At Bedminster, Trump the elephant in the room

By Randall MellJuly 10, 2017, 5:28 pm

BEDMINSTER, N.J. – President Donald Trump’s shadow engulfs this week’s U.S. Women’s Open.

The big question going to Trump National isn’t whether Danielle Kang can win back-to-back major championships, or if Brittany Lang will successfully defend her title, or whether So Yeon Ryu or Lexi Thompson is the player to beat.

It’s whether President Trump will actually show up.

While Trump didn’t attend the Senior PGA Championship at Trump National in Potomac Falls, Va., this spring, he did show up for the Ricoh Women’s British Open at Trump Turnberry while running for president two years ago.

“We simply don’t know if the president plans to attend,” USGA spokeswoman Janeen Driscoll wrote in response to a email query late last week. “But it would not be the first time one has attended our championships.”

Bill Clinton watched Ernie Els win the U.S. Open at Congressional Country Club 20 years ago from a special platform built above the 16th green. He’s the last sitting president to attend a USGA event.

The USGA, Town of Bedminster and Somerset County have heightened security measures in preparation for the possibility Trump will attend.

“The security measures for this tournament are presidential level,” said UltraViolet co-founder Shaunna Thomas. “They are definitely planning for him.”

UltraViolet is a national group formed to fight sexism and expand women’s rights. The group is planning to demonstrate in public space near Trump National. Thomas said the permitting process UltraViolet navigated made it clear USGA and local government officials are preparing for the president’s arrival.

In fact, Thomas told 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 Federal Aviation Administration is restricting the air space over Trump Bedminster this week.

“The air space is secured for a several mile radius,” Thomas said. “It will be impossible to fly a plane over the tournament.”

On Monday, the FAA provided more evidence the president plans to attend, sending a notice to pilots that clears the way for Trump to fly into the Town of Bedminster on Friday and leave on Sunday.

“Obviously, the president, for any number of reasons, might not show up,” Thomas said.

There were 10-mile no-fly restrictions imposed when Trump visited the club in May and again when he visited in June.

That won’t stop UltraViolet from getting its message out in other ways. The women’s rights organization is planning to deliver its protest messages via digital billboard on a truck that will circle the Trump National property.

Trump National Bedminster is being called Trump’s “Summer White House” by locals. With living quarters there, the club serves as a retreat for the president, who has stayed there at least twice since being elected.

“This is going to be the summer of resistance,” New Jersey Family Alliance director Analilia Mejia told NJ Advance Media about regular Saturday protest plans.

UltraViolet’s Thomas expects a large contingent of protesters for Sunday’s final round. Her group has accused the LPGA and the USGA of “giving millions in revenue, free advertising and branding to Trump, a racist, sexist, sexual predator.” UltraViolet also has led a letter campaign pressuring LPGA sponsors.

“The USGA and the LPGA are sending exactly the wrong signal about who they are as institutions and what they want to stand for by hosting a tournament at a golf course that is owned by a sexual harasser and abuser with a long record of racism and misogyny, before he became president,” Thomas said. “I guarantee you there will be many groups protesting the tournament’s relationship with Donald Trump.”

The Bedminster library has been designated by Somerset County officials as the First Amendment gathering place for both Trump protesters and supporters. It is four miles east of the front entrance to the golf course.

The activist groups We The People NJ, New Jersey Working Families, Action Together NJ, and the New Jersey Family Alliance have been among groups protesting nearly every Saturday through the spring at that same library site. The groups staged a rally there in May, when Trump made his first visit to the property after his election. Those groups also formed a motorcade picket, circling the club while honking horns in protest.

Driscoll said about 300 media credentials have been approved for the U.S. Women’s Open, with restrictions to the size constraints of the media center. The USGA gave priority to media “providing immediate championship golf coverage,” with credential review based on the media applicant’s “intent to cover our championship as a first priority.”

Trump was back at the White House on Sunday after a return from last week’s G20 Summit in Hamburg, Germany. While Trump has reportedly accepted an invitation from French President Emmanuel Marcon to visit his country for Bastille Day on Friday, Monday’s FAA news makes it appear he may still attend the U.S. Women’s Open.

Trump came under fire from golf fans when video was released three weeks ago showing him driving a golf cart across a green at Trump National in Bedminster, a violation of the game’s etiquette that went viral. His attendance at the U.S. Women’s Open could draw more attention to the championship than it has ever received.

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Two-time major champion Brittany Lincicome found out just how polarizing Trump’s presence could be after a Chicago Tribune reporter asked her about Trump during the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship two weeks ago.

“Hopefully, maybe, he doesn’t show up, and it won’t be a big debacle, and it will be about us and not him,” Lincicome said. “I don’t know him. I have met him probably once. I think it will be fine. We’re going to play an amazing golf course and let our clubs do the talking.”

Lincicome said she wasn’t taking an anti-Trump stand, just a stand against the potentially chaotic work environment Trump’s appearance could create, but she quickly became a target on social media. Trump supporters criticized her for not wanting him there, and Trump opponents criticized her for planning to play there.

Even Champions Tour pro John Daly expressed his displeasure over Lincicome’s comment when she asked him via Twitter on Saturday if he would be willing to play in her charity event.

“Tough to do things when ppl down on 1 of my grt friends,” Daly tweeted back. “Sorry. Some things shouldn’t be said. He has a grt heart & has America 1st always.”

All the backlash led Lincicome to announce Sunday that she was going off Twitter this week.

“I have nothing against him at all,” Lincicome tweeted. “Just don’t want it to be a circus while we work.”

The 156 players who will tee it up aren’t sure what to expect at Trump National, but this looks like it could be a national championship unlike any other.

The U.S. Women’s Open is the most important championship in women’s golf. The $5 million purse is the richest in women’s golf, and the prestige of the trophy may be even more meaningful.

Still, players have never been in a no-win situation quite like this before, as Lincicome discovered while being attacked by both sides of the Trump debate.

Martha Burk, the former chair of the National Council of Women’s Organizations, didn’t spare the players in her criticism, with the USGA resolving to stick to its plans to play the U.S. Women’s Open on Trump’s course.

“The good girls of golf have always been afraid to cross the guys,” Burk wrote in an article for the Huffington Post.

That’s a frustrating indictment for professional female golfers.

Mo Martin, the 2014 Women’s British Open champion, said the practical implication of skipping the U.S. Women’s Open is incompatible with the larger principles female athletes strive to support.

“There’s been backlash against the president, and a lot of that backlash is people thinking he’s a misogynist,” Martin said. “But from that standpoint, as a female athlete, we need every opportunity we can get. We’re always trailing the men, as far as professional golf opportunities go, and so it makes no sense to me to pressure females to miss an opportunity to try to make a point against a man.”

For so many women tour pros, doing harm to the U.S. Women’s Open would be like cutting off their nose to spite their face.

“What’s great about this country and democracy is that you have the freedom to stand up for your beliefs and to protest things you don’t like,” Hall of Famer Karrie Webb said. “I understand why it has come to this, but it’s a shame it has come to this.

“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. At the end of the day, the president is still going to be the president. I think the only losers in boycotting the tournament would be the players.”

UltraViolet’s stance toward women who will tee it up this week has changed. Thomas said the organization has become more understanding of the quandary the players face this week.

Her organization’s complaints are more intensely focused on how the leaders in women’s golf have failed these players by scheduling them to play a Trump course.

“It’s deeply unfair for these players,” she said. “That’s part of the reason we’ve stepped up, and why we are being so relentless with this campaign. These players ought to be able to just show up and play golf this week. This is an unnecessary distraction that the USGA and LPGA have placed them in. They don’t deserve it.”

Trump’s been a friend to women’s golf in the past, including his run as host of the ADT Championship at his Trump International course in West Palm Beach, Fla., from 2000 to 2005.

Natalie Gulbis supported him a speech at the Republican National Convention.

So Yeon Ryu has had a Trump logo among the many logos on her golf bag.

Cristie Kerr and Lexi Thompson are among women who have enjoyed playing privileges at Trump’s courses.

“I’m not close with the president,” Kerr said. “He has been a casual acquaintance I have played golf with in the past, but I don’t see him on a regular basis. He happens to have fantastic golf properties. Trump National in Bedminster is one of his great courses. That’s why we are here.

“If women’s groups want to help women’s sports, they will respect what we do, and they will support women’s sports, instead of putting out such a negative message.”

A lot of players started shutting down their comments about playing Trump National with the championship growing closer. Several players declined to comment when asked about Trump at the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship, even some of the most outspoken players on tour.

“I’m going there to play the U.S. Women’s Open,” Paula Creamer said. “It’s nothing to do with political views.”

Stacy Lewis also passed when asked about Trump. “Not going to comment,” she said at the Women’s PGA.

The USGA announced plans to play the U.S. Women’s Open at Trump National in Bedminster back in 2012.

When protest of the decision began to grow with Trump’s presidential campaign, the pressure on the USGA to move the event grew.

Early on, even LPGA commissioner Mike Whan pushed to abandon plans to play Trump’s course, and he got lambasted by Trump for it.

When the USGA dug in with the intent to honor its contract and commitment, Whan wasn’t going to harm a loyal partner. Whan stood with the organization.

Today, Whan is faced with a Herculean task, trying to make a championship on a Trump course more about his players than about Trump.

“We have addressed the U.S. Women’s Open multiple times and in multiple interviews,” Whan said in a statement replying to a request for an interview last week. “We are simply not going to engage in any political discussion this week. Instead, we choose to focus on the best female players in the world who have earned their right to compete on one of golf’s grandest stages. Out of respect for these incredible athletes, we will keep our attention on them and the major championship competition at hand.”

While the USGA has publicly addressed some of Trump’s controversial remarks as “being at odds with our belief that golf should be welcoming and inclusive for all,” and has cleared Trump Bedminster as complying with the USGA’s anti-discriminatory policies, the pressure from women activists has been unrelenting.

Davis summed up his approach to this U.S. Women’s Open during media day this spring.

“The USGA, since its founding in 1894, has never been involved in politics,” Davis said. “Our focus is solely on the game of golf.

“We appreciate that there are some out there that want to make this a political event, but this is a golf event for the United States Golf Association.”

Thomas says her organization’s complaints against Trump as host of this championship aren’t about politics. They’re about Trump’s treatment of women.

“The argument they are trying to stay out of politics is almost laughable,” Thomas said. “This is fundamentally about the USGA hosting and promoting a tournament at a golf course owned by a serial sexual abuser. We expect the USGA and LPGA to respect their fans and players enough to give their business to people who are not actively undermining women. They have no business being associated with Donald Trump’s brand.”

That is a storyline that makes this U.S. Women’s Open unlike any other.

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Davies wins by 10 on 'best ball-striking round'

By Associated PressJuly 16, 2018, 1:53 am

WHEATON, Ill. - Laura Davies immediately recognized the significance of having her name inscribed on the first U.S. Senior Women's Open trophy.

It might be a long time before anyone secures the title as emphatically as Davies did.

Davies went virtually unchallenged in Sunday's final round of the inaugural USGA championship for women 50 and older, claiming the title by 10 strokes over Juli Inkster.

''It's great seeing this (trophy) paraded down for the very first time and I get my name on it first, you know?'' Davies said. ''This championship will be played for many years and there will only be one first winner - obviously a proud moment for me to win that.''

The 54-year-old Davies shot a 5-under 68 to finish at 16-under 276 at Chicago Golf Club.

It was the English player's 85th career win, and she felt the pressure even though her lead was rarely in danger.

''I haven't won for eight years - my last win was India, 2010,'' Davies said. ''So that's the pressure you're playing under, when you're trying to do something for yourself, prove to yourself you can still win.

''So this ranks highly up there. And obviously it's a USGA event. It's hard comparing tournaments, but this is very high on my list of achievements.''

A 7-under 66 Saturday provided Davies with a five-shot lead over Inkster and what she said would be a sleepless night worrying about the pressure.

Full-field scores from the U.S. Senior Women’s Open

The World Golf Hall of Famer widened her advantage early Sunday when she birdied the par-5 second hole and Inkster made bogey. Davies said a par she salvaged at the 10th was another turning point.

''It wasn't the greatest hole I ever played, but I think that, to me, was when I really started to think I might have one hand on the trophy and just had to get the other one in there.''

Inkster shot an even-par 73. England's Trish Johnson also shot 73 to finish third, 12 shots back.

''I mean, she was absolutely spectacular this week,'' Johnson said about Davies. ''I've played against her for 35 years. Yesterday was the best I have ever seen her play in her entire career.

''She just said walking down 18 it was best ball-striking round she ever had. Considering she's won 85 tournaments, that's quite some feat.''

Danielle Ammaccapane was fourth and Yuko Saito finished fifth. Martha Leach was the top amateur, tying for 10th at 6-over 298.

Davies plans to play in the Women's British Open next month, and called this win a confidence-booster as she continues to compete against the younger generation. She finished tied for second at the LPGA's Bank of Hope Founders Cup earlier this year.

''You build up a little bit of momentum, and a golf course is a golf course,'' Davies said. ''Sometimes the field strength is a little bit different, but in your own mind if you've done something like this, 16 under for four rounds around a proper championship course, it can't do anything but fill you full of confidence.''

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Romo rallies to win American Century Championship

By Associated PressJuly 16, 2018, 12:42 am

SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Nev. - Former Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo rallied from four points back to win his first American Century Championship at Lake Tahoe on Sunday.

Romo, who retired after the 2016 NFL season and is now an NFL analyst, had 27 points on the day to beat three-time defending champion Mark Mulder and San Jose Sharks captain Joe Pavelski, the the leader after the first two rounds.

''It's a special win,'' said Romo, who had finished second three times in seven previous trips to the annual celebrity golf tournament at Edgewood Tahoe Golf Course. ''It feels like you're playing a tournament back home here. The day felt good for a lot of reasons.''

Romo tapped in for par, worth one point, on the 18th hole to finish with 71 points, three ahead of Mulder, the former major league pitcher. He then caught a flight to Berlin, Wis., where he was to compete in a 36-hole U.S. Amateur qualifying tournament on Monday.

The American Century Championship uses a modified Stableford scoring system which rewards points for eagles (six), birdies (three) and pars (one) and deducts points (two) for double bogeys or worse. Bogeys are worth zero points.

Pavelski had a 7-foot eagle putt on the par-5 18th that could have tied Romo, but it slid by. He finished with 66 points, tied for third with Ray Allen, who will be inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame on Sept. 7.

Full-field scores from the American Century Championship

''It feels like nothing went in for me today,'' Pavelski said. ''But I couldn't ask for more than to have that putt to tie on the last hole.''

Romo plays as an amateur, so his $125,000 first-place check from the $600,000 purse will go to local charities and the Stowers Institute for Medical Research, the primary charitable arm of title sponsor American Century Investments.

Rounding out the top five were Trent Dilfer, a Super Bowl-winning quarterback with the Baltimore Ravens in 2001, and former tennis player Mardy Fish. Each had 62 points.

Golden State Warriors guard Steph Curry, who fell out of contention with a mediocre round Saturday, jumped into Lake Tahoe amidst much fanfare after losing a bet to his father, Dell. The elder Curry jumped into the lake last year, so he negotiated a 20-point handicap and won by two points.

Other notable players in the 92-player field included John Smoltz, the MLB hall of Fame pitcher who two weeks ago competed in the U.S. Senior Open and finished 10th here with 53 points; Steph Curry, who finished tied for 11th with retired Marine and wounded war hero Andrew Bachelder (50); actor Jack Wagner (16th, 47 points); Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers (tied for 18th, 44 points); actor Ray Romano (tied for 71st, minus-26 points); comedian Larry the Cable Guy (tied for 77th, minus-33 points); and former NBA great Charles Barkley, who finished alone in last with minus-93 points.

The tournament drew 57,097 fans for the week, setting an attendance record for the fourth straight year.

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Singh tops Maggert in playoff for first senior major

By Associated PressJuly 16, 2018, 12:10 am

HIGHLAND PARK, Ill. - Vijay Singh birdied the second playoff hole to beat Jeff Maggert and win the Constellation Senior Players Championship on Sunday.

Singh knocked in a putt from about 2 feet after a nearly perfect approach on the 18th hole at Exmoor Country Club, giving an understated fist pump as the ball fell in. That gave him his first major title on the PGA Tour Champions to go with victories at the Masters and two PGA Championships.

Singh (67) and Maggert (68) finished at 20-under 268. Brandt Jobe (66) was two strokes behind, while Jerry Kelly (64) and defending champion Scott McCarron (71) finished at 17 under.

Maggert had chances to win in regulation and on the first playoff hole.

He bogeyed the par-4 16th to fall into a tie with Singh at 20 under and missed potential winning birdie putts at the end of regulation and on the first playoff hole.

His 15-footer on the 72nd hole rolled wide, forcing the playoff, and a downhill 12-footer on the same green went just past the edge.

Full-field scores from the Constellation Energy Senior Players

The 55-year-old Singh made some neat par saves to get into the playoff.

His tee shot on 17 landed near the trees to the right of the fairway, and his approach on 18 wound up in a bunker. But the big Fijian blasted to within a few feet to match Maggert's par.

McCarron - tied with Maggert and Bart Bryant for the lead through three rounds - was trying to join Arnold Palmer and Bernhard Langer as the only back-to-back winners of this major. He came back from a six-shot deficit to win at Caves Valley near Baltimore last year and got off to a good start on Sunday.

He birdied the first two holes to reach 18 under. But bogeys on the par-4 seventh and ninth holes knocked him off the lead. His tee shot on No. 7 rolled into a hole at the base of a tree and forced him to take an unplayable lie.

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Davies a fitting winner of inaugural USGA championship

By Randall MellJuly 15, 2018, 11:26 pm

Laura Davies confessed she did not sleep well on a five-shot lead Saturday night at the U.S. Senior Women’s Open.

It’s all you needed to know about what this inaugural event meant to the women who were part of the history being made at Chicago Golf Club.

The week was more than a parade of memories the game’s greats created playing in the USGA’s long-awaited showcase for women ages 50 and beyond.

The week was more than nostalgic. 

It was a chance to make another meaningful mark on the game.

In the end, Davies relished seeing the mark she made in her runaway, 10-shot victory. She could see it in the familiar etchings on the trophy she hoisted.

“I get my name on it first,” Davies said. “This championship will be played for many years, and there will only be one first winner. Obviously, quite a proud moment for me to win that.”

Really, all 120 players in the field made their marks at Chicago Golf Club. They were all pioneers of sorts this past week.

“It was very emotional seeing the USGA signs, because I've had such a long history, since my teens, playing in USGA championships,” said Amy Alcott, whose Hall of Fame career included the 1980 U.S. Women’s Open title. “I thought the week just came off beautifully. The USGA did a great job. It was just so classy how everything was done, this inaugural event, and how was it presented.”

Davies was thankful for what the USGA added to the women’s game, and she wasn’t alone. Gratefulness was the theme of the week.

Full-field scores from the U.S. Senior Women’s Open

The men have been competing in the U.S. Senior Open since 1980, and now the women have their equal opportunity to do the same.

“It was just great to be a part of the first,” three-time U.S. Women’s Open winner Hollis Stacy said. “The USGA did a great job of having it at such a great golf course. It's just been very memorable.”

Trish Johnson, who is English, like Davies, finished third, 12 shots back, but she left with a heart overflowing.

“Magnificent,” said Johnson, a three-time LPGA and 19-time LET winner. “Honestly, it's one of the best, most enjoyable weeks I've ever played in in any tournament anywhere.”

She played in the final group with Davies and runner-up Juli Inkster.

“Even this morning, just waiting to come out here, I thought, `God, not often do I actually think how lucky I am to do what I do,’” Johnson said.

At 54, Davies still plays the LPGA and LET regularly. She has now won 85 titles around the world, 20 of them LPGA titles, four of them majors, 45 of them LET titles.

With every swing this past week, she peeled back the years, turned back the clock, made fans and peers remember what she means to the women’s game.

This wasn’t the first time Davies made her mark in a USGA event. When she won the U.S. Women’s Open in 1987, she became just the second player from Europe to win the title, the first in 20 years. She opened a new door for internationals. The following year, Sweden’s Liselotte Neumann won the title.

“A lot of young Europeans and Asians decided that it wasn't just an American sport,” Davies said. “At that stage, it had been dominated, wholeheartedly, by all the names we all love, Lopez, Bradley, Daniel, Sheehan.”

Davies gave the rest of the world her name to love, her path to follow.

“It certainly made a lot of foreign girls think that they could take the Americans on,” Davies said.

In golf, it’s long been held that you can judge the stature of an event by the names on the trophy. Davies helps gives the inaugural U.S. Senior Women’s Open the monumental start it deserved.