USGA has no regrets about holding its U.S. Women's Open at Trump National Golf Course
We appreciate that theres some out there that want to make this a political event. Were not, said USGA executive director Mike Davis.
BEDMINSTER, N.J. - Led by presidential sons Eric and Donald Trump Jr., the Trump Organization rolled out a huge welcome Wednesday for the U.S. Women's Open taking place next month over the spacious Trump National Golf Club in this leafy portion of northern New Jersey.
However, given the questions about why the U.S. Golf Association would want to host its premier championship for women at a club built by Donald Trump, who made lewd remarks about women on a tape that was discovered during last year's presidential campaign, officials felt a need to keep golf and politics separate.
"Let me make it very clear," USGA executive director Mike Davis said, "that when we came here, it was all about coming to a great golf course playing the greatest championship in women's golf. The USGA, since its founding in 1894, has never been involved with politics. Our focus is solely on the game of golf.
"We appreciate that there's some out there that want to make this a political event. We're not. This is a golf event of the United States Golf Association. We're really excited about this."
Trump was caught on tape in a 2005 interview with Access Hollywood making the crude remarks about women. Although the tape was made well before Trump ran for president, Davis continued to link it with politics.
"We're simply not going to cross that line into politics," he said. "I can appreciate that some people do, and that's what's great about this country, that everybody has their own political views. But we're a golf association, and we're sticking to golf."
Cristie Kerr, a veteran of 21 seasons on the LPGA Tour, got to know Trump when he hosted the tour's season-ending ADT Championship from 2001 through 2008 at Trump International Golf Club in West Palm Beach, Fla. In the last three years of the event, he personally increased the first prize to $1 million.
Kerr said she has played golf with Trump and called herself a casual acquaintance of the president. She said Trump's support of the LPGA Tour was "truly genuine."
"I'm not blowing smoke up anybody's you know what," said Kerr, 39, who was present here with world No. 1 Lydia Ko and defending Women's Open champion Brittany Lang giving a clinic for junior girls. "He really is what he is.
"He'll let you know whether he likes you or not. He'll let you know what he thinks. He was a huge supporter of women's golf in a time when we really needed it. I'm not a political person, but I can just tell you what he's done for the game of women's golf, and he's just been tremendous."
Asked her thoughts on Trump's tape, Kerr responded, "I try not to get involved in that stuff. I don't know a human on earth, though, that hasn't said something they regret. A lot of people like to focus on the bad stuff, but I like to focus on the good in people."
Trump has maintained friendships with some LPGA Tour players. Natalie Gulbis, one of the tour's most popular players, spoke at last year's Republican National Convention.
Eric Trump, who represented the Trump Organization during the program, called his family's relationship with the USGA "truly a friendship."
"The USGA is one of the great organizations anywhere in the world," he said. "You don't choose what tournaments you want. They choose what tournaments you get. So this is validation. It's very special, and we're incredibly honored."
Davis said the USGA is working with local authorities on security during the tournament, which will take place July 13-16, and acknowledged that protests could happen.
"If we have protesters, that's the right in this country to protest," he said. "What we're focused on is that 156 players can play on a golf course in an uninterrupted way. So we'll focus on making sure that the players can play on a fair and equitable basis but also that the golf fans can enjoy a safe experience, too."