Lame duck US President Donald Trump is slowly but surely being stripped of his favorite things. First, he lost access to his social media platforms, now his pastime of choice has been dealt a blow in the aftermath of last week‘s riots in the US Capitol building.
Following a vote conducted by the PGA, the governing body responsible for running professional golf events, it was announced on Sunday that the Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, owned by the outgoing president, had been stripped of the rights to host the 2022 PGA Championship.
“It has become clear that conducting the PGA Championship at Trump Bedminster would be detrimental to the PGA of America brand and would put at risk the PGA’s ability to deliver our many programs and sustain the longevity of our mission,” said PGA of America President Jim Richerson.
“It was a decision made to ensure the PGA of America and PGA professionals can continue to lead and grow our game for decades to come.”
More legal threats from Trump
Trump is an avid golfer, something that critics have used against him throughout his four-year term in the White House. The US president’s presence in the sport goes beyond taking in a round of 18 holes though, as his hotel empire boasts golf resorts in the US, the UK and Dubai.
Trump has rubbed shoulders with some of the greatest players of all-time, including Tiger Woods who had this to say in 2018: “He’s the president of the United States. You have to respect the office. No matter who is in the office – you may like, dislike the personality or the politics – but we all must respect the office.”
The PGA Championship, one of the game’s four majors, was due to the be the first ever men’s major to be held at one of the 17 Trump-owned courses around the world. The Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, New Jersey, had previously hosted the US Women’s Open as part of the LPGA tour in 2017.
“We have had a beautiful partnership with the PGA of America,” Trump’s representative said in response to the PGA’s vote. “This is a breach of a binding contract and they have no right to terminate the agreement.”
“As an organization we have invested many, many millions of dollars in the 2022 PGA Championship at Trump National Golf Club, Bedminster. We will continue to promote the game of golf on every level and remain focused on operating the finest golf courses anywhere in the world.”
The decision to move the event came after the US president’s speech denouncing the November 3 election results was believed by many to have played a significant part in inciting the violent breach by thousands of rioters on the Capitol, during which five people lost their lives.
‘Political situation not of our making’
The PGA of America terminating the agreement is the sports world’s first step towards joining politicians on both sides of the aisle and corporate entities in officially breaking ties with the US president following last week’s chilling events.
Golf has often appeared tone deaf when it comes to politics, something that was underlined once again when Annika Sorenstam and Gary Player accepted the Presidential Medal of Freedom from Trump just a day after the riots at the Capitol.
In contrast, Bill Belichick, coach of NFL side the New England Patriots, rejected the same honor after the riot, despite having previously spoken of his friendship with Mr Trump, citing the US Capitol scenes.
Now though, the lines have been blurred, with PGA chief executive Seth Waugh telling the Associated press that the governing body “find ourselves in a political situation not of our making.”
“We’re fiduciaries for our members, for the game, for our mission and for our brand,” Waugh said. “And how do we best protect that? Our feeling was given the tragic events of Wednesday that we could no longer hold it at Bedminster. The damage could have been irreparable. The only real course of action was to leave.”
Battling a checkered history
Golf is a predominantly white sport and, with icons such as Jack Nicklaus, Tom Watson and John Daly being vocal supporters of Trump, is also one of the most conservative of the major American sports.
This is not the first time the PGA have been confronted with a difficult decision. As recently as 1990, the Shoal Creek Club almost suffered the same fate when club president Hall Thompson said black golfers playing on his course was “just not done in Birmingham.” It wasn’t until a local African-American businessman named Louis Willie was granted membership that the PGA decided the event would stay put.
This time around, the PGA’s decision was swift and steadfast. It follows on from criticism that, while other major sports took the knee in protest, golf could have done more in response to the deaths this summer of George Floyd and Breanna Taylor and in response to the Black Lives Matters movement.
Following on from last week’s events at the Capitol, silence wasn’t an option this time. Trump may still love the sport of golf, but his favorite hobby has taken a stand against him, just as the American voters did on November 3.
Trump and the PGA: Bedminster decison reveals golf’s deeper struggles with its image The British Journal Editors and Wire Services/ Deutsche Welle.