Photograph: Leon Neal / Getty Images
Donald Trump has always placed a substantial value on sport as an inextricable part of American life and bought it accordingly. He owned an upstart American Football League team in the early 1980s and made a booming but failed bid for the NFL Buffalo Bills in the 2010s. He paid an eight-figure site fee to arrange for big prizes in his Atlantic City casino before he went bankrupt. He actively courted the support of athletes throughout his political life, well aware of the power of the athlete as an influencer among the patrician and working class groups.
So, as the walls close in the final days of his presidency, his Twitter account sterilized and his reputation forever stained for his role in inciting last week’s insurgency on the U.S. Capitol, there is a certain poetic justice to be found in the rejection he felt of his favorite sport of all, if only because we know that this is most likely the only significant consequence he will have to face.
On Sunday, the PGA of America announced it was removing Trump’s New Jersey Golf Club from the 2022 US PGA Championship, the first male major to be awarded at a Trump property and the crowning of his two decades as owner. and golf course operator. The R&A followed suit the next day when it appeared to rule out Turnberry, the Scottish course that last hosted the Open Championship before Trump bought it, as the future host of golf’s longest-serving major. In Trumpland, it’s a worse fate than the impeachment itself.
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“We are in a political situation that is beyond our control,” said Seth Waugh, CEO of the PGA of America. “We are the trustees of our members, the game, our mission and our brand. And how can we better protect that? We felt, given the tragic events of Wednesday, that we could no longer hold it in Bedminster. The damage could have been irreparable. The only real course of action was to leave.
The right decision, of course. As Waugh put it, retaining next year’s PGA Championship at Bedminster was “damaging” to their brand. All it took was an assault on democracy unprecedented in the history of the US presidency. But much like those administration officials whose resignations started coming almost immediately after Wednesday’s bloodshed, let’s stop hailing him as a profile of courage. Not after five years of watching a whole sports toad at its most famous player.
The golf establishment most certainly knew it had a problem at hand from the moment Trump launched his presidential campaign with remarks labeling Mexican immigrants as drug dealers, criminals and rapists. As the owner of 17 golf courses in the United States and overseas, linked to all the major golf organizations, Trump was one of the sport’s most visible power brokers and a firm response was needed. Thus, the PGA Tour, LPGA Tour, PGA of America and USGA issued a joint statement saying its comments did not reflect their views and were inconsistent with golf’s commitment to an inclusive environment. Of course, those feelings turned out to be insane when they continued to host their tournaments at his properties.
Trump looked into the onset of the storm by saying he received “huge support” in the sport “because they all know I’m right” in an interview with Golf Channel. Although he had long since traded the dog whistle for a foghorn, America’s whitest, right-most major sport subtext in space was undeniable. Golf did little to dispel these perceptions last year when the police shooting of Jacob Blake, shortly after the murders of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, sparked an unprecedented wave of protests and protests. in the history of American sport. Boycotts have spread from the NBA to Major League Baseball, Major League Soccer, the National Hockey League and the WNBA. Even sports leagues seen as less progressive have been pressured to respond: The Cincinnati Masters tennis tournament halted play and pathologically apolitical NFL commissioner Roger Goodell made a staggering about-face admitting that life blacks mattered.
In all of this, the silence of the golf world was deafening. When Nascar comes back watching progressive heart bleeding by comparison, it might be time to look at yourself in the mirror. It also hasn’t been particularly easy watching one PGA Tour star after another play a tour with Trump – Tiger Woods, Dustin Johnson, Justin Thomas, Bryson DeChambeau, Brooks Koepka and Lexi Thompson among countless others – at a time when the rest of the sports world united against the fanaticism he espoused. (Only Rory McIlroy has publicly expressed a sense of regret for taking part in the masquerade.)
Then came Thursday when two of the sport’s greatest players – Gary Player and Annika Sorenstam – willingly showed up to the White House to accept the Presidential Medal of Freedom with blood in the barely dried halls of Congress. Oddly enough, the ceremony was closed to the press and no photos were made available by the White House press office. In a moment that gave new meaning to slow play and excessive delay, it took the PGA another three days to unplug the plug.
In 2014, shortly after Trump National won the US PGA Championship and before launching his presidential bid, Trump sat down for an interview with Golf Digest in which he shared a retrograde take on the almost charming sport. in his scream. “I would make golf an ambition,” he said. “Instead of trying to get everyone to golf, people who can never be there anyway.”
A shocking embrace of violence and chaos ensured that Trump was no longer part of the future of golf. The real scandal is that it took so long.