Why can't the USGA just admit it's fine with Donald Trump?

Dan Wetzel
Columnist

The U.S. Women’s Open is being held this week at Trump National Bedminster. The New Jersey club is, you might have guessed, owned by President Donald Trump.

When asked by the media about this Tuesday, with the context being Trump’s history of disrespectful comments toward women, player after player deflected the question. No one was too interested in discussing whether Trump should attend the tournament, either. Presidential flight plans suggest that’s a possibility.

“This week is about the golf,” said player Michelle Wie. “I really want to focus on the golf part.”

“I’m not American so I don’t really know about politic stuff,” said So Yeon Ryu, of South Korea, which seemed particularly fair.

Actually, everything from the players is fair. Taking a political stance – either for or against hosting the U.S. Open at a Trump property, is a choice and no one should be forced to make that choice. Maybe they care. Maybe they don’t. Maybe they know that there aren’t a lot of golf courses in America without some kind of unfortunate history.

Maybe they are just from South Korea.

This is a golf tournament, not a political debate.

“I think everybody just trying to avoid political questions because I don’t think they will get any advantage from saying whether they agree or disagree,” said another South Korean, Inbee Park. “I don’t think we get the choice of saying whether yes or no. So, we just deal with whatever we have.”

The USGA and the LPGA are not from South Korea, however. They do have a lot of say in this. And that’s what makes their ducking of the questions about Trump so unfortunate. They chose to be at Trump National. They chose to stay at Trump National.

It’s clear they are supportive of Donald Trump. Why not admit it?

“We really are here to conduct a great golf championship,” Beth Major of the USGA said Tuesday. “Our goal is to talk about the golf championship.”

Trump’s name is all over the place. There is a merchandise tent selling, according to NJ.com, Trump hats, Trump shirts and, yes, even Trump fidget spinners. And yet they would prefer to just focus on something else, anything else.

The USGA and the LPGA should just come out and say they have no issues with Trump, Trump Properties or being in business with Trump.

The USGA awarded the 2017 U.S. Women’s Open to Trump Bedminster in 2012.

They are trying to play both sides of the fairway, if you will. They are trying to downplay that the sitting president owns the course in the hopes fewer people will realize they see Trump as a valued and respected business partner.

Trump’s ultimate goal – in golf at least – is to host the men’s U.S. Open. Since the Masters is only played at Augusta National, that – or perhaps a Ryder Cup – is the crown jewel of prestige for a golf course on U.S. soil.

Trump hasn’t landed either of those fish yet, but Trump National at Bedminster, where he travels many weekends to play, was awarded the 2022 PGA Championship, the first men’s major to be held on one of his properties.

“It’s a great honor for me,” Trump declared at the time of selection, back in 2014 when he wasn’t a declared politician. It was the culmination of years of courting.

He’s been relentless in promoting his courses – slapping his name on everything to make himself impossible to ignore. He owns 18 properties around the globe. The first name of all of them is … Trump.

There are ten Trump Nationals, four Trump Internationals and one Trump World Golf. When he buys a historic course, he renames it after himself. He isn’t hiding. Danielle Kang played at Trump National in Bedminster for the 2009 U.S. Girls Junior Championship. When asked about it Tuesday, she couldn’t recall much about the tournament other than …

“All I remember is getting the Donald Trump dolls,” Kang said. “I remember getting Trump water bottles.”

Trump is a golfer. He plays golf nearly every single weekend while serving as president. He knows golfers. He plays golf with pro golfers and has for years.

It wouldn’t be a real shock that the golf industry would embrace a president that is that committed to the game, no matter how much he angers some of the public.

Trump is hardly alone in his enthusiasm for golf. President Obama took up golf while in office. Both Presidents Bush played golf. So did Kennedy, Ford and Clinton. Dwight D. Eisenhower installed a putting green outside the Oval Office and not only was a member at Augusta National, but had a since-deceased tree on the 17th fairway named after him because he used to hit into it so often.

Trump is not a particularly popular president according to the polls and he elicits incredible passion from opponents. That said, he still maintains a significant measure of support and, at times, equal passion from his fans.

It’s abundantly clear that the USGA is among them, no matter their soft-footing around the issue. They could have moved this event had they wanted, but according to a USA Today report they claimed fear of Trump suing them if they did. That’s a cop-out, though. They are good with this.

Only now that they are here, they are loath to mention his name.

It’s OK for the USGA to support Trump. That’s the choice of the organization. If you find Trump offensive and can’t support any business that wants to tie itself to him, that’s fine also.

Don’t attend this weekend’s U.S. Open. Don’t attend any PGA or LPGA event. That’s the beauty of America. Every action has a reaction. Let the market work.

The players are free to brush off questions about what they think and note that they don’t have a choice where the events are held. Plus, they have a tournament to play.

“I teed off yesterday and teed off today, mostly what I was thinking about as a golfer [was] that this golf course is very difficult,” Kang said.

The USGA, the LPGA and the PGA all have a choice. And they’ve made it. They are very comfortable with Donald Trump, past, present and future.

So why not just come out and say it?

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