WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, W. Va. – The best way to get rich might be to grab a seat at The Greenbrier Classic.
Resort owner Jim Justice has a simple proposition for fans at the Old White TPC: if you’re sitting in the grandstand on 18 when someone makes a hole-in-one, you’re going to get paid. The offer was a hit last year, and Justice brought it back for this year’s event – although he probably didn’t expect to be reaching into his pocket quite this quickly.
Playing in the fifth group of the morning wave, George McNeill jarred a pitching wedge from 137 yards, earning $100 apiece for each of the spectators with the foresight to arrive early.
“A lot of new friends on 18, yeah. They were all thanking me as I walked off,” McNeill said. “I stole a line from Bubba Watson, I said, ‘You’re welcome.’”
It was McNeill’s second ace in as many competitive rounds at The Greenbrier, as he made a hole-in-one on No. 8 last year en route to a final-round 61 and a runner-up finish.
“We couldn’t see it from the tee, and just people started screaming and yelling,” McNeill said. “My caddie looked over and he goes, ‘I think you got a car.’ I go, ‘Well, I don’t know, I guess we’ll find out when I get finished.’ But guys come up and high-five and everything else. I didn’t know what to think.”
The festivities were only beginning on No. 18, as hours later Justin Thomas made an ace with a pitching wedge on the same hole. While McNeill’s hole-in-one paid $100 per person, Thomas’ shot paid out $500 to each fortunate spectator.
"It looked really good the whole way. As soon as it landed I said, 'Go in,'" Thomas said. "You could see everyone was just going crazy. It's all the more reason for them to get excited than just to see an ace."
The hole-in-one promotion continues for the rest of the tournament, and the next ace on No. 18 will pay $1,000 to every person in the grandstands when the shot is struck. After that, though, the money train stops for the week, even should there be additional aces on the home hole.
The total tab for McNeill's ace was $18,900 in fan cash, plus $25,000 to the charity of McNeill's choice, while Thomas' hole-in-one meant $173,500 in cash and $50,000 to charity.
Last year Bud Cauley’s final-round hole-in-one was the only one recorded at No. 18, paying out $100 per person.