Three days. Two courses. A big winner.
That was the tagline for the Big Money Golf Classic, a Florida-based mini-tour that debuted last January and held its second edition last month at Orange County National in Winter Garden, Florida. With a purse of $ 400,000 and a top prize of $ 100,000, the 186-participant Big Money Classic attracted many of the development tour’s top players for the second year in a row, including several members of the Korn Ferry. Tour, with former North Florida star MJ Maguire knocking out former PGA Tour player Tom Lovelady in the playoffs to take home the winner’s check. Or at least he thought so.
First reported by Ryan French of Firepit Collective (aka Monday Q Info), Maguire and at least 23 other players have yet to receive their prize money, an amount which French says exceeds $ 300,000, while Orange County National still owes more than $ 50,000. The North Florida PGA Chapter still has not seen $ 7,500 for providing rules officials and many other players have not been reimbursed for entry fees for future events.
Meanwhile, Big Money Events founder Dustin Manning, a former golf professional who also runs a referee supply company, is the man at the center of the controversy, with the Frenchman reporting that Manning hired lawyers then as questions continue to pile up on missing funds.
Manning provided a statement to GolfChannel.com, in addition to posting it on social media, claiming that “unforeseeable events” resulted in past due payments to players: “Big Money Events, LLC’s number one priority is to get any player who owes money from the Big Money Golf Classic December 2021 paid in full in addition to the refund of all paid entries for future events. Unpredictable events occurred which led Big Money Events, LLC to owe players money at the Big Money Golf Classic in December 2021. From a sponsor who withdrew to a large hold on our card processor. credit, the company is now unable to meet its current obligations. Big Money Events, LLC will be in direct contact with all players who now owe any winnings or reimbursement of registration fees.
French reports that have examined documents show that the deal between Big Money and the potential sponsor was merely verbal, and that Square, a financial services firm, has confirmed that it does indeed hold $ 254,000 in escrow due to a violation of their terms and conditions. But as French also notes, that amount of money is not enough to cover everything owed, which has prompted some players to contact law enforcement, including the FBI.
Maguire, who won $ 80,000 after he and Lovelady agreed to split the top two prizes ($ 100,000 and $ 50,000) and play instead for $ 5,000, told GolfChannel.com he had spoken to Manning, but preferred not to comment on the details. He added that his lawyer was handling the case so he could focus on the opening of the Korn Ferry Tour in the Bahamas, which begins on Sunday.
In addition to Maguire, GolfChannel.com spoke with five other players who finished in the top 12, and four of them confirmed that they too had not received their cash prize. The exception was paid in installments, first his entry fee of $ 2,799, then the remainder of his winnings.
One player described a recent phone conversation with Manning, who explained the situation with Square but also appeared concerned about the story being released.
“He said he didn’t want this story leaked because there is a chance the credit card processing company will reject all payments and send the money back to everyone,” said the player, who was still waiting for his five-digit check over. money to win a skin. “I was pretty skeptical and it all seemed pretty sketchy, but fishy as it was, it felt genuine in the sense that Dustin was a former mini-tour player and didn’t want to be known as the guy with no pay.”
A second player said Manning told him the money was withheld because “a few international credit cards were used” and “the company considered the tournament to be an illegal game.”
“He seemed honest. Apologized and told us we would have the money by March 1,” the player said of Manning.
Adding a third player: “He’s kind of going in circles. “
GolfChannel.com has also contacted Orange County National and the North Florida PGA Chapter, but has yet to receive a response from either.
In addition to the Classic and a 15-event tour that will kick off in April with $ 999 memberships and $ 1,950 buy-ins, there was also a Big Money Women’s Classic scheduled to start on Wednesday, with female players. renowned names such as Maria Fassi and Laura Davies. committed to compete (according to Big Money’s social channels). But in the weeks following the men’s tournament, the landing page for the women’s event was removed. Manning told GolfChannel.com directly that the event “has gone a bit off the radar to give us time to think about how to restructure ourselves.”
In the meantime, several players had contacted the tournament, requesting new dates or being reimbursed for their $ 2,799 entry fee, and had received few or no responses.
Manning’s response to GolfChannel.com’s questions about the women’s tournament last week indicated that “all players” had been contacted by Manning and the event was postponed to February 9-11.
“I hope I have a field big enough to honor the purse,” wrote Manning, who claimed 146 players were needed to make it and only 110 signed up – with only “fifty” paying entry. on the due date – causing the postponement. “I’m still working out the details with OCN and hope to stay at this location. We’re also evaluating our options for a single class and a restructured handbag.”
However, Kenzie Wright, one of the hopeful contenders still awaiting a refund, was among the players who received this direct message from Big Money Events on Instagram on Monday afternoon: “Unfortunately we had to cancel the feminine event as at the origin. program. Any participant who has paid a registration fee will be contacted individually by Big Money Events.
“Money is life changing for most of us,” Wright later wrote on Twitter. “Sometimes when things seem too good to be true, they are.”
Golf has a history of upstart mini-rounds defrauding players with thousands of dollars. In 2004, the Florida-based Maverick Tour defrauded players of over $ 300,000 in entry fees and unpaid prizes before the founder passed away. Just two years later, the US Pro Golf Tour had big plans to challenge the PGA Tour, even announcing a partnership with Donald Trump to host million-dollar events at Trump courses and televise them. . The first event to air on ESPN and Stuart Deane took home the top million dollar prize. But in 2007, Trump withdrew from the partnership and the US Pro Golf Tour quickly went bankrupt, abruptly canceling its 2007 season – and later its 2008 campaign – while owing hundreds of players thousands in membership fees. and other funds. There are unfortunately many other stories.
After Big Money’s “unorganized” debut, one player told GolfChannel.com that this year’s recall “looks a lot more legitimate.” But as French points out, while all players were paid in the first Big Money Classic, “it took a while for a few,” including winner Adam Svensson who received his $ 100,000 (and 13 Additional $ 000 in interest) in installments over a period of one year. .
“I feel like he just took his head,” French wrote in his report, “but that doesn’t change the fact that he organized an event knowing he wouldn’t be able to. to pay the competitors. It is inexcusable. ” (Click here to read the full report in French.)
For a tour that promised a big winner, it instead produced potentially dozens of big losers.
As one player simply said via text, “I just want to get paid.”