Out of the rough: Golf staff saves caddie's life

BEAUFORT -- Ron Klusick has returned only twice to Secession Golf Club on Gibbes Island in the three weeks since he nearly died there, under a tree on its 15th hole.

"It's pretty strange to go back," he said. "Everyone seems to know who I am now and seems to be glad that I'm alive."

Klusick, 58, was working as a caddie Feb. 20 when he suffered onset cardiac arrest. He said he remembers little about his heart attack.

Klusick, who has been a caddie at Secession for four years, said he might not have lived had he suffered the heart attack somewhere else.

"I was right there where they had the paddles and where people could get to me quickly," he said. "If I had been on the other end of the course, or even 300 or 400 yards away, I'm not sure I would have made it."

Klusick was in good hands, thanks to the training that about 30 club staff members -- including security guards, course maintenance crew members and bartenders -- receive annually from the American Red Cross in first aid, CPR and the use of an automated external defibrillator.

Though well-trained, staff members do not have many opportunities to put their training into use, said John Marsh, the club's director of operations.

"We occasionally have members that don't feel well or something like that," Marsh said. "We've never had anything happen like this."

Marsh and Greg Crum, the club's caddie master, received word at the same time of an unconscious person on the 15th hole, just yards from the clubhouse, the men said.

Marsh said he nearly forgot the defibrillator in the clubhouse as he hurried to Klusick's aid.

Crum said he acted largely on instinct.

"I was over on the putting green when I heard that there was someone unconscious on 15," Crum said. "I ran in that direction and John and I converged. Once we were out there, we performed CPR and hooked (Klusick) up to the (defibrillator), which advised that we give him a shock."

Within three minutes, firefighters and paramedics were on scene, including Lt. Robbie Morgan, a Lady's Island-St. Helena firefighter.

When they saw the men performing CPR on Klusick, they assumed the worst but were surprised by what happened.

Klusick had no pulse when firefighters and paramedics arrived.

"He took a big gasp of air and we got his pulse back," Morgan said. "The paramedic asked a question and he answered and he actually tried to sit up. I mean, that almost never happens. You see that kind of stuff in movies and think, 'Man, that never happens.' I guess it does. Everything went right in this situation."

Within nine minutes, Klusick was talking and responsive en route to Beaufort Memorial Hospital, said Lee Levesque, fire district spokesman.

Klusick was then flown to the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston. He was discharged four days later with no permanent damage to his heart, he said.

Firefighters say had it not been for the quick thinking of Marsh, Crum and George Smith, a fellow caddie who helped Crum perform CPR, Klusick would not be alive.

Marsh, Crum and Smith received certificates and were named honorary members of the Lady's Island-St. Helena Fire District by Chief Bruce Kline. The men are the first honorary members in the fire district's 40-year history.