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FT MYERS (CBSMiami/AP) – “I started punching … he let go.”

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That’s how Scott Lahodik described his narrow escape after an alligator clamped down on his arm while he was diving for golf balls in a lake.

“He just came and, full blast, grabbed my arm all the way back in his throat and then he started to roll with me,” Lahodik said from his hospital room in the southwest Florida city of Fort Myers. “He rolled a couple times and then he still didn’t let go so I knew I had to do something, so I started punching him up by the eye and then he let go.”

He said he punched the gator in the eyes and managed to get out of the water.

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“I was going to lay down on the green, but I knew if I did I didn’t think I would make it,” he said.

He ended up getting in a golf cart and driving away for help.

His wife, Maritza Lahodik, said she’ll never forget the call from her husband moments after he escaped the animal’s jaws.

“I got a call with him screaming on the other line with a gut-wrenching sound telling me that he had been attacked by an alligator,” she said. “Given the fact that this gator was the size that it was, where it happened and how it had happened, I have no qualms about saying that this was a miracle, that I believe that God was protecting him.”

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Lahodik said he’d made a career diving for golf balls since he retired from the military in 1988. He has 400 stitches and staples in his arm and thinks his diving days are over.