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Golfer hits ace months after heart attack on same hole

After suffering from a heart attack on the golf course, Dan Lennon of Rockville Centre lived to tell the tale and score a hole-in-one at the same hole where Rod McWalters of Rockville Centre was there to help save him. Credit: Johnny Milano

Dan Lennon considers himself extremely lucky.

While playing golf last October, he suffered a severe heart attack on the 17th hole at Rockville Links Club. Someone trained in CPR just happened to be playing an adjacent hole and the course’s defibrillator just happened to be only a short golf cart ride away.

“Everything just fell into place,” said Lennon, a 66-year-old retired government bond dealer from Rockville Centre. He was taken to the hospital, underwent quadruple-bypass surgery two days later, made a full recovery and went back to playing golf.

Then Lennon’s luck collided with coincidence.

On Aug. 9, he made a hole-in-one on the same 17th hole at Rockville Links.

“I actually look at it as a lucky hole because had I been anywhere else, I probably would have died,” Lennon said while sitting in the clubhouse recently. “So, I have really only good thoughts about it.”

Jon Tellekamp, his friend and golf companion for 25 years, witnessed Lennon’s hole-in-one last month and was near the 17th green shouting for help a bit more than nine months earlier. This time, he stood in the same spot, shouting for joy.

“He basically died and came back to life,” Tellekamp said. “I guess to that extent, it was a lucky hole. And now it’s a very lucky hole.

“I have been around a couple holes-in-one and it’s always a joyful moment,” Tellekamp, also a Rockville Centre resident, said, “but this was extremely unique.”

Among the first people Lennon texted to tell about his hole-in-one was Rockville Centre’s Rod McWalters, who had been playing on the 11th hole last Oct. 30, about 50 yards from where Lennon collapsed. Only three days earlier, McWalters had taken a CPR course at work, so he immediately took charge.

“A guy gets a hole-in-one on the same hole, less than a year later. You cannot make up stories like this,” McWalters said.

The first person to see Lennon’s tee shot land in the hole was Kevin Flynn, the group’s caddie who is also a Rockville Centre resident.

“No one believed me,” said Flynn, an Army veteran who served in Afghanistan.

He also had been the first to see Lennon take a deep breath after the cardiac incident. Flynn was working for other golfers that day, heard the commotion and rushed to the golf bag storage room because he knew that is where the defibrillator was. He raced back to No. 17 in a cart and attached the device’s paddles to Lennon’s chest. That scene flashed back to him amid the excitement over the hole-in-one.

“It was poetic,” Flynn said. “You really can’t make this type of stuff up.”

Lennon will be the first to say his heart has been with Rockville Links, the private club in his hometown, since his wife, Diane, bought a membership for him on his 30th birthday. Most of what he knows about Oct. 30 comes from what others have told him because he lost consciousness before he knew anything was wrong.

He has learned that his caddie, Otis Hampton, tried to give him his putter, but that he hit the ground before grabbing it. Doctors eventually told Lennon that the incident technically was a sudden cardiac arrest.

“I had no symptoms, no shortage of breath,” he said, adding that he is grateful that a member of the South Hempstead Fire Department’s ambulance staff had worked on the course’s greens crew, so he knew right where the 17th hole was.

There had not been a second to spare.

“He was actually gray,” Tellekamp said. “He was on the ground, and I was thinking, ‘Wow, because I didn’t know CPR, one of my closest friends has passed away.’ ”

But McWalters was in the right place at precisely the right moment. He had studied lifesaving techniques at Hewlett High School some 30 years earlier, but he still wonders if he would have jumped in had he not taken a refresher course at the office in Connecticut that week.

“The most informative part of the whole course was when the guy said, ‘If you do nothing, they’re already dead,’ ” McWalters said in a telephone interview the other day. “That message to me was, ‘Do something.’ ”

McWalters said he never will forget the feeling he had when an emergency medical technician told him that Lennon was alive: “Slightly overwhelmed, but wonderful. Not every day do you get that close to a miracle. Dan is a very lucky guy. He has recovered, he is golfing, he is totally living life to the fullest.”

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