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George McNeill, Justin Thomas sink aces, earn big bucks for spectators

WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, W.Va. -- Being a spectator at a golf tournament has never been as profitable as it was during Thursday's opening round of the Greenbrier Classic -- and it could get even better.

This event has a stipulation that any ticket holder seated at the par-3 18th hole earn cold, hard cash for up to the first three holes-in-one for the week. The payouts are $100 per fan for the first ace, $500 for the second and $1,000 for the third.

The first round yielded two, meaning a big payday if there's one more ace over the final three days.

With his hole-in-one in the morning, George McNeill earned spectators a grand total of $18,900, delivered straight from Greenbrier resort owner Jim Justice.

"A lot of new friends on 18," McNeill afterward, laughing. "They were all thanking me as I walked off."

The bucks didn't stop there, either.

Later in the day, when Justin Thomas aced the hole with a pitching wedge, the cheers were even louder -- and the payouts were even bigger.

Thomas' shot netted $173,500 for the folks in the bleachers, which meant a grand total of $192,400 handed out during the day.

It also created a frenzy for the remainder of the afternoon.

With $1,000 per spectator available for the final ace, fans were packed into the seating section, chanting, "Hole-in-one! Hole-in-one!" with each player who stepped to the teebox.

That offer will stand for the remaining three rounds, as the sweepstakes carries over to each day. Any hole-in-one after the first three won't yield a payout.

"I guess there aren't too many places that can get into the position to do what Mr. Justice is doing," Thomas said. "It's really cool that he does that. It just gives everyone more reason to come here and watch."

There now have been 32 holes-in-one during this PGA Tour season. By comparison, there were only 17 for the entire 2013-14 campaign.