A billionaire fishing tackle magnate unearthed a massive cave system underneath a sinkhole that formed on his golf course.
Bass Pro Shops founder Johnny Morris originally began to dig into the sinkhole after it opened up in May 2015 at his Top of the Rock golf course. By February 2016, the sinkhole had grown to 200 feet across and continued to get deeper. It was then that Morris decided to dig and try to figure out what might be underneath it.
"When we had that big rain in December we thought there would be a big pond here," project supervisor Jimmy Wolfinbarger told the News-Leader in February. "But the water doesn't stay, it leaves. It makes you think something's down there."
Morris, a cave enthusiast who founded Bass Pro Shops in 1974 and is now worth $4.4 billion, opened Top of the Rock in 2014 and discovered the sinkhole along the putting green a year later.
Officials were “in a panic” and experts suggested filling the hole and getting back to business as usual.
Soon, however, water from a pond drained into the sinkhole, and a worker who was near a cave Morris owned nearby reported some water pouring through it.
“So I knew there was a connection,” Morris said, the Daily Mail reported. “And that’s when we started to dig.”
The dig uncovered limestone formations, which Morris said are clues that there are caverns underneath the hole.
“What knits this story together is the gushing of water from the sinkhole that went some way, somehow out the passage of that cave,” Bass Pro Shops director of conservation Martin Mac Donald told the News-Leader in February.
"He hopes to find a massive cave system that we hope is between here and there."
Despite the massive undertaking involved, Morris — who discovered a cave nearby the sinkhole in 1993 — said he’s excited about what is potentially underneath.
“Whether it's just like a foxhole thing you have to crawl in or whether there's big caverns, that's the mystery, and that's the exciting part of all of this,” Morris said.
"People say I'm crazy but I'm happy about every nickel we've spent down here," he added, without disclosing the amount he's spent to date on the excavation.