By Sarah Mansheim
It’s a good thing he handed out cash.
When two golfers hit a hole-in-one during The Greenbrier Classic last month, spectators in the grandstands received hundred dollar bills from Greenbrier owner Jim Justice. Part of the “Hole-In-One Fan Jackpot” promotion, The Greenbrier Classic had promised $100 for 18th hole spectators for the first ace, $500 for a second, and $1,000 for a third. On July 2, both George McNeill and Justin Thomas nailed the shot, and Justice handed out $192,000 in cash.
Following the event, Old White Charities, the nonprofit, financial arm of The Greenbrier Classic, made an insurance claim against the payout to the tune of $900,000 – the amount indicated in a policy taken out with its insurance broker, Bankers Insurance LLC, which is underwritten by three London, England companies, Talbot 2002 Underwriting Capital Ltd., White Mountains Re Sirius Capital Ltd., and Markel Capital Limited.
Now, the underwriters are claiming they shouldn’t be responsible for the claim, saying the yardage on the 18th hole did not meet its minimum requirement of 170 yards. They also claim the contract is void because Old White Charities never paid the $106,470 premium.
According to the suit, the policy states that the insurers will pay Old White Charities $150,000 for the first hole-in-one and $750,000 for the second. However, the suit says that other language in the contract provides that the designated hole must be at least 170 yards from the tee.
The suit says that during negotiations regarding the yardage of the 18th hole, Old White Charities stated the 18th hole was approximately 175 yards average. In an addendum to the insurance application, it is stated, “The hole to be considered for Hole-in-one coverage is #18 which plays an average of 175 yards. The pins (as always in a PGA tour event) will be set in a new location each morning of the Greenbrier Classic by the PGA. The insured has no idea nor will have any influence as to where the pins will be set.”
Old White Charities claims that it did not agree to the Minimum Yardage Representation or know that such representation was included in the policy, according to the suit.
The Greenbrier lists the 18th hole, when played from the farthest tee, at 175 yards, but there are other conflicting stories. A video of Thomas’ hole-in-one, posted by the PGA Tour, lists the 18th hole as 175 yards, but a story on the holes-in one on the PGA website called the hole 137 yards.
West Virginia Metro News called the hole 175 yards. A Gazette-Mail story listed the hole as 137 yards, as did the Golf Channel.
Further, the complaint alleges that Old White Charities never paid the premium to begin with. The premium was due by July 1, and as of Aug. 19, when the suit was filed, no policy premium had been paid.