Warning: This article contains depictions of alleged domestic violence.
PGA Tour and Champions Tour golfer Tom Pernice Jr. was accused of multiple instances of domestic violence by his ex-girlfriend, according to Sports Illustrated.
Pernice's ex-girlfriend, MaryAnn O’Neill, detailed multiple instances of alleged domestic abuse from Pernice, who is accused of punching O'Neill in the leg, striking O'Neill with a cell phone and grabbing and twisting O'Neill's wrists.
O'Neill presented texts to Sports Illustrated which documented one of the alleged incidents. She also submitted a recording in which Pernice allegedly admits to hitting O'Neill, per SI.
When O'Neill asked on the recording why she was hit, Pernice reportedly said:
“Because you won’t keep your mouth shut. I kept warning you to keep your mouth shut and quit doing it. You have no consequences. You think you can say and do whatever the f***, what you think you can do. I’m tired of it. Not gonna happen.”
“So, O.K., you’re just gonna beat me?”
“What else am I gonna do? I hit you f***ing in the leg. I’m not beating you.”
That alleged abuse reportedly occurred after the Regions Tradition event in 2021. O'Neill sent that audio to Jimmy Gabrielsen, the PGA’s head of player relations.
PGA Tour did not take Tom Pernice Jr. allegations seriously
It was reportedly not the first time O'Neill contacted the PGA Tour over domestic abuse concerns. She also got in touch with Gabrielsen after an incident in 2018, when Pernice allegedly hit O'Neill with a cell phone. A police report was filed, in which a detective said they saw "visible bruising" on O'Neill. She did not press charges following the incident.
Pernice was reportedly not disciplined by the PGA Tour following that exchange. O'Neill said she believes the tour should have known about the alleged assault. O'Neill reportedly spoke to Gabrielsen and mentioned the incident. O'Neill did not mention Pernice by name, but Gabrielsen reportedly knew that O'Neill and Pernice were in a relationship. Gabrielsen allegedly asked for more documentation from O'Neill at the time. O'Neill said she feared what would happen if she continued down that path and did not send documents to Gabrielsen. O'Neill hoped the PGA Tour would still look into the incident.
Sports Illustrated spoke to domestic violence consultant Kim Susser, who questioned the PGA Tour's handling of the situation, saying it was "not good practice to make further investigation contingent on the victim providing documentation."
The PGA Tour released a statement to Sports Illustrated saying it takes domestic violence accusations seriously. It did not comment on the allegations against Pernice.
Following the 2021 incident, the PGA Tour reportedly suspended Pernice for 90 days. Pernice appealed and wanted support from O'Neill. Despite feeling pressured, O'Neill wrote a letter to the PGA Tour asking for harsher psychological sanctions to reduce the length of Pernice's suspension. The PGA Tour reportedly cut Pernice's suspension to 30 days and allowed him to attend anger management. The PGA Tour allegedly also allowed Pernice to choose his therapist. The PGA Tour apparently did not announce the suspension, which is unusual among major sports organizations.
O'Neill believes the PGA Tour did not take her allegations seriously due to her previous relationship with the tour. O'Neill worked as player manager and then sold title sponsorships for the tour. She was suspended in 2016 for allegedly giving her credentials to another person. The PGA then revoked O'Neill's credentials for a year. The tour did not reinstate O'Neill's credentials after she was accused of showing up to an event using an expired credential.
Pernice faces domestic abuse charges in Alabama and two charges of intimidation in Massachusetts. Pernice has a hearing in Massachusetts in September, where his attorney will file to dismiss all charges.
Pernice has denied all the allegations through his attorney, Patrick Donovan.
Despite the charges, Pernice continues to take part in the Champions Tour, finishing second at the American Family Insurance Championship in June.
If you or someone you know has experienced domestic violence, help is available. The National Domestic Violence Hotline is available 24/7 with free, anonymous help by calling 1-800-799-SAFE (7233), texting “START” to 88788 or online at thehotline.org.