Linda Neil has a knack for contest prizes, lottery money

Linda Neil’s biggest one-time payout from the South Carolina Education Lottery was $1,000, but she wins many smaller payoffs. Neil said she buys two or three tickets several times a week.

Grace Beahm // The Post and Courier

Linda Neil of Summerville keeps an album documenting her long history of winning prizes, gifts and cruises by entering contests and playing the lottery. “The secret to it, the key, is just enter,” she said. “I just enter a lot of contests.”

SUMMERVILLE -- They call her Lucky Linda because Linda Neil wins so many contests.

Lotteries, grocery-store drawings, television and magazine contests -- she enters them all.

She has won so many lottery contests that she was recently featured on the S.C. Education Lottery website.

"She just has a lucky touch, that's all I can say," S.C. Education Lottery Communications Director Holli Armstrong said.

Maybe, but Neil credits just being willing to try.

"The secret to it, the key, is just enter," she said. "I just enter a lot of contests."

Neil has never won more than $1,000 at a time from the lottery, but she wins a lot of smaller payoffs. She says she buys two or three tickets several times a week.

Besides frequent cash payoffs, she has racked up five cruises, several iPods, at least two televisions and a houseful of gadgets.

"I've got so many coolers at home, tackle boxes, fishing poles," the former Goose Creek kindergarten teacher said. "There's stuff I didn't even keep."

She works with the Summerville Family YMCA's afterschool program, where she is known as Lucky Linda.

She has been on a winning streak for the last few weeks.

One day last month she won a second-chance drawing for a $500 Bass Pro gift card. Second-chance drawings are from lottery cards that didn't win the first time.

The next day she stopped at the Goose Creek Bi-Lo, bought a scratch-off ticket and won $400 cash.

She continued on to the Taste of Goose Creek festival, where she won six raffle prizes, including a $50 gift certificate to California Dreaming and a $10 gas card.

The next day she stopped at the same Bi-Lo, bought another $5 scratch-off ticket and won $50.

"That was a really good weekend," she said.

Two weeks later she won another $400, and then $100 twice.

Last week, her most recent win, she won tickets to the NASCAR races at Darlington in an online lottery contest. She gave them to her husband, Michael, who has been driving a school bus since his retirement.

"I don't know if it's luck or psychic," he said of his wife's winning ways. "She has a way of knowing when a machine is going to pay off at a casino. She just knows when something's going to hit."

He said she wins a lot more than she spends in the lottery.

It started years ago with radio call-in contests.

"I've got so many cassettes and CDs," she said. "I must have at least 150."

Then she started winning concert tickets -- David Copperfield, Bette Midler, Anita Baker, Bob Hope on the Yorktown.

She won her first cruise (to Mexico) when Best Buy opened in North Charleston in 1998. She said she probably mailed in 100 entries over two or three weeks.

She won a cruise from New York to Miami with Regis Philbin and Kathy Lee Gifford in a contest on their television show.

She won a cruise to the Bahamas from an entry form in a convenience store. She saw that contest near the end and entered only once.

She and her husband took a cruise out of Charleston on their 25th anniversary several years ago. As soon as they got far enough offshore to gamble, she put two quarters in the slot machine. She hit the jackpot for $2,500.

She's always on the lookout for another contest.

She won one of her televisions by sending in a "corny photo" to Birds Eye frozen foods. She dressed in black and made it look like she was standing on two ears of corn.

She won a $100 gas card when she noticed a contest in a Trident Hospital health magazine.

She won a giant box of Hershey's candy products through a contest she saw on "Wheel of Fortune."

"You've got to try," she said. "Just put your name in and you never know. When you least expect it, somebody will call you."