It was early in the 2006 season at Trump National Bedminster (N.J.) when Mickie Gallagher walked into the club’s posh pro shop and told Jim Herman to lace up his golf shoes.
“You’re going to get to play with the boss,” Gallagher said.
The “boss” is now two days away from a new title – Leader of the Free World – but on that spring day in ’06, Donald J. Trump was just a competitor. It was perhaps the only time the president-elect didn’t claim Herman as his partner, and the future PGA Tour member won that day’s game.
Trump wouldn’t make that mistake again.
Herman, who was an assistant at Trump National at the time, would become the “boss’” regular partner and much more. The real estate-mogul-turned-politician would offer Herman advice, encouragement and eventually well-deserved congratulations.
“It was getting late in my career, just to get that added confidence boost was huge,” Herman said of his time with Trump.
On Friday, Herman will join thousands of Trump supporters and friends at the 58th Presidential Inauguration in Washington, D.C.
“I don’t know what to expect,” Herman said with a smile, “never been to one. Seen it on TV a bunch of times, but I’m very excited.”
No president has ever been so closely tied to golf than Trump, whose portfolio currently includes 15 complexes, and no professional golfer is as close to Trump as Herman.
Herman explains it was a “team” that helped guide him from the pro shop at Bedminster to the PGA Tour, and that Trump was an important part of that collective. Even after the 39-year-old earned his Tour card in 2011, he remained Trump’s regular partner including last month just weeks after the election.
“It was different,” Herman said of the round on Dec. 22 at Trump International in Palm Beach, Fla. “A lot more Secret Service [agents], but just a different feeling. He’s the president-elect and he was only three weeks away from the inauguration. I’ve been around him a lot and I’ve always enjoyed being around him, but this time was just a little different.”
Different than say the round the duo played in April or last summer just as the campaign was heating up, or the dozen of times the president-elect teamed with the now-Tour winner. But if the vibe was different post-election, Trump remained the “boss.”
Herman describes Trump as a serious competitor on the golf course with a sublime putting stroke and a keen sense of humor, and he added that their matches are for pride not money.
“His game has not changed a whole lot, he’s not playing a bunch but he’s a great driver of the golf ball and a great putter, in between he needs to work on it,” he said.
Herman also provided some insight into the incoming Chief Executive’s leadership style.
“Anytime I was around him he was very supportive, it’s a different industry than he’s used to working in but he’s jumped into golf full steam ahead,” Herman said. “He’s very loyal to his employees, you’ll see a lot of his employees are there for a lifetime. He’s extremely loyal.”
This loyalty was on display last April when Trump reached out to Herman, via a message from Gallagher, just days after he’d won his first Tour title at the Shell Houston Open. By the time Herman returned home to Florida he had numerous notes from Trump.
“He’s very good at getting his word to you,” Herman said. “Usually, he’ll take an article that’s written about you and he’ll write something on it and get it in the mail right away. I’ve got a bunch of those at home.”
Many consider a Trump presidency to be a potential boon for golf given his connection to the game. His facility in Bedminster is scheduled to host the 2022 PGA Championship and the 2017 U.S. Women’s Open, and until this year Trump National Doral was a regular Tour stop and new commissioner Jay Monahan said earlier this month that, “we’re committed to finding a way to get back there [south Florida].”
Having a leader in the White House who is as closely linked to the game can only be good for golf, Herman figures.
“It will just bring people to the game, hopefully,” he said. “He’s great for the game of golf, and I hope we’re at some more of his venues because they are pretty good.”
Herman has played this week’s CareerBuilder Challenge each of the last three seasons, but he’ll miss the circuit’s first mainland stop of the year. Instead, he’ll fly to New Jersey on Thursday morning and he and Gallagher will drive down to the inauguration together that evening.
“I don’t know what the emotions will be,” he admitted.
The president-elect is many things to many people, but for Herman Trump is a friend, advocate, regular golf partner, and now – POTUS.