One golf swing scores $1 million - or does it?

General Motors executive Michael Grimaldi aced the final hole of a Detroit-area charity golf outing Aug. 26 - and found himself in the rough.

The problem? GM's lawyers.

Grimaldi, GM's vice president and general manager for field sales, service and parts, was exultant initially. The prize for a hole in one was $1 million.

"It was the best shot I hit all day - certainly the best result," he told the Detroit Free Press. "It hit 12 to 15 feet from the cup and tracked right into the hole."

Grimaldi used a four-iron on the 167-yard 18th hole at Indianwood Golf and Country Club in Lake Orion, Mich. Witnesses included radio talk-show host Rush Limbaugh, who was in Grimaldi's foursome.

But then the lawyers got wind of the shot.

They said Grimaldi would violate the company's strict conflict-of-interest policy by accepting the money. GM in 1996 banned its employees from receiving any gifts or favors, seeking an end to the long-standing tradition of freebies from suppliers. GM co-sponsored the event and paid Grimaldi's $5,000 entry fee.

Grimaldi wasn't taking calls last week, as GM's morality police dissected the issue. Spokesman Terry Sullivan said the question was tricky because it didn't involve a gift, but something won by exercise of skill.

In the end, the lawyers prevailed. On Wednesday, Aug. 29, GM issued a statement saying it would donate the money to charities chosen by Grimaldi.

You can reach Dave Guilford at dguilford@crain.com

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