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Jul 11

Trump and the USGA – Politics

President and Golf Mogul Threatened to Sue USGA

Apparently, it is a feature of the American system that suing the President of the United States for any reason is off limits. There might be a problem with him being busy elsewhere. It could range from a photo-op with the Miss Universe Pageant, or a sudden death playoff after a fierce round of 18 with Kim Jong Un. Who knows? At any rate, I’m not sure that the “no lawsuit” rule is airtight, or maybe it’s that an offended party has to wait until the leader is out of office. What I do know, thanks to previous months, is that the President of the United States can sue anybody he wants, and can sue dozens of them at the same time. The LPGA and USGA has come to understand this threat over the past two years, and despite uneasy feelings about it, would just like to keep on playing golf. Clearly, politics and golf continue at every level, from world leaders down to players and in the caddie quarters. We live in an adversarial system, and even a nickel-per-hole bet is adversarial.

The LPGA has signed on to play one of its most prestigious tournaments at the Trump National Golf Club in New Jersey this year. That was before the election or the campaign. With the American president demonstrating some high-profile difficulties with male-female relations over the years, the women’s tour, understandably proud of what it has accomplished, had second thoughts about endorsing what it viewed as poor role modeling for the general respect of women. And then it didn’t. What we hear is that with the first breath of abandoning the Trump courses for professional majors came the threat of a lawsuit against the USGA itself if it wavered in the slightest. So, far it has not even twitched. The U.S. Women’s Open will remain a Trump event, and that’s all there is to that. The broohaha over politics is over and done with.

At the top, we have Donald Trump. Among the remaining items on his bucket list is to see professional tour majors played on his multiple golf courses around the world. His ultimate goal is a PGA major, such as the men’s U.S. Open. Om the receiving end, we have the USGA, with all its noble goals, and purity of purpose when it comes to managing the international game. Politics either doesn’t seem to be USGA’s cup of tea, or they are more than clear as to whom they support. Whichever is correct, we will see the sale of Trump hats, shirts, cups, bowls, and anything else they can stamp the brand on. When it comes to a choice between the buck and institutional heroism, it’s going to turn out predictably nearly every time, especially if there’s tradition and future glory to be preserved.
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Then, there is the tour itself. The commissioner has less power than the top two levels to decide such things as gender-fair politics, and due to that, he may not want to get in the ring. Compartmentalization helps here. It makes perfect sense to say “My job is to serve the tour, not charge someone else’s windmill on someone else’s horse.” In a large sense, the commissioner is right to think that way, but I wonder if he feels any secret wish that he could address the larger picture.

As for the players, they are in the weakest position of all, and remain wisely silent in most cases. Little is to be gained by picking up the megaphone, but much is to be lost, including sponsors, fans, and the maintenance of tour-wide friendship. They can’t win, no matter how they feel, unless there’s a career-threatening group boycott. How to make a television empire scream.

Everyone has a different horse in the race, but no one is screaming out loud, except perhaps a little at the top. They just want to host, manage, oversee, or play golf, and spare an already tense competitive world any extra grief. The politics of nations has become the politics of the gentleman’s and gentlewoman’s game, and I’m sorry for it. I’d like to just keep following good golf played by good people, too. But is there a part of us that would like to address the larger picture?
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About the author

G.F. Skipworth

has spent every available moment playing golf or studying the greats since the 60s, in between world tours as a classical musician, Harvard studies in Government or as the author of a dozen novels. Nicklaus and Snead may be the statistical greats, but Skipworth is a life-long devotee of Gary Player, and considers meeting the South African at the Jeld-Wen to be an unforgettable milestone. His driving passion in golf these days is to raise viewer interest in the LPGA.