Women's Open prepares for Trump arrival as USGA head answers questions

Presidential skybox at Trump National Golf Club. (Twitter/@StevePoliti)

Will President Donald Trump attend the U.S. Women’s Open, now underway at Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, New Jersey? A flight plan filed with the FAA earlier this week appeared to hint that way, and now local media on-site have caught sight of a well-decorated, newly constructed skybox overlooking the course that has a presidential air about it.

Here’s N.J. Advance Media’s Steve Politi describing the skybox: “The stand, with windows on three sides and stars-and-stripes bunting along the facade, is neatly appointed with two flat-screen TVs, a refrigerator filled with Coke products, several leather chairs and—of course—an American flag. It is within a few yards of the tee box for the 16th hole, a tricky par-3 hole over water, and looks out at the 18th green and a fountain that appears to have the Roman god Neptune on top.”

Trump is slated to spend Friday in France celebrating Bastille Day, but the White House has not made subsequent plans public. That would appear to open the door for him to spend the weekend at Bedminster. And if that happens, a presidential visit will send an event already rocketing on the fires of social controversy into orbit.

The USGA has drawn heat for holding its marquee women’s event at a course owned by a man who has in the past bragged about his mistreatment of women, and it’s a dicey position to hold for an organization whose intention is to grow the game among both men and women. A USA Today report earlier this week suggested that the USGA could have faced a lawsuit if it withdrew from the Trump property.

More recently, USGA executive director Mike Davis addressed questions about Trump’s visit (“We would certainly welcome him”) and a questionably relevant inquiry about the USGA’s own sexual assault policies (“That crosses the line and you’ve broken the law. And we’re golf administrators and we’re going to follow the law and the authorities can get involved in that”). Davis repeated, once again, his hopeful but ultimately fruitless desire that this weekend would be about golf and only golf:

“Anytime the focus gets off the players and gets off this championship, and gets off the marvelous golf course and the ultimate test of golf,” said Davis, “anytime it’s that, it’s really too bad.”

It’s a fair point, even though any story involving Trump never remains purely political for very long. With all the political/social/gender commentary swirling about Bedminster, it’s easy to forget that there’s an actual golf tournament taking place here. Player after player who spoke prior to the tournament had to handle questions about Trump’s past self-admitted intentions toward sexual assault, and opinion (naturally) divides on even the act of questioning itself; one person’s justifiable inquiry in search of hypocrisy is another’s agenda-driven journalistic overreach.

“I take my role as a female role model very seriously,” Michelle Wie said in response to one such inquiry about Trump’s past boasting. “This week is about the golf. The U.S. Open is our national championship. It is one of my favorite weeks of the year. So, this week, I really want to focus on the golf and I want to, hopefully, inspire a lot of young women, and women in general, with my game.”

“Sticking to sports” is a naive and irrelevant concept when a tournament is taking place at a course owned by the President of the United States, regardless of political affiliation. Still, it’ll be interesting to see just how much attention goes to the course’s owner, and how much to the players actually competing in the event.
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Jay Busbee is a writer for Yahoo Sports and the author of EARNHARDT NATION, on sale now at Amazon or wherever books are sold. Contact him at jay.busbee@yahoo.com or find him on Twitter or on Facebook.