BEDMINSTER, N.J. – Shanshan Feng led the U.S. Women’s Open as she stepped on to the 15th green Friday at Trump National, but she couldn’t help pausing to take in the historic spectacle unfolding there.
President Donald Trump was settling in to his private box aside the 15th green and behind the 16th tee.
Leaning on her putter, Feng couldn’t resist turning to sneak a peek with the president looking down behind bullet-proof glass.
“I heard people kind of screaming, so that’s what I was trying to find out, why they were screaming,” Feng said.
Feng wasn’t alone.
Inbee Park couldn’t make out the president behind the glass as she stepped onto the 18th green, but her caddie, Brad Beecher, spotted him.
“It was kind of funny walking up to the green,” Beecher said. “Everybody was turned the other way, away from us, with their cellphone cameras pointed up at the president. We heard the yelling, and then we saw him get up and wave.”
“I shot a glance,” Thompson said. “Honestly, I was just trying to focus on my shot.”
Trump first rolled onto his private golf club, Trump National, at 3:41 p.m. in a black SUV as part of a presidential motorcade.
Love or loathe this president, it was a historic moment.
Trump is the first sitting president to attend the U.S. Women’s Open.
Lewis felt the weight of that history back at the ninth hole, where her group was held back from crossing to the 10th tee so that Trump’s motorcade could pass.
Controversies aside, Lewis appreciated the history being made.
“That was kind of what intrigued me to start the week, was that we had never had an active sitting president at one of our events,” Lewis said. “So I was kind of excited, regardless of who it is, of the prospect that he came here to watch us.
“He tweeted about coming to the U.S. Women’s Open. Some people didn’t know it was going on. It’s kind of a historic and cool moment to have our president here.”
While more than one activist group was protesting down the road from Trump National, Trump’s arrival was embraced by enthusiastic golf fans inside the club’s gates.
There was an electric crackle outside Trump’s private box as he ascended the staircase to the entrance at 5:22 p.m. A chorus of “wooo-hoos” and cheers went up as the president waved.
Once inside his private box, Trump answered the call of spectators beckoning him to the window. He waved, shot a pair of thumbs up and balled his fist in a triumphant salute.
There were no jeers or signs of disapproval.
“Make America great again!” one fan shouted.
“You’re doing a great job,” another shouted.
Outside the gates, there were harsher things being said.
“For months we urged the USGA and LGPA to move this tournament,” Shaunna Thomas, co-founder of UltraViolet, a group formed to fight sexism and expand women’s rights, said in a statement. “They ignored us. Now, they are allowing Trump to use this tournament, and sadly the players, to benefit his own self-interests.
“The USGA and LPGA could have made a clear and unequivocal statement against sexual assault by moving this tournament. Instead they chose to embrace the man who is a walking, talking example of a sexual predator. Shame on the USGA. Shame on the LPGA. This is a stain on your brand that will not wash away.”
Players got a completely different vibe from the adoring fans huddled around Trump’s private box.
Henderson, a Canadian, felt the excitement building around the 15th green as she approached.
“It was really exciting,” Henderson said. “It’s really amazing that the president of the United States is here to watch us play golf and on a tremendous golf course.
“It’s pretty incredible. I never thought that would happen. To be in my fifth U.S. Open and to have it happen is really cool.”
Security staff was lined up beneath Trump’s box, keeping spectators from getting too close. A pair of Secret Service members in bullet-proof vests with assault rifles stood watch nearby.
Trump spent about an hour watching from his box.
Thompson was probably more prepared to play in front of the president than anybody else in the field. She has playing privileges at Trump International Golf Club in West Palm and has played with the president.
“I’ve gotten to play with him quite a bit,” Thompson said. “He plays very fast. It’s a good time. Definitely entertaining.”
Trump made Friday as historic inside the gates as it was controversial outside the gates.