It was a gorgeous summer day at the Moose Run Golf Course on June 22. Hundreds of golfers showed up to take part in the 30th annual Coal Classic, a charity golf tournament sponsored by Usibelli Coal Mine to benefit Alaska Resource Education (ARE) – a non-profit that teaches children about Alaska’s natural resources.
The dozens of teams included a who’s who of Alaska business and political insiders. Ben Stevens, Joe Usibelli Jr., and Sarah Palin’s brother Chuck Heath were among the golfers in attendance to support ARE. But one of the teams, Automatic Welding & Supply, was there for the wrong reasons.
At the conclusion of the morning shotgun, Automatic Welding & Supply posted a score of 55, which put them in first place. The prize for first place was a plastic paperweight trophy and assorted swag. But a few days later, the official Moose Run app showed that Automatic Welding & Supply had been quietly disqualified. As a result, team Usibelli, the sponsor of the tournament, moved up to first place.
So what happened?
An investigation by the Landmine revealed that the Automatic Welding & Supply team had a pattern of questionable results and had long aroused the suspicions of Moose Run staff. This year, Moose Run was able to place an informant on the team. The informant reported to Moose Run officials that the team had in fact scored a 66, not the 55 claimed by the team. The 55 score had been enough to beat the runner-up by a single point. Moose Run officials contacted the Automatic Welding & Supply team and informed them that they had been stripped of their win following evidence of cheating.
The Automatic Welding & Supply team was made up of Halcyon Swisher, Shane Marrufo, George Gates, and the informant.
In an email obtained by the Landmine, Moose Run told the team, “I have had multiple complaints that your teams have turned in incorrect scores before, however I have never had proof until the A.R.E tournament… This is a blatant and inexcusable disregard for the rules and integrity of the game of golf.” The email went on to state, “As a PGA professional, it is my duty to protect the field from dishonest competitors and I am informing you now that you are disqualified from the A.R.E. tournament as well as any future tournament ran by Moose Run Golf Course.”
Alaska Resource Education, the tournament’s fundraising beneficiary, declined to comment for this story.