May
25
2017
U.S. Women’s Open Media Day: No politics, but….not the point…
By Stephanie Wei under USGA
Via NJ.com

Eric Trump, Lydia Ko & Jesse Watters, via NJ.com

U.S. Women’s Media Day took place at Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, New Jersey, on Wednesday, with Donald Trump Jr. and Eric Trump present. I’ve voiced my thoughts on the most prestigious national Women’s golf championship taking place at this golf course that will likely be hailed as the “White House of the North” or something to that extent in the upcoming summer months. President Trump spends A LOT of time here. He even has a residence on the property.

NJ.com’s Steve Politi attended the press conference that featured USGA Executive Director/CEO Mike Davis, USGA President Diana Murphy, USGA Championship Director Shannon Rouillard, and naturally, The Trump Organization Executive Vice President Eric Trump, and he didn’t mince words. The USGA has already come up with its company line to respond to the bevy of media scrutiny it will face as the U.S. Women’s Open approaches in July. 

First of all, thank you, Steve, for writing this. It’s saved me the time and energy.

I was the one who asked the initial question, and I tried to press Davis on what, exactly, was political about Trump’s comments. How would what he said be any different if he was still just a prominent businessman? Would the USGA have moved the tournament if he was still hosting a reality TV show and not living in the White House?

Davis, who canceled a one-on-one interview due to (ahem) a scheduling change, just doubled down.

“We’re simply not going to cross that line into politics,” he said, and that was the refrain echoed around the golf course for the rest of the day, as if treating women with basic respect is some blue state/red state issue like healthcare or military spending.

So with two dozen girls in the room, here to participate in a clinic with a trio of LPGA stars, Davis didn’t even offer the most perfunctory rebuke of what Trump said. But, then again, with Eric Trump seated two seats to his left at the dais and Donald Trump Jr. in the first row, is that any surprise?

I’ve had an upset stomach the past few days and I thought I was finally over it, but then I read this line…

Eric Trump all but gave Davis a wet kiss on his forehead during a 26-minute program that covered the speed of the greens — a 12.5 on the Stimpmeter, if you were wondering — but did not mention the club’s founder, whose photos are plastered all over the walls, by name.

“Thank you for your friendship, your love, your warmth over the years,” Eric Trump told Davis and the two other USGA officials. “It’s not just a partnership. It’s really a friendship.”

Politi’s main point is that this is NOT about politics, despite the USGA’s attempt to hide behind the guise. It is astounding to many — yours truly included — that the most distinguished women’s golf championship is taking place at a property owned by a man who has demeaned women over and over so flagrantly and unapologetically.

Again: This is not about politics. How can the USGA, with a straight face, pretend to “empower girls through the game of golf and inspire them to dream BIG,” as its website brags, while holding the premier championship for women on a course owned by a man who bragged about committing sexual assault?

It can’t. Davis can try to separate the golf tournament from the politician who owns the course, but an organization that desperately needs young people to embrace this sport is sending exactly the wrong message to the girls who might become fans.

The thing is prominent LPGA players are either big “fans” or too ignorant/sheltered to understand the implications, which is unfortunate.

This New York Times story at the end of March penned by Karen Crouse does an excellent job painting the picture. This segment with a candid response from former LPGA player and current Golf Channel commentator Karen Stupples stuck out to me:

“He’s the leader of one of the biggest countries in the whole entire world,” Ko said, “and it would be an honor if I got that call.”

Ryann O’Toole, an American who was raised in California, said, “I didn’t vote for him and I’ll still play with him.”

Ko is 19. Thompson is 22. O’Toole is 30. Stupples is 43 and the mother of a 9-year-old son. It is unfair, Stupples said, to expect a consensus on any political issue from a tour membership that includes women under 20 and over 40 and Americans and foreigners.

“Lydia and Lexi have both led a very sheltered life,” Stupples said. “They’ve played golf and that’s it. They probably haven’t seen much of what goes on outside of the golf course and a hotel.”

She added: “Would I play golf with him? Probably not. But then that’s me. That’s because I’ve been around the block a few times and seen a few other things. But it’s only because of my life experience that I feel like I can make a good judgment on what I want to do personally.”

I’ll leave you with a strong recommendation to read Politi’s full column. Like many so-called “political” issues these days, I consider this one similar to what I’ve ascribed to other topics that I consider “bipartisan,” and Politi does an excellent job driving that point home.


In related news, the Senior PGA — which is run and held by the PGA of America — is taking place this week at Trump’s course in Northern Virginia, which I’ve actually played back in 2011. USA Today columnist Christine Brennan wrote this strong piece.

Washington Post columnist Barry Svrluga also penned another well-written article.