Bridgestone Golf CEO: President Trump's golf courses 'have to stand alone'

Daniel Roberts
Senior Writer

The sport of golf finds itself in an unprecedented, awkward political position these days in America: The president owns 17 golf courses. Certainly, the White House has been home to many avid golfers, but never before to a golf business mogul.

You might think that Trump’s golf holdings shouldn’t have any impact on the sport. But it already has: In 2015, during Trump’s presidential campaign, ESPN yanked a golf tournament from Trump National outside Los Angeles, and the PGA of America pulled its Grand Slam of Golf event from the same Trump course.

President Donald Trump with Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe as Japanese pro golfer Hideki Matsuyama looks on, at Kasumigaseki Country Club in Kawagoe, Japan, on Nov. 5, 2017. (Reuters)

But Trump’s course in Bedminster, N.J., is still set to host the 2022 PGA Championship.

It would be the first men’s Major hosted at a Trump course, which has long been a dream of his. If Trump is still president in 2022, would holding a golf Major at a course he owns amount to a political event?

Yahoo Finance asked Bridgestone Golf CEO Angel Ilagan (pronounced “e-loggin”) about the tension. Bridgestone has been making golf balls since 1935, and last year it signed Tiger Woods to a deal to play exclusively with Bridgestone balls.

“I think the PGA and everybody else has to look at it from, there’s Trump the individual and then there’s Trump the businessman,” Ilagan says. “And his golf courses have to stand alone and you have to treat it as such.”

Ilagan says he went to the Presidents Cup last month and found, “There’s a lot of people out there who are anti-Trump, but they put the game ahead of the presidency and their opinions. So, you have to separate it, you have to put it in silos. The individual fan and the golfers out there have to decide for themselves whether or not they want to contribute to that, and whether they want to protest it.”

To be sure, it’s important to note that many pro golfers like Donald Trump. Regardless of politics, they see him as a figure who has helped the sport by buying and improving golf courses.

“He’s been good for golf,” Jim Furyk told Yahoo Finance last year, just before Trump was elected. “We’ve just never had anything happen like this in golf before.”

Daniel Roberts is the sports business writer at Yahoo Finance. Follow him on Twitter at @readDanwrite.

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