Source: President Trump Threatened USGA With Lawsuit Over Moving U.S. Women's Open
USGA Exec Dir Mike Davis two years ago told members of his executive committee that President Trump "threatened to sue the organization if it moved" this week's U.S. Women’s Open from Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, N.J., according to a source cited by Christine Brennan of USA TODAY. The source said that Davis informed the Exec Committee about Trump’s threat "just as Trump was beginning his successful campaign for president." Davis, who told the group he and other USGA officials had met with Trump, at the time said, “We can’t get out of this. He’s going to sue us." Brennan notes the USGA’s choice of Trump National to host the "crown jewel of women’s golf was barely noticed when it was announced" in '12. However, the source said that "began to change" in the spring of '15, with Trump’s interest in running for president. The "Access Hollywood" tape that became public last October was "particularly embarrassing for the USGA, which ... has sought for years to attract more women and girls to a game with a history of discriminatory and exclusionary practices at private clubs." After the tape surfaced, U.S. Sens. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Edward Markey (D-Mass.) and Bob Casey (D-Pa.) "sent a letter to the USGA asking" that the '17 U.S. Women’s Open not be played at Trump National (USA TODAY, 7/11). Executive Women's Golf Association CEO Jane Geddes, who won the U.S. Open in '86, said that the USGA "considered moving the event but, as she heard it, decided that the legal and financial risk was too great." Geddes: "It's going to be a brutal week, and the golf is going to get overshadowed" (GOLF.com, 6/28).
TRUMP PLANNING ON MAKING A VISIT? In West Palm Beach, Kristina Webb cited an FAA notice posted yesterday indicating Trump will head to Bedminster on Friday and return to DC Sunday. There has been speculation that Trump "could attend the tournament, and the FAA notice seems to confirm that he at least will be on-site." USGA Dir of PR Janeen Driscoll: "We were notified of the TFR (temporary flight restrictions) this morning but unfortunately we have no knowledge of the president’s schedule" (PALM BEACH POST, 7/11). GOLFCHANNEL.com's Randall Mell noted Bill Clinton is the "last sitting president to attend a USGA event" in '97 for the U.S. Open at Congressional outside of DC. Women's-rights group UltraViolet co-Founder Shaunna Thomas said the security measures at Trump National this week are "presidential level." Thomas. “They are definitely planning for him.” She added that UltraViolet "won’t be flying an anti-Trump banner over the U.S. Women’s Open, as it did over the U.S. Open at Erin Hills last month," because the FAA is "restricting the air space" over the course this week. Thomas: "It will be impossible to fly a plane over the tournament" (GOLFCHANNEL.com, 7/10).
ALREADY UNLIKE ANY OTHER MAJOR: GOLFWEEK.com's Beth Ann Nichols wrote the potential of Trump's presence at the tournament -- there are rumors he "might even be involved in the trophy presentation on Sunday" -- is making this U.S.Women's Open a "major unlike any other." Players have been "told to expect protesters," and from the "moment players drive on property at Trump National, they’ll notice heightened security measures." Security at the walk-in gates "resemble an airport -- bag searches, metal detectors, wands." Golfer Brittany Lincicome "noted that players can’t take the plastic to-go boxes of out dining." Lincicome: “Secret service says it’s not allowed" (GOLFWEEK.com, 7/10). GOLF.com's Sean Zak as part of the site's weekly roundtable wrote, "Any headlines that read 'President Trump does (insert non-golf thing)' at one of the biggest events on the LPGA schedule will annoy me." Zak wrote knowing "how much Trump has cared about getting his courses recognized as championship-worthy by golf's governing bodies ... he'll be there on the weekend." The "urge of seeing something he so avidly wished for come to visual fruition must be great." GOLF.com's Josh Sens suspects Trump will "make a cameo but would prefer that he stays away." SI.com's Jeff Ritter noted if Trump "shows up, he becomes the center of the event." Ritter: "He'd almost certainly encounter tension or protests of some fashion in Jersey. I think it would be best for all involved, especially the golfers, if he sat this one out" (GOLF.com, 7/10).
A NO-WIN SITUATION FOR PLAYERS: GOLFCHANNEL.com's Mell noted the U.S. Women’s Open is the "most important championship in women’s golf" and the $5M purse is the "richest in women’s golf." The "prestige of the trophy may be even more meaningful." However, players have "never been in a no-win situation quite like this before." Golfer Karrie Webb said, "The U.S. Open is the biggest tournament of the year for us. We base our schedules around the U.S. Open, and I don’t understand what the point would be for any LPGA player to boycott it" (GOLFCHANNEL.com, 7/10). USA TODAY's A.J. Perez writes if Trump is in attendance, it will "add fuel to the USGA’s already controversial decision to keep the Women’s Open on a Trump property." Lincicome last month said that "she'd prefer if Trump stayed away," but she "faced some backlash for the comments" (USA TODAY, 7/11).
TWITTER REAX: USA Today's Brennan tweeted, "By not moving the US Women's Open, despite threat of suit, USGA ensured Trump is the story, not the golfers." Freelance golf reporter Stephanie Wei: "Those saying Trump's presence at U.S women's open will be 'good exposure' for ladies 🙄uh no. Shitshow & attention diverted from players/play." NPD Group's Matt Powell tweeted, "The LPGA and the USGA embarasses itself by playing on a Trump course." Alt USGA, a group formed to oppose the U.S. Women's Open being played on a Trump course: "We can now dispense with the myth that Trump was a friend of the @LPGA and @USGA. He was always just trying to enrich himself. ... If Trump was indeed good for golf (as claimed by multiple @LPGA players), he would have released @USGA from the contract." The Newark Star-Ledger's Steve Politi, reporting from today's press conference at Bedminster: "Twice, @cbrennansports has asked an LPGA pro about Trump. Twice, the USGA moderator has asked the next question. (Hint: Not about Trump.)"