George Wardell was hitting practice balls at Tauranga Golf Club on Monday when his medical skills were needed to save a life.
One of the golfers competing at the EVES Five Course Classic underway at five Western Bay golf courses this week suffered a heart attack on the fourth green.
Tournament organiser Chris McAlpine grabbed the club’s defibrillator, jumped in a golf cart and picked up Wardell en route to the fourth green.
With an ambulance on its way former Chiefs rugby trainer Wardell, 24, put his training into lifesaving mode.
“Chris McAlpine came flying down in a cart, and one of the pro staff came out with the defib. We whipped down there, and I have been fortunate enough to do some practice with surf life guarding so I took the defib and carried on like it was another practice really,” Wardell said.
“It was pretty serious. He wasn’t in great condition to be fair. We administered two shocks on the club’s [defibrillator], and then St John staff administered another three, and he came right after that.”
Wardell says having a defibrillator on site played a key role in saving the golfer’s life.
“It was huge. In my working life in the past with the Chiefs, we took a defib everywhere so it was really comforting to know there was one right there and could take it down straight away. It just makes the process so much easier.
“You should expect it to happen at a golf course, but for some reason, I didn’t expect it to happen here. It is exerting enough round the first six or seven holes here up and down hills, so it can take a bit of a toll on people especially with the heat at the moment.”
Wardell has recently moved to Tauranga and played in the Bay of Plenty men’s golf team at last year’s Tower Interprovincial tournament.
Monday’s incident added extra drama to the EVES Five Course Classic, regarded by Phil Aitken of NZ Golf as the biggest in the Southern Hemisphere and one of the world’s largest individual 90-hole Stableford tournaments.
This week 372 golfers from 11 different countries and from 90 New Zealand golf clubs are taking part in the 23rd consecutive running of the event played at Tauranga, Mount Maunganui, Omanu, Te Puke and Omokoroa courses.
“Other districts in New Zealand are starting to get on to this. [EVES Five Course] is the longest-standing one and it is unique in its size. It began 23 years ago and has grown and grown,” McAlpine said.
“Any profit from the event goes directly back to the clubs involved.”
More than 80 players are from Australia with most from Queensland where the temperatures are too hot to play golf in.
“We have some amazing connections at the tournament. One couple have come from the UK just to meet up with their family from Australia, and they are all here to play golf as a family unit,” McAlpine said.
“This is the third year that Bay of Plenty Golf have taken over the running of the tournament. Basically, it is myself and Jane King who is a board member. She does all the player liaison and does a fantastic job.”