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Golf tournament's cash giveaway in the weeds with insurers

Posted On: Aug. 28, 2015 12:00 AM CST

A golf tournament’s generous promotional giveaway has landed it in the rough with its insurer.

Billionaire resort owner Jim Justice had offered cash prizes to spectators at the 18th hole if any golfer got a hole-in-one there during the PGA’s July Greenbrier Classic at the Greenbrier Resort in Sulphur Springs, West Virginia.

According to media reports, two golfers — George McNeill and Justin Thomas — both sank holes-in-one on the 18th at the Old White TPC course.

Mr. Justice dramatically paid out $18,900 in crisp, fresh bills (at $100 per person) to fans for the first shot and $173,500 (at $500 per fan) for the second, plus the tournament paid an additional $75,000 to charities of the golfers’ choice.

The tournament’s charity arm, Old White Charities, had purchased insurance that covered such payouts, but underwriters were quick to grab the rule book and look for penalty strokes.

According to media reports, the insurers have filed suit in U.S. District Court in Beckley, West Virginia, claiming the charity didn’t pay its latest premium of $106,470, which was due a day before the tournament began. If that fails, the policy purportedly requires a bankable hole-in-one be a minimum of 170 yards, while the underwriters argue the aces on the par-3 18th hole were hit from only 137 yards.

As the dispute spills over to the 19th hole, both sides can express relief there wasn’t a third hole-in-one: The promised payout would have been $1,000 per fan.