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Golf Leaders Talk About Handling Trump's Impact On Game With Potential Backlash

Golf Leaders Talk About Handling Trump's Impact On Game With Potential Backlash

By Robert Gray, Correspondent

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Whan said that the LPGA may get 15 emails a year pointing out infractions
Proskauer’s Sports Law Group Chair and co-Head Joe Leccese teed off the Inside Golf panel at the '17 CAA World Congress of Sports where else but with the golfer-in-chief, Donald Trump. Since his election, President Trump has been just as controversial on the golf course as he is in the public discourse. Leaders of three major golf organizations told World Congress attendees they are trying to remain apolitical, but that it is increasingly difficult. “My tour is no different than this room or any other organization. I’ve got players who practice at Trump’s facilities and are personal friends with him and voted for him, and others who feel just the opposite,” said LPGA Commissioner Michael Whan, adding that he is bracing for disruption at the U.S. Women’s Open this July at Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, N.J. “I know people are going to try to make this more than a golf tournament,” he said. “But I won’t let my political views or somebody else’s get in the way. The best female golfers in the world don’t always get the same opportunities as in other sports or that male golfers get. I won’t let some movement or moment get in the way of those opportunities.”

TRYING TO STAY IN THE FAIRWAY: The Senior PGA Championship is teeing it up at Trump National Golf Club in DC next month, and the '22 PGA Championship will also be held at Trump Bedminster. PGA of America CEO Pete Bevacqua said, “The process has been difficult for us. [President Trump] and the (Trump) organization have been huge proponents of the game for several decades. ... We all have personal relationships with Donald Trump the person. I’ve played with him a lot. The last time I played with him was in late December. Whoever the president is, it’s good to have the president as a fan of the game and a proponent. Whether it’s President Trump, Obama, Clinton, or either of the Bushes.” USGA Exec Dir & CEO Mike Davis added, “The USGA is in the business of golf, supporting golf, governing golf, and never wanted to get into politics. That’s easier said than done. ... (President Trump) has been very supportive to date, but we just don’t want to get caught up in it. It’s a no-win situation and I think we have our work cut out for us this summer (at the U.S. Women’s Open).”

OFFICIATING BY EMAIL: Golf has had no shortage of controversy on the course this year, and the three golf officials addressed the Lexi Thompson penalty that was noticed and emailed by a TV viewer to the LPGA that cost her a major title at the ANA Inspiration. Davis said, “Golfers are expected to know and play by the rules. It is disconcerting. We have all been tremendously uncomfortable with the public saying people are calling in and affecting the outcome of golf. But if it didn’t happen in golf, you‘d have champions perhaps winning events when the whole world knows they shouldn’t.” He did allow that change could be coming. “The governing bodies are looking at, when a round is over it’s over,” he said. “It does bother people that it happened on Friday and it affects the results on Sunday.” Whan said the LPGA may get 15 emails a year pointing out infractions. “The rules say if you get info from any source and there’s video to review then you review it,” he said. “Whether you like it or not is kind of like whether or not you like that pass interference is something that can’t be reviewed because it’s judgmental.”

MIXING IT UP: The growing youth movement, especially among girls, is a positive sign for the game. Whan said, “The fastest growing segment in golf is girls under age 18. That’s the first time we’ve ever been able to say that.” Bevacqua gave a shout out to the success of co-ed programs, including Junior Team Golf and the Drive, Chip, and Putt competitions. And co-ed golf may soon hit the pro tours. “You’ll see us playing together in the pretty near future,” Whan said. “We’re working on it right now. Our preference is to start with the Tournament of Champions. That gets you a field size of 60 or 70 golfers versus 240. That is more user-friendly from the beginning.”

Quick Hits:
* Davis: “We first got to know Trump when Bedminster was being built 10 minutes from our headquarters. He built a beautiful facility. It may not be the greatest in the world, which he talks about sometimes, but it’s a great course.”

* Whan: “The future of the game, the face of the game, is changing. It looks completely different than adult golf. Today one-third of junior golfers are women, one-third are non-Caucasian. It looks completely different than adult golf. I don’t know what golf will look like in 2030, but I can promise you it will look different than today.”

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