Man Wins $25k But Never Receives The Money

Back in January, Herbert Hawks made a hole-in-one on a golf simulator at the Maryland State Fairgrounds, and he won $25,000. (You can watch the winning shot here.) WBAL TV reports that as of late July he has yet to see the prize money, and every person or company the TV station has contacted passes the blame on to someone else. At the bottom of the list is Golf Marketing Worldwide, a company that insures hole-in-one contests and has a history of not paying out on contests and/or doing business in states where the company doesn’t have a license.

Here’s the line of blame as tracked down by WBAL:

  1. Maryland State Fairgrounds said they only rented the space.
  2. Contest sponsor Recreations Unlimited said they were unaware the payment hadn’t been made; a spokesman for the company said it “was out of his hands.”
  3. The company that brought the golf simulator to the state, World Golf Center of Orlando, Florida, “claimed it is having difficulty getting the insurance company that backed the contest to make the payment” even though all requirements have been met.
  4. Kevin Kolenda, CEO of the insurance company called both, and Golf Marketing Worldwide, says not all requirements have been met.

WBAL writes that they “discovered Kalenda and the company haven’t always paid as promised. Massachusetts, North Carolina, Oregon and other states issued cease and desist orders, claiming they were not licensed to sell insurance in those states.” That got us curious about Kalenda and his company, so we did a quick search on Google to see what we could dig up. This 2002 article from a Connecticut business journal shows that Golf Marketing Worldwide has done this before:

Both the [Connecticut] Insurance Department and the state attorney general received complaints in 1995 that accused Golf Marketing of not paying when contestants sunk their shots.

In May 2000, Woody Harford sunk a 100-foot putt in New York City’s Central Park for $1 million at the launch party for the now defunct Maximum Golf magazine.

Golf Marketing disputes the logistics of the shot, and did not pay Harford his prize.

“Man Wins $25K Contest; Insurance Doesn’t Pay” [WBAL Baltimore] (Thanks to Stanton!)

“Golf insurer happy with ‘minimal’ fine” [AllBusiness]


Edit Your Comment

  1. Jon Mason says:

    I cannot even begin to imagine how pissed I would be if this happened to me. If they seem to have no intention to resolve this he needs to lawyer up and file suit.

  2. Parting says:

    That sucks. The guy must have been very happy in January. Now he is stalled.

    Hopefully he won’t get 2K$ and 5K$, like the TV prize family.

  3. Yeah, a lawsuit will wake the deadbeats up.

  4. SkokieGuy says:

    In addition, since there’s TV coverage of his hole in one, the companies involved reaped (as intended) LOTS of free publicity.

    Seems like its time to lawyer up.

  5. RBecho says:

    I got to get into this insurance biz. If I can just collect premiums and never pay them back, I like those odds.

  6. mike says:

    The moral of the story is: don’t play virtual golf. Go out there and do the real thing.

    I’m assuming this guy can’t do small-claims court. ;-)

    I hate it when insurance companies do this…especially slimy ones like this one.

  7. mariospants says:

    I’m pretty sure they would stiff him just the same had he sunk a real golf ball. The entire list of slime balls need to be sued into reality.

  8. Ubermunch says:


    Dude… insurance is for suckers… Start an extended warranty company. That’s where the money is brother!

  9. PunditGuy says:

    It’s not his problem that the insurance company won’t pay; that’s World Golf Center’s problem. He needs to go after the contest sponsor, who — after paying — can go after World Golf Center for the money. Then World Golf Center can go after the insurance company for the money.

    He also needs to let his state AG know what’s going on. I don’t think contest fraud is looked on too favorably.

  10. EdnaLegume says:

    who benefited the most from the publicity. Who organized the event? I say they’re responsible. They’re also the ones that hooked up with that particular insurance company, right?

  11. Legal_Eagle_In_Training says:

    @linus: Yep, the amount is way over small claims court. He’ll have to file in state court. Unless he wants to increase his damages up to $75k for pain and suffering blah blah, he can’t file in federal court.

  12. SuffolkHouse says:


    Depends on the state. If it is run by Republicans, the chances that an AG is going to chase down a hard working insurance company just because of one greedy whiner is slim.

  13. I remember maybe 12-15 years ago a guy sunk a three-quarters-court shot at the Bulls game for a million dollars, and they tried to stiff him because he had played high school basketball (as if that would help him make a shot like that). Of course, by then it was already all over the news, and so they really had no choice in the face of all the bad publicity.

  14. Klaus_Kinsky says:


    Its all about the money. You go after the one that has the money if you want to get paid.

  15. Murph1908 says:

    IANAL, but this sounds spot on.

    World Golf Center hosted the promotion. They are on the hook for the cash. The insurance is their problem.

  16. EricaKane says:

    World Golf Center = pay up. If you can’t get your insurance to pay you back, thats your problem.

  17. Oh come on, if you don’t intend to pay the winners at least rig the software so it’s impossible to win!

  18. astrochimp says:

    Oh come on, if you don’t intend to pay the winners at least rig the software so it’s impossible to win!

    They probably thought they had.

  19. ogman says:

    Oh please people, quit complaining. Theft is now legal in the U.S. (and most other parts of the world). Consumer protections are for wimps! So, buyer beware and STFU! Quit bitchin’ and start stealin’!

    ((considering using this response for all articles on The Consumerist))

  20. hardtoremember says:

    Even if I barely broke even I would sue and make them pay.

  21. Cocotte says:

    It’s amazing how many of these hole-in-one contests there are; when I temped at Lloyds of London once I spent a day filing huge stacks of insurance contracts for hole-in-one payouts. I imagine Lloyds pays out – I gus the moral of the story is, find out who the insurer is before playing? Ouch.

  22. APFPilot says:

    @SuffolkHouse: Yeah because in Florida Charlie Crist has let the insurance comapanies get off easy.

  23. Sudonum says:

    It’s not World Of Golf who’s responsible, they just provided the equipment. Recreations Unlimited are the contests sponsers, they are the ones who need to pay up. @EricaKane: @Murph1908: @PunditGuy:

  24. PunditGuy says:

    @Sudonum: That’s why I said he needs to go after the contest sponsor. Everyone else can fight the next link in the chain to get their money back. The last link is the insurance company.

  25. Is it Maryland or Rhode Island which has a wacky contest law, which is why many contests aren’t valid there b/c the company has to hand over a big registration fee?

  26. Why are they able to get away with this? I don’t understand.

  27. Rectilinear Propagation says:

    If possible, he ought to get the same people who publicized him winning to run articles about how they won’t give him the money.

  28. msbask says:

    I’m wondering if he could sue for $37,312 since any lawyer will probably take 1/3 of his judgement.

    If he gets awarded $37,312 and the lawyer takes 33% (approx $12,312), then he’d still end up with the $25,000 he originally should have gotten.

    I don’t think he should lose 1/3 of his winnings just because they MADE him sue.

  29. juniper says:

    It’s of interest whether the winner paid to enter the contest. I’ve never seen one of these where the entrants didn’t have to pay some money to have a chance. Does anyone know? Editors?

  30. Breach says:

    Probably just a front for advertisements

  31. csdiego says:

    @msbask: If he won, I’m guessing the defendant (whoever that ends up being) will pay court costs too, so it won’t come out of his prize.

  32. Blinden says:

    That video was added by the actual company, and removed recently.

  33. EricaKane says:

    @Sudonum: I don’t think that is clear. From my reading of it, it as a golf-related exhibition convention. So the World Golf Center was there exhibiting their traveling Golf tournament. If thats the case, and I don’t really know, they were promoting themselves to potential clients and therefore were the actual person. The convention promotor could have just organized the Golf Exhibition.

  34. hawkster37 says:

    Hello, everyone and thanks for the comments. I am the guy who made the hole in one and based on the comments I take it I need a lawyer. I did pay $5.00 for the shot and it was beautifull when it went in as you can tell from the video I was a happy camper. I know someone is responsible for the money I am just not sure who. I am sure a lawyer will want to sue them all. Thanks again from Im getting my money some how!

  35. FatLynn says:

    Sorry, but if he did not pay to enter the contest, he likely has no legal recourse. I think that’s what Sudonum is getting at.

    For a contract to be valid, BOTH PARTIES have to put up something of value. If I type out a piece of paper saying that I will give you $25K and sign it, it is totally meaningless if it does not specify what you are giving me in return.

    (I suppose you could argue that the guy gave them the use of his likeness in advertising and such, but not if the coverage was just third-party media. In addition, if the value of that is considered nominal, it may not count anyway.)

  36. agency says:

    @FatLynn: Yes, but it’s not so nominal when it is compared to the expected returns of lending the publicity and taking the swing as diminished by the remoteness of the chances of winning

  37. gmoney says:

    @PunditGuy: You name’em all. Service of Process is cheap. Then let their lawyers argue with the court over who can get a summary dismissal.

  38. gmoney says:

    @FatLynn: No – You’re applying contract theory. Nobody would argue (at least as their primary position) that this is a contract breach case.

    It is in fact a tort case, one of fraud.

  39. FatLynn says:

    @gmoney: What are the damages?

  40. gmoney says:

    The expected winnings, expected in good faith. And Fraud is often trebled, though that would be a state law matter.

  41. hawkster37 says:

    I did pay $5.00 to have a chance at the $25,000

  42. coren says:

    @Victo: You mean the one that wasn’t supposed to gt anything more than the 19 inch TV?

  43. FatLynn says:

    @gmoney: But that was never his. Torts require actual legal injury, i.e. damage or loss of property.