News & Opinion

Golf needs to take a stand against Donald Trump

Donald Trump at 2014 WGC Cadillac Championship at Doral
President Donald Trump is scheduled to host the 2022 PGA Championship at his Trump National Golf Club Bedminster in New Jersey.

In response to the president’s recent actions in stoking an attack on the Capitol, the PGA of America should move its 2022 PGA Championship from Trump National Bedminster in New Jersey

Actions have consequences.

One day after the siege at the U.S. Capitol, many observers worldwide are trying to sort out the insurrection after watching in horror as America seemingly had devolved into a Third World dictatorship.

The rioting, seditious and treasonous behavior, which resulted in four deaths and a defiled seat of American government, signaled a complete lack of respect for the rule of law.

So, we ask, Why did it happen? Who is responsible? And, what do we do about it?

I choose to go with the simplest answer, via the Occam’s razor philosophical approach: President Donald Trump, in refusing to accept the election results, incited a riot on the Capitol grounds for his own personal aggrandizement.

You might be thinking that a golf journalist should not write about politics, but that takes me to my first premise: Actions have consequences.

On Jan. 20, Joe Biden and Kamala Harris are going to be sworn in as U.S. president and vice president, respectively, and Trump will become a private citizen again. The 45th president will possess a lot more gravitas after having served four years in the White House.

So, after he saunters off to Mar-a-Lago, his retreat in Palm Beach, Fla., how should golf treat Trump the golf entrepreneur?

Trump National Golf Club Bedminster in New Jersey holds a contract with the PGA of America to host the 2022 PGA Championship, one of men’s golf’s four annual major events. Trump undoubtedly will attend the festivities and attempt to be the biggest attraction.

Donald Trump presents trophy to Dustin Johnson at 2015 WGC Cadillac Championship at Doral
Donald Trump (right) presents the trophy to winner Dustin Johnson at the 2015 WGC Cadillac Championship at Trump National Doral in Florida.

That tactic is not new for Trump at big events hosted by his clubs and surely was factored into the decision in 2014 when the PGA of America accepted his invitation to host the event.

But now, in light of what has happened at the Capitol and the seditious acts instigated by Trump as president, does the PGA of America have an obligation to move the 2022 PGA Championship to a different location?

Should Trump, the club or any of his businesses profit after his actions of Jan. 6?

Can and should golf expel him from the fraternity?

In the United Kingdom, two courses, Trump Turnberry and Trump International Scotland, are high-profile venues that have hosted major championships (Turnberry) or are on the short list for a European Tour event (Trump International Scotland). With both courses, any decision to bring a championship to either venue was put on hold because of Trump’s presidency. Now that Trump has lost the 2020 election and will return to private life, those self-imposed restrictions by the R&A and the European Tour no longer would apply.

So, what should the major golf organizations and governing bodies do?

I would hope that again the recent actions of Trump during the final days of his presidency would bring into focus why dealing with him, his courses and his companies is inappropriate.

Morning Read was awaiting a response from the PGA of America, which was sent an email seeking comment.

In a February 2020 interview with U.K. media, Martin Slumbers, the R&A's chief executive, addressed Turnberry's status as a future British Open site.

“I think as you start to build out the scale of the Open and position it, infrastructure becomes really important. We need to have much more detailed conversations with the Scottish government about infrastructure for Turnberry, because it’s difficult to get people there," he said, alluding to the remote location on Scotland's southwestern coast.

“It is a fantastic golf course; it’s arguably one of the finest. There were only 130,000 there last time [in 2009, when Stewart Cink defeated Tom Watson in a playoff], and it is one single carriageway road to get everyone and everything down there."

A spokesperson for the European Tour said: “All decisions in relation to venues are taken in consultation with our tournament partners and sponsors.”

Doesn’t golf, no matter whether in the U.S., the U.K. or anywhere else in this world have the moral obligation to stand up and say, “actions have consequences”?

I’m aware that the PGA of America holds a signed contract with Trump and his New Jersey club to host the 2022 PGA Championship. Though it might be difficult and perhaps even costly to pull out of the deal, that’s exactly what the PGA should do.

According to one insider who is familiar with the deal, the clincher involved Trump’s agreement to pay the PGA approximately $5 million to host the PGA Grand Slam of Golf in four consecutive years at Trump properties in Los Angeles and West Palm Beach. However, when Trump, as a presidential candidate in 2015, made controversial comments about illegal immigrants from Mexico being “in many cases, criminals, drug dealers, rapists,” the PGA opted to cancel the Grand Slam, and no money changed hands. It’s unclear whether the PGA actually guaranteed Trump a site fee for the 2022 PGA Championship, given his eagerness to host a major tournament.

In golf, we often talk about all the good that the game and its leaders do for others, including charitable giving, as shining stars of the sport. But at the same time, is it not the game’s responsibility to disassociate itself from bad actors, no matter how much prestige or money they might have?

Golf needs to take a stand against Trump, and the 2022 PGA Championship is a good place to start.

Will it happen? Only time will tell, but this much is certain: If the PGA decides to go ahead with the event at Bedminster, the organization, which represents 29,000 club professionals, will be tainting its championship by associating with a man who acted like Roman Emperor Nero, inciting a mob and then returning to the White House with the hope that democracy burned to the ground.

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