Frank Szakal returned to the golf course where he once cheated death, and he returned with a new-found passion for the game.
Battling in the season opening Payson Men's Golf Association four-man scramble March 22 at Payson Golf Course, Szakal teamed with Gary Vaplon, Armand Werle and Jack Gibbs to take first place with a net score of 45.6.
The last time the 64-year-old Szakal played in a tournament at PGC, Oct. 5, he collapsed after his heart stopped beating.
His three playing partners, Troy Neal, John Pauley and Tim Ernst, along with registered nurse Laura Meyocks, applied life-saving resuscitation until Payson Fire Department paramedics arrived with a defibrillator to begin life support.
After being treated by the PFD, Szakal was airlifted directly from the third hole at PGC to a coronary care unit at Good Samaritan Hospital in Phoenix.
Szakal's physician, Dr. Ali Askari, found a blocked artery, installed a stint and a high-tech combination pacemaker and defibrillator called an ICD (Implantable Cardioverter Defibrillator).
"My doctor said that fewer than 20 percent of the people who have a heart attack like I did, live," Szakal said. "And those that do are usually brain damaged."
Szakal is sure it was the quick thinking of Meyocks, Neal, Pauley and Ernst that prevented him from becoming another heart attack statistic.
"When my heart stopped they kept me alive with (chest compressions) that moved the blood to my brain and heart," Szakal said. "They also gave me mouth to mouth (resuscitation) until the fire department got to me."
Less than a month after the attack, Szakal returned to Payson to thank the four who were there in his time of need.
"There was an angel sitting on my shoulder, that's for sure," he said. "That angel and my good friends saved my life."
Finishing second behind the winning foursome was John Waring, Dick Harding, Russ Morris and Richard Jones. The team posted a 46.
Chris Crumpton, Tom Dahl, Dick Ceyler and Sil Egler joined forces to tally a 48 and finish third.
Fourth place honors were garnered by Warren Mulcahy and Herb Sherman Ernst with a 48.8.
Anyone interested in joining the PMGA should call Ross Robertson at (928) 472-8548.