” Mesquite junior Jake McCormick said. “I heard a bag crash behind me, and I looked back and saw him on the ground.
“My immediate reaction was to tell Griffin (Cleasby) to call 911 and I ran to grab coach.”
Mesquite golf coach Jeff Holland immediately began CPR on the man, while McCormick stood nearby with a cold washcloth. Cleasby, a junior on the golf team, ran to the parking lot to wait for paramedics and lead them to the man.
“My training kicked in,” Holland said. “You always think you’ll never have to do it but when the time comes, you just have to relax. My hat goes off to my two players. Some teenagers would just ignore it.
“They took the initiative and did the right thing. I’m proud of them.”
Holland continued CPR until paramedics arrived. During that time, the man began breathing and then stopped again several times.
By the time paramedics took over, he began breathing again. He was rushed to Gilbert Mercy Hospital and admitted into the Intensive Care Unit. He remained there for over a week, fighting for his life. Holland received updates on the man’s condition from his wife.
After more nearly two weeks of fighting, Holland was informed on Wednesday, August 28, that the man had died. His son and daughter managed to come in from out of state to see him.
“I talked to the son and he thanked me because him and his sister were able to say their proper goodbyes,” Holland wrote in an email.
The quick action by Holland, McCormick and Cleasby gave the man a fighting chance at life, as well as the chance for his family to be by his side.
Holland credits the training he receives every two years, as well as the mandatory classes Gilbert Public Schools has its students take once a year in physical education classes.
But even with training, seeing the man lying on the ground was like a scene out of a horror film for the two junior golfers.
“It was scary,” Cleasby said. “I just couldn’t help but think if that were my grandpa. It was a lot to process.”
Cleasby and McCormick were sent home after the incident, as the two were too distraught to continue with practice.
It was an ordeal neither had ever experienced before. But when it happened, it was one they knew required immediate attention.
“I was just motivated to do everything I could to try and make sure he was OK,” McCormick said. “Just to think about his family, it’s sad.”
Performing CPR on a stranger, while something nobody ever hopes to go through, is a task Holland has had to do before.
Holland was in Lake Charles, Louisiana 25 years ago when he witnessed a hit-and-run that nearly turned fatal.
A car ran a red light and slammed into another, ejecting a young girl. Holland immediately began CPR on the girl, who wasn’t breathing as a result of the crash. He was able to reestablish her breathing and she made a full recovery.
Holland wasn’t thinking about his first experience with having to perform CPR when he was helping the man at Western Skies. While saddened by the ultimate outcome, he remains proud of McCormick and Cleasby for their quick-thinking to help the man in a time of need.
“In an upside-down society where people are all about me, me, me, you have to do the right thing,” Holland said. “It’s all about serving others. That’s something I try to instill in my golf and baseball program, and I couldn’t be prouder for the initiative they took.
“Jake and Griffin are the real heroes.”