Jul
11
2017
The unavoidable and omnipresent giant elephant at the U.S. Women’s Open
By Stephanie Wei under US Women's Open

*RELATED*: New podcast talking with former LPGA pro and now Golf Channel broadcaster Karen Stupples on the Trump factor and the U.S. Women’s Open. Listen here and/or subscribe via iTunes.

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Photo: USGA/Chris Keane

To be perfectly clear, this isn’t necessarily about politics. I repeat, THIS IS NOT ABOUT POLITICS. This is not about whether you lean left or right on the political spectrum, or if you’re a registered Democrat or Republican — Donald Trump has switched parties in various points of his life (which, of course, isn’t that unusual). This is not whether you support the GOP healthcare bill or if you believe in universal healthcare. For what it’s worth, I’m an Independent.

Mind you, this conversation could’ve been avoided had the President divested from his company and real estate properties, like all individuals in public office, including Presidents have in the past and are supposed to. Trump broke from this long-standing tradition and still owns the buildings and golf courses (which is arguably using the office of the President to enrich himself and bring business to his properties), so spare me the “stick to golf” comments — I’m just following the example set from the top.

[*Update: It’s important to point out that I acknowledge Trump owns the golf course, but that statement itself is a problem. THIS IS NOT NORMAL. Here’s the counterpoint to those arguing he has every right to attend an event at a place he owns: Trump is no longer just a wealthy businessman/private citizen/reality TV star; he’s the President of the United States. And the fact he still technically owns Trump National at Bedminster, along with his other clubs and real estate holdings — I repeat — is not normal. Trump was supposed to divest from his business interests, like every single one of his predecessors and every other individual in public office.]

If President Trump genuinely supports women’s golf, then he would be wise to avoid an appearance at the U.S. Women’s Open this week at Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, New Jersey, aka “the Summer White House.” The very fact that the most prestigious women’s championship in the country (and perhaps the world) is taking place at a Trump property has been a point of controversy, not to mention a massive distraction from the tournament, the competitors and the actual golf. (And yes, I understand I’m feeding into this cycle by writing about it.)

But of course he wouldn’t be able to resist. I always thought that was a given, and then on Monday the Palm Beach Post reported that Trump is planning his fourth visit to his golf club in New Jersey this weekend, arriving on Friday and departing on Sunday back to Washington, D.C., according to an FAA notice.

After all, Donald Trump is still Donald Trump — the man was never going to change just because he had been elected President of the United States. I’ve witnessed his showboating a number of times at tournaments, including the WGC that was held at Doral before it was moved to Mexico this year. He’s always hammed it up for the cameras and the TV, which was nauseating yet amusing when he was a private citizen. I’ve interviewed one-on-one several times on the phone at length and briefly in person. He was always generous with his time and charming. Once, at what was basically a photo op / “ribbon-cutting” ceremony at Trump Ferry Point in the Bronx, he made a point to ask if I saw that he had retweeted a link to an article I wrote for the Wall Street Journal earlier that day — he was trying to be nice.

But it’s always been clear that his motives in just about anything he does is to benefit and promote himself and the TRUMP brand. Ask just about anyone in the golf media about him. I mean, *everyone* talks about it. (In case you don’t get the reference, that’s a tongue-in-cheek comment.)

And if you think he would show up at the event and not make a big show of it, then look no further than what happened the last time one of his courses hosted a major championship. Matt Cooper penned a brilliant account of Trump’s antics at the 2015 RICOH British Women’s Open at Turnberry.


 

For most of this century, Trump has been cozying up to the United States Golf Association attempting to persuade them (somewhat desperately it would appear) to hold their championships at his properties. Oh, it’s also pertinent that the USGA headquarters in Far Hills, N.J., in only a few miles down the road.

Trump Bedminster hosted the 2009 U.S. Junior Amateur and Girls Junior championships. But the U.S. Women’s Open is by far the most prominent event awarded to a Trump property. Combine that with the fact that he spends A LOT of time at Trump Bedminster — it’s about a 45-60 minute drive from Manhattan. He even has a townhouse on the property, and his eldest daughter Ivanka and her husband and White House adviser tasked with bringing world peace Jared Kushner have an identical, adjacent dwelling. This club is particularly special to him, and like all his real estate investments, it screams TRUMP — it’s like Versailles on steroids. The facilities are also very family friendly. Hell, I wouldn’t have complained if I spent my summers as a kid hanging out at this swimming pool.

Again, my issue with the U.S. Women’s Open being held at a Trump golf course isn’t that I simply disagree with his anti-women policies or appointing people to his cabinet with such beliefs and agendas. It’s not about politics. It’s the fact that the national championship is being held at a venue that bears the name of an individual who has repeatedly denigrated and demeaned women for their looks publicly and privately and even bragged about sexual assault.

You don’t have to identify as a Republican or Democrat or conservative or liberal to have been appalled and disgusted by one of his more recent Twitter tirades where he attacked Mika Brzezinski, co-anchor of MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” and claimed he had seen her bleeding badly from a face-lift. There are many, many other examples just in recent years where he publicly targeted women and attacked them with disparaging and sexist comments, but if I were to list them all, we’d be here all night. And if you think such remarks do not disrespect, bully and demean women, then newsflash, you just might have sexist and misogynistic views. Which, of course, is your right, according to the first amendment. But Trump’s repeated disgusting and inappropriate sexist comments are not just beneath the dignity of the highest office in the land, but they’re below what most Americans regard as common decency.


USA Today’s Christine Brennan reported on Monday that the USGA had looked into moving the Women’s Open from Trump Bedminster around two years ago when the TV reality star was beginning his campaign for President, but Trump threatened to sue.

Davis informed the USGA executive committee about Trump’s threat on a conference call about two years ago, just as Trump was beginning his successful campaign for president, according to the person, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the USGA has not publicly discussed the matter.

Davis, who told the group he and other USGA officials had met with Trump, told the executive committee, “We can’t get out of this. He’s going to sue us,” according to the person.

Of course he did — that’s Trump’s M.O. (sue and be sued and counter-sue).

New York Times Karen Crouse wrote an excellent article published Tuesday about the extremely awkward position the competitors are dealing with this week.

“Women’s golf is in such a critical position right now that in order to make a difference we have to keep playing,” Salas said.

“I get both sides, I honestly do,” she added. “I’ve kind of been put in this position where I’m kind of stuck in the middle. I can take the high road or I could not take the high road and really speak honestly and not make everyone happy. The only win-win for me is I get to play golf.”

The United States Open historically features the most challenging setup in championship golf, but the terrain this week presents an especially tricky test for all the women competing for a piece of the $5 million purse, the largest in L.P.G.A. history. The golfers must also be wary of offending the sport’s elitist white male fan base and the women’s activist groups expected to make their presence felt.

No matter who wins, the victor is likely to be overshadowed by Trump, who is expected to be on the grounds at some point during the weekend rounds.

I truly feel for the women this week and it’s unfortunate that they have to deal with this circus while trying to prepare for the most challenging test in golf. It’s simply a huge distraction for the competitors, the golf and the championship. And no, I’m sorry, but Trump showing up this weekend will not bring “more eyes to women’s golf,” nor will it be “good exposure.” I highly doubt anyone will tune in to watch that wasn’t going to watch already. I’m sure the golf writers will do their best to focus on the actual golf and the best female golfers in the world, but it’s inevitable that there will also be political reporters, not to mention activists and protestors that are expected to make their opposition known.

Any suggestion of the competitors boycotting the event is preposterous. Just the idea of anyone doing that is offensive. I would never expect them to do such a thing — it’s not like they picked the venue or all voted for him, etc. Suggesting any competitor to withdraw from the U.S. Women’s Open is absurd. They also should not be attacked for voicing their opinion one way or the other.

It just sucks that I’m writing about what a shitty and awkward situation they’re dealing with instead of the actual tournament. Sure, that’s a choice I’ve made, but I also would feel remiss to not bring up this giant elephant looming over the event. Hopefully once the first round kicks off, the focus will turn to golf, but then with Trump expected to swoop in over the weekend, the attention will divert toward the crazy circus. It will also be a chance for those who have their reservations about golf to abhor the game even more or validate the negative stereotypes and impressions.


From what I’ve read and can glean from across the pond, reporters are asking the American golfers about Trump in the pre-tourney press conferences, but the ladies are not commenting. It’s a no-win situation for them — damned if they do, damned if they don’t. Some of that has to do with the backlash Brittany Lincicome received after she told Teddy Greenstein of the Chicago Tribune that she hoped the President would not attend the event because of the unwanted publicity.

Rather, Lincicome said she wished Trump would not show up for the Open so “it won’t be a big debacle and it will be about us and not him … We’re going to play an amazing golf course and let our clubs do the talking.”

The two-time major winner also said that boycotting the event wasn’t feasible because she plays golf for a living and “we don’t get to play for that much money that often.”

Obviously, I agree 100% with Lincicome. I didn’t realize that she was subjected to criticism and abuse for her comments until former LPGA pro and now Golf Channel broadcaster Karen Stupples mentioned it to me in a text message earlier today. Then, I read Teddy’s column today, which detailed the back-and-forth between Lincicome and John Daly.

The comments did not get much attention until John Daly stepped in. After Lincicome asked him on Twitter if he’d play in her charity golf outing, Daly replied: “Tough to do things when ppl down 1 of my grt friends? Sorry-Some things shouldn’t be said. He has as a grt heart & has America 1st always.”

Lincicome replied: “I just wanted our open to be about the golf and not politics. Of all people another pro golfer should understand that.”

On Sunday Lincicome posted the following statement:

Ugh, Lincicome doesn’t deserve the abuse. She didn’t criticize him; she simply stated she didn’t want unwanted attention to divert from the tournament and the competitors. I’m sure it’s a sentiment that’s shared by many other women playing in the event.

#IStandWIthBrittany


 

It’s going to be an interesting week at the U.S. Women’s Open. Hopefully on Sunday, we’ll be talking about the champion and not the circus the President created or whatever other drama he decides to conjure up.

I’m 3,500 miles away on the other side of the pond in Scotland (thankfully). Stay tuned this week for several podcasts on the U.S. Women’s Open (and Trump). Earlier today, I spoke with Karen Stupples and she shared her insights. I’m hoping to post that in a few hours.