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CONTACT 13: WWII veteran must pay to quit golf club

Posted at 10:45 PM, Sep 20, 2016

A World War II veteran says he's being held hostage by the golf club he's trying to quit. Not because he wants to, but because he has to stop playing the sport he loves. 

But, as Contact 13 reports, his failing health will cost him dearly -- and we're not talking about medical bills.

"While I was in boot camp, they dropped the bomb," says Bernie Pachter, as he looks at an old photo of himself in uniform.

Pachter is no stranger to adversity. The 88-year-old WWII veteran is a self-made man who worked hard to make life comfortable for his family and to be able to afford a golf club membership in retirement.

There's nothing he'd like more than to continue cruising the fairway at Anthem Country Club, where he's been a member for the past 10 years.

"I would like to say, next to me, he loves golf most of all," said his wife, Martha.

The house is filled with memories of a lifetime playing golf, but there are no more new memories to be made, because unfortunately, that part of Bernie's life is over.

"I almost passed out on the course and my legs gave out and I just had such unbelievable pain," Bernie said.

That was May 2015. Since then, he hasn't been able to play, but continued to pay club dues of $900 a month. 

In March, his doctor wrote a letter telling him to "discontinue playing golf immediately" as it is worsening his condition and putting him at risk for serious harm. 

The doctor writes, "I do not foresee that you will be able to resume this sport at your age and in your condition. I would therefore like to suggest that you resign your golf club membership."

"You can't just resign," Bernie explains.

There are ways to quit. But they all cost money.

That's right. You have to pay to walk away.

"The first way is give us $1,000, we're gonna put you on a list." says Bernie.

A deposit that is refundable. For every three new memberships sold, the top one on that list gets to quit the club.

"So that meant that I could be a member there for another two or two-and-a-half years paying them almost $1,000 a month and not being able to play golf. And I said, well, that's no good!"

There were a few other options, including paying $7,500 to walk away, and he admits it's all in the club contract he signed 10 years ago.

"And I never gave it a thought. My stupidity perhaps, but whatever the case may be, I was wrong. I should've known that I had to pay to resign, but I didn't."

At this point, it's not a matter of money. 

For the Pachters it's the principle.

"He said, it's not right," explains Martha. "At least if they would listen to me! And really that's all he wanted. They turned their backs on him and walked away. That's not the way to treat a fellow human being."

Bernie asked to speak to the Anthem board, but says they refused.

"I was really angry. And that's what prompted me to say this is ridiculous."

They also declined our requests for an on-camera interview. 

The general manager did meet with Bernie after Contact 13 got involved, but nothing changed.  

"This is your options. Take them or leave them. So I stopped paying dues."

They're still billing him for that $900 a month, but he's not paying up anymore. 

The board sent us a five-page letter saying they don't consider this story newsworthy and they're not in the business of offering "special deals to some members at the expense of others." 

General Manager Jonathan Clay writes, "We have had instances in the past where members have requested relief due to medical conditions, and although we are not unsympathetic to those situations, our policy does not allow for exceptions in these circumstances."

We read their policy and found the board does have discretion. 

They don't have to buy back a resigned membership, but they certainly can if the majority of board members agree.

"It doesn't make sense to me," Martha says. "I mean, what do they want him to do? Wind up dead and then he can resign?"

Not quite. They just want the money they say he's obligated to pay.