HAVING LOOKED AT things to delight us in the new year it is unfortunate that we shall be seeing and hearing a lot more of Donald Trump in 2016. For the purposes of this article we shall try and restrict ourselves to his possible influence in golf rather than his Presidential candidacy for the Republican party although the two tend to overlap.
As James Corrigan, the Daily Telegraph’s golf correspondent, sagely pointed out, ‘It’s a long shot, but a golfer such as Mardan Mamat or Siddikur Rahman or Rahil Gangjee could yet qualify for the WGC Cadillac Championship at Doral in March and, who knows, even win and so be there on that 18th green holding the trophy and shaking hands with Donald Trump.
‘How would the Doral owner feel then? Congratulating a Muslim who he believes should not have been allowed into the country until it had been made clear that, because of his religion, he does not represent a threat to national security?’
The USGA released a statement in December about the WGC Cadillac tournament venue saying, ‘We continue to stand by our earlier statement…that Mr. Trump’s comments are inconsistent with our strong commitment to an inclusive and welcoming environment in the game of golf. The PGA Tour has had a 53-year commitment to the Doral community, the greater Miami area and the charities that have benefited from the tournament. Given this commitment, we are moving forward with holding the 2016 event at the Blue Monster. Immediately after the completion of the 2016 tournament, we will explore all options regarding the event’s future.’
In short, the USGA, is saying nothing and waiting to see what happens.
In the UK Trump owns Turnberry, now named Trump Turnberry and Trump International Golf Links in Aberdeen, as well as the former Doonbeg course in the Republic of Ireland that has been rebranded, yes you’ve guessed it, Trump International Golf Links and Hotel Ireland.
Large sums of money have been spent on all three golf courses and the standard of work is beyond reproach but there are much bigger issues here than just money. At the Women’s British Open at Turnery in 2015 Trump’s arrival was marked by Lizette Salas, the American born daughter of two Mexican immigrants, being mobbed by news reporters and cameramen.
Salas was there simply to compete and afterwards talk about her golf but instead she had to defend her heritage against Trump who had accused Mexico ‘of bringing drugs, crime, rapists’ into the US, adding that ‘tremendous infectious disease is pouring across the border’.
The outgoing chief executive of the R&A, Peter Dawson, when asked about continuing to hold The Open at Turnberry, said, ‘To think that we are going to determine where an Open is held because of something somebody said on the political trail in America is absurd’ although it is significant that the selection of Royal Portrush as the 2019 Open venue means that the R&A has breathing space before making any decision about venues after that. Turnberry would usually expect to host the tournament in either 2020 or 2021.
No comment has come from the R&A although a release issued on behalf of new chief executive, Martin Slumbers,’ said, ‘It is my belief and that of the R&A that golf should be open to all regardless of gender, race, nationality or religion,’ and the organisation would have been less than impressed at the goings on at the Women’s Open.
Things look equally uncertain regarding Trump’s Aberdeen course that was due to host the Scottish Open in 2017. Reports have been circulating that sponsor Aberdeen Asset Management and officials from the European Tour have decided to look elsewhere although no official announcement has been made. A PGA Tour spokesperson said,’Mr Trump’s comments are inconsistent with our strong commitment to an inclusive and welcoming environment in the game of golf’.
All this comes against a backdrop of a petition launched by an Aberdeen resident, Suzanne Kelly, to ban Trump from entering the UK because of his racist remarks. So far the petition has gathered 565,000 signatures and, at the time of writing, the House of Commons was due to debate it on January 18. Trump has said that any ban would result in him withdrawing from his investments in the UK, a figure that his organisation claims to be £700m, although the figure seems as inflamed as some of the man’s statements.
What is clear is that, if the outcry gets any louder, sponsors will walk, professional golfers will talk and the PGA Tour would have little choice but to distance themselves from anything that bears the name of Trump. There is a still lot more to come from this story.