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Caddie With Tourette’s Sues Luxe Westchester Golf Club for Discrimination

Photo Illustration by Elizabeth Brockway/The Daily Beast/Getty
Photo Illustration by Elizabeth Brockway/The Daily Beast/Getty

A golf caddie with severe Tourette Syndrome claims the top brass at one of the nation’s toniest country clubs continuously humiliated him about his condition, ramping up the harassment—a rotting goose carcass was allegedly once left on the victim’s doorstep—until finally firing him over bogus claims he somehow played a role in the untimely death of a co-worker.

David Anderson, 44, was candid with the higher-ups at the Hudson National Golf Club in Croton-on-Hudson, New York about his battle with Tourette’s, as well as obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), according to a blistering lawsuit obtained by The Daily Beast. Regardless, Anderson’s symptoms, which included “exaggerated eye blinking, exaggerated eye rolling, jerking of the head and limbs, touching objects or other people, simple and complex tics, blinking in an unusual way, mouth movements, stepping in a certain pattern, throat clearing, and clearing of the nose,” were impossible to hide despite the medication he took to help control them, the suit contends.

But when the club’s golf director saw the prescription bottle on Anderson’s desk, he says he was tarred as a degenerate dope fiend, summarily placed on the club’s “‘do not serve’ alcohol list,” and later made to feel like a criminal when a Hudson National employee fell ill while staying over at Anderson’s home, then died at a nearby hospital.

“Statements that an individual died at [Anderson’s] house are false,” contends the lawsuit, which was filed Aug. 18 in Westchester County Supreme Court. “Statements that [Anderson] had a party at his house on the night of the death are false. Statements that [Anderson] is a drug addict are false. Statements suggesting that [Anderson] is an alcoholic are false. Statements that [Anderson] tampered with the decedent’s phone are false. Statements suggesting that [Anderson] caused a death are false.”

Anderson’s attorney, Clifford Tucker, told The Daily Beast on Monday that his client worked as the club’s caddie manager in June 2021, and was good at his job. He said Anderson qualifies as disabled due to his Tourette’s and OCD, and that Hudson National used it as a basis to discriminate against him.

“He certainly no longer works at the club, and he has been doing everything he can to keep his family supported,” Tucker said, adding that the experience has been “very hard for him physically and emotionally.”

Only a small percentage of people with Tourette’s swear uncontrollably, a common misperception fueled by movies and TV, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Singer Billie Eilish was diagnosed with the neurological disorder when she was 11, and actor Seth Rogen says his “mild case” manifests as a twitch. Scottish singer-songwriter Lewis Capaldi, whose diagnosis came in September 2022, announced in June that he would be taking a break from touring so he could focus on “learning to adjust to the impact of my Tourette’s.”

Nearly a year after being terminated by Hudson National, Anderson is now doing “whatever he can to move on with his life,” according to Tucker.

‘Stay in Your Lane’

Hudson National is ranked among the top golf courses in the United States, according to Golf Digest. The parking lot has been described as something more akin to a “high-end auto show,” which feels appropriate for a place that charges a $210,000 initiation fee. The course has played host to celebrities and captains of industry, such as sportscaster Bryant Gumbel, billionaire hedge funder Eddie Lampert, and financier and short-lived Trump administration communications director Anthony Scaramucci.

“What we’re looking for are good golfers with good character and good money,” Hudson National’s chairman told The New York Times in 1997.

Members and their guests “are required to respect other players, staff, caddies, and the golf course by using proper golf etiquette and evidencing courteous behavior at all times,” Hudson National’s website warns visitors.

However, Anderson’s lawsuit says Hudson National Director of Club Operations Theron Harvey, along with Golf Director Del Ponchock, a former college golf star, didn’t abide by their own rules.

Harvey and Ponchock did not respond to The Daily Beast’s requests for comment on Monday. In an email on Tuesday, Joseph DePalma, an attorney representing Hudson National, told The Daily Beast, “The Club adamantly denies these baseless allegations and will be vigorously defending Plaintiff’s claims.”

Anderson was hired as Hudson National’s caddie manager in June 2021, and his first 10 months or so went by without a hitch, according to the suit. In the spring of 2022, Anderson, who lived in a house on club grounds, happened to mention his Tourette’s and OCD to another staffer there, it says.

And that’s when things started to get weird.

“On or about April 18, 2022… Theron C. Harvey and a staff member of the Hudson National Golf Club shot a goose and left the goose carcass on [Anderson’s] front doorstep,” the lawsuit goes on. “When [Anderson] reported that mistreatment to Defendant Theron C. Harvey… [he] laughed at [Anderson].”

The following month, Anderson went to Harvey and the club’s food and beverage director to report another issue. Certain members were still being served alcohol even though they appeared too intoxicated to drive, Anderson told them, according to the lawsuit. But rather than step in to prevent potential disaster on the road, Harvey instead instructed Anderson to “stay in your lane,” the lawsuit states.

“[T]his is not your responsibility,” Harvey told Anderson, telling him, “[Y]ou’re in hot water as it is,” according to the suit.

In June 2022, Anderson happened to leave a prescription medication bottle on his office desk—and when Ponchock spotted it, he went berserk, the suit continues. Ponchock and Harvey both “interrogated [Anderson] about being a ‘drug addict,’” and Harvey told Anderson that having prescription medication at work was “unacceptable,” and a “fireable offense,” the suit states. Harvey, who earns nearly $370,000 a year but is not a licensed physician, subsequently continued to ask Anderson if he was “on drugs.” He said he had “looked at [Anderson’s] medication and determined that [he] should not be drinking on it… because it can ‘make you act crazy,’” according to the lawsuit.

https://www.facebook.com/watch/?v=384711223118807

A couple of weeks later, Anderson went to the Hudson National bar after a golf tournament and, “asked for an alcoholic beverage, as he had countless times before, and was refused,” the lawsuit states. That July, while at another tournament taking place at Hudson National, Anderson asked an assistant manager for a glass of wine, having spotted Harvey, Ponchock, and several others enjoying a drink. But the assistant manager informed Anderson that he was “on the ‘do not serve list,’” something the club’s food and beverage director confirmed the next day, according to the lawsuit.

“After another tournament, in or about late July or August 2022, [Anderson] asked [for] a ‘to go’ drink,” the lawsuit states. “Later, [Anderson] was screamed at for asking for an alcoholic beverage as he had before the discriminatory and harassing behavior described herein began.”

The suit says Anderson was put on the “do not serve” list in an effort to “humiliate or embarrass [him] based on an actual or perceived disability.” He complained again to Harvey, claiming further mistreatment by Ponchock, to which Harvey responded by describing Ponchock, who pulls down six figures annually, as a “master of self-preservation.”

An Untimely Death

Anderson had become friendly with a colleague at Hudson National, who would work all day, play golf until dark, and spend one or two nights a week at Anderson’s house, which was on club grounds, to avoid a long commute home, according to the suit.

The unnamed coworker began staying over at his place in the fall of 2021, and nothing unusual occurred, the suit states. But in October 2022, the workmate became sick while there, and Anderson drove them to the hospital, according to the suit.

“At the hospital, the individual passed away,” it says.

The next day, Ponchock “demanded that [Anderson] give a timeline of events” about what happened, asked him about “doing drugs,” and spent the rest of the week grilling him, according to the suit. Ponchock then told people at Hudson National that Anderson had a party at his house, that his coworker died inside, and that Anderson had subsequently “deleted the individual’s call and search history on the decedent’s phone.” But Anderson’s lawsuit says this is all untrue, and that Ponchock had no business probing any of it.

“Upon information and belief, Defendant Del Ponchock lacks a license, certification, training, qualifications, or experience to conduct a workplace investigation,” it states. “Upon information and belief, Defendant Del Ponchock lacks a license, certification, training, qualifications, or experience to investigate a death.”

Hudson National doesn’t have an HR department to field formal claims, and nothing was done about Anderson’s complaints, the lawsuit alleges. In late October, Anderson tried to lodge an official complaint with Harvey about Ponchock’s mistreatment, to which Harvey “screamed at [Anderson] that [he] was challenging… Harvey’s authority,” according to the suit.

Anderson was quickly suspended amid what Harvey said were “a lot of rumors” pertaining to the club staffer’s death, and at the end of November, Anderson was terminated. Harvey brought in the local police chief to stand watch while he fired Anderson, the lawsuit states.

“Even after [Anderson’s] termination, [he] was made aware that false statements had been broadcast and spread as rumors that [he] had a party at [his] house and that the individual had died at the house,” it says.

On Monday, Tucker, Anderson’s attorney, declined to elaborate on what occurred or the circumstances surrounding the person’s death. He did say that “this kind of treatment could harm anyone,” and that Anderson “was harmed by it, in my view. We look forward to having our day in court and proving it… So far as the allegations here, I expect these claims will bear out.”

Anderson’s lawsuit says he is also missing more than $3,000 in property he was prohibited from collecting after he was let go: contact lenses ($50), glasses ($500), neck A/C ($250), laser ($400), approximately 5-6 pairs of shoes ($800 total), refrigerator ($150), clothing (shirts, sweaters, jackets etc., in the amount of $1,000), personalized golf scorecard holder ($150), golf clubs ($1,000), [and] golf balls ($250).”

There is another, slightly more pedestrian, case playing out in parallel, Tucker told The Daily Beast, pointing out that Anderson, along with six others, is suing Hudson National in a separate case in federal court over wages he claims went unpaid.

“In our view, the golf caddies were misclassified in a way to save the club money, and that cost the caddies money,” Tucker said. “David was a caddie for several years, and I think the way he was treated when he was a salaried staff member was less than lawful.”

Anderson is demanding a jury trial and unspecified damages from Hudson National, Harvey, and Ponchock. As of late Monday afternoon, none had not yet formally responded to Anderson’s suit.

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