Fact Check

Fatal Golf Tee

Was a golfer poisoned by chewing on his tee?

Published Aug. 18, 1997


Claim:   A golfer in the habit of carrying his tee in his mouth while playing holes grows sicker and sicker over the course of a few days and then drops dead. A post-mortem reveals that the golfer had ingested a lethal dose of the pesticide sprayed on the golf course.

Status:   True.

Origins:   Although a few of the details have been changed, this legend is based on real-life incident.


Fatal golf tee cartoon

1982, Navy Lieutenant George M. Prior, 30, played 36 holes of golf at the Army-Navy Country Club in Arlington, VA. Even before the last hole Prior was complaining of a headache; by nightfall he was feverish and nauseated and had developed a rash. Four days later Prior was in Bethesda Naval Hospital with a 104.5 degree fever, his body covered with blisters. He died ten days later after a toxic substance had burned the skin from 80% of his body and caused his major organs to fail. The toxic substance was determined to be Daconil, an FDA-approved fungicide that had been sprayed on the Army-Navy golf course twice a week. Prior apparently had a hypersensitivity to the chemical used in the fungicide, causing a severe allergic reaction. His widow filed a $20 million lawsuit against the manufacturer, Diamond Shamrock Chemical Company; the lawsuit was eventually settled out of court.

Last updated:   2 September 2006

  Sources Sources:

    Brunvand, Jan Harold.   Curses! Broiled Again!

    New York: W. W. Norton, 1989.   ISBN 0-393-30711-5
  (pp. 65-66).

    Churchville, Victoria.   "Greening of America's Lawns Elicits Warnings on Chemicals."

    The Washington Post.   21 April 1985   (p. A1).

    Scannell, Nancy.   "Lawsuit Filed Against Makers of the Fungicide Daconil."

    The Washington Post.   18 June 1983   (p. B5).

    Shabecoff, Philip.   "New Safeguards for Home Pesticides Are Debated."

    The New York Times.   11 May 1986   (p. 26).

  Sources Also told in:

    The Big Book of Urban Legends.

    New York: Paradox Press, 1994.   ISBN 1-56389-165-4   (p. 66).

David Mikkelson founded the site now known as snopes.com back in 1994.

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