During a week in which Donald Trump sparred with the Pope, accused George W. Bush of lying us into the Iraq War, and repeated (favorably) a debunked tale of Muslims being shot with bullets dipped in pig’s blood, you can be forgiven for failing to notice his throwaway comment about tiny tuber crops.
But for many golf fans, those two words represent the “hope” and “change” of this election season.
Trump’s lengthy quest for acceptance in the golf world has irked many purists, who casually dismiss him as a blustering vulgarian whose outsized personality and indefatigable braggadocio are ill-suited to a gentleman’s game.
Stature in golf is hard-earned, conferred by accomplishments or history. It is the polar opposite of real estate, in which new and shiny often equates to acclaimed and sought-after. Trump’s childlike boastfulness—a trait as familiar as his flaxen weave—may be an asset in real estate, but it’s a liability in golf.
But there are signs that his often fractious role in the game is drawing to a close.
While campaigning in South Carolina last week, Trump addressed a rally in Kiawah Island, the famed golf community. Speaking with his usual combination of incoherence and immodesty, he told the crowd that the developers of Kiawah had also built Doonbeg, the resort on Ireland’s west coast that Trump purchased two years ago.
“I bought it a number of years ago and during the downturn in Ireland I made a good investment. It is an incredible place,” Trump said. “We spent a lot of money on making it just perfect and now it’s doing great.” (Recently filed accounts showed a loss of $2.7 million in the first year of his ownership.)
It’s what Trump said next that matters.
“But I don’t care about that stuff any more. It is like small potatoes, right? I’ll let my kids run it, have fun with it, let my executives have a good time, but I don’t care about it. I care about making America great again. That’s what I care about.”
Small potatoes. That’s us, he’s talking about. Golf.
While executives in the sport fretted about how best to break up with Trump, he’s pulled a George Costanza and broken up with them.
You can see where Trump’s coming from with the “small potatoes” line. After all, it’s hard to lower oneself from a fight between infallible leaders about border walls to sniping at superintendents about fairway borders.
That Trump says he has lost interest in golf will be a relief for many, not least PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem. Next week the Tour heads to Miami for the WGC Cadillac Championship at Doral. It is the 55th year Doral has hosted the Tour, though only the third since the Trump name was officially emblazoned above the door. It may be the last.
In the wake of Trump’s call for a ban on Muslims entering the United States, the Tour said it will review its future at Doral after this year’s tournament, citing Trump’s comments as inconsistent with its desire for golf to project an inclusive image. Typically, Trump was unfazed. “They do not want to do that,” he said. “There’s no site like Doral in Florida. I have the greatest site in all of Florida.”
For the PGA Tour, next week is the equivalent of a date night with someone you’ve already served divorce papers on.
The only question is whether Trump shows up for the awkward rendezvous. When tournaments are held at his courses Trump likes to grandstand and grab as much broadcast oxygen as possible. But there are 11 GOP primaries and caucuses on Tuesday of tournament week, and another four on Friday (he’s probably not investing much time in the Puerto Rico primary on the Saturday),
Trump has a much bigger stage on which to perform next week. Doral, too, is now small potatoes. After all, Pope Francis has never criticized him for his golf courses (though he could).
Next week may well show that our sport is in Trump’s rear view mirror, as his dreamy gaze shifts from the clubhouse to the White House. And if he has forsaken us, well then he can at least be said to have made golf great again.