DEREK LAWRENSON: Nothing in golf has elicited a greater sense of shame than the hideous kowtowing to a deranged American president. It was about time Donald Trump was told he’s no longer welcome – and Justin Thomas needs to grow up after homophobic slur
- Donald Trump’s courses were stripped of hosting major golfing events
- The PGA said Trump ‘would be detrimental to the PGA of America brand’
- Golf has taken an important first step from socially-distancing itself from Trump
The R&A stood shoulder to shoulder with the PGA of America yesterday. A few hours after the latter body stripped Donald Trump’s Bedminster course in New Jersey of hosting the PGA Championship next year, the R&A confirmed the Open will not be going to Trump Turnberry either ‘for the foreseeable future’.
Finally, the game is addressing its damaging relationship with Trump. Nothing in golf in recent years has elicited a greater sense of shame and embarrassment than the hideous kowtowing to a deranged American president.
Even last Wednesday, when Trump incited a riot in the citadel of American democracy, two of the sport’s most decorated names, Gary Player and Annika Sorenstam, still could not do the right thing.
Turnberry will not stage the Open at the Trump Turnberry for the foreseeable future
Place yourself in their shoes. You are in a hotel room on the eve of receiving the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honour. You switch on the television to witness the white supremacists, egged on by their commander-in-chief.
Sorenstam and Player still went to the ceremony. Down the road from the Capitol where a police officer lost his life, they still accepted their medals from the man who orchestrated the lawlessness.
No wonder, therefore, Sunday’s announcement by the PGA of America to cancel the Bedminster contract was greeted with sweet, merciful relief. As was the hard-hitting statement explaining the decision, making it clear that any association with Trump ‘would be detrimental to the PGA of America brand’.
Their president, Jim Richerson, added: ‘It would have put at risk the PGA’s ability to deliver our many programmes and sustain the longevity of our mission.’
Golf has taken an important first step from socially-distancing itself from Donald Trump
So, is this the moment when golf starts draining the swamp? When it starts socially distancing itself from the blowhard who represents an era of the game that most right-thinking golfers want to leave behind?
It is certainly an important first step. The PGA of America represent the nation’s 29,000 club professionals. Their message, therefore, is the one received at grassroots level where golf is seeking to project itself as an inclusive, family sport. There is not a blue-chip sponsor anywhere who would invest in that dream if Trump was part of the plan.
If truth be told, the R&A stance was well known off the record but it was good to see chief executive Martin Slumbers make it official.
The US President’s course in Bedminster was also stripped of next year’s PGA Championship due to his name being ‘detrimental’ to the brand
We await to see if Trump takes legal action over Bedminster. Characteristically, there was a veiled threat in the statement from his team. ‘This is a breach of a binding contract and they had no right to terminate the agreement,’ bleated a spokesman.
Right now, it is safe to assume Trump’s lawyers have more pressing matters than suing the PGA.
Once Trump leaves office, the unspoken worry for golf was always that he would return to his sporting first love and start lobbying for events at his courses. In his own mind, golf was always the place he received shelter from the storm.
That is why this PGA of America statement was so timely. It pointed the way forward. It said to Trump, in no uncertain terms: ‘You’re no longer welcome.’
QUOTE OF THE WEEK
‘You do wonder if you’re ever going to win again. Every week, you’re wandering up and down the range seeing people who are better at this aspect of the game or that part of it, and it brings doubts. But I’ve learned over the past year to trust in my own game and my own qualities and I learned to believe again that it would lead to a Sunday like this one. Now I want to play in the Ryder Cup’
His victory might have been overshadowed by events elsewhere but American Harris English will not care a jot following his feelgood success In Hawaii. At one point the 31-year-old was mired in such a slump he lost his tour privileges and fell to 369th in the world. Now he is 17th and playing so consistently well it would be a surprise if he does not represent America in Wisconsin in September.
SAYING SORRY IS NOT ENOUGH, JUSTIN
Justin Thomas could not have sounded more contrite for using a homophobic slur at the season-opening event in Hawaii last week. So, do we put this down as another example of his occasional hot-headedness and move swiftly on?
I guess so, but it is certainly troubling. Any swear word, even a club toss, and we would have all nodded our heads knowingly. But who uses derogatory words like ‘f****t’ after missing a short putt?
The world No 3 even admitted afterwards he was not aware that he had said it, and what does that say about him on a sub-conscious level? Thomas is smart enough to know there is more he could do here to underline the depth of his contrition. Meet up, perhaps, with gay sportsmen who live with enough prejudice as it is and learn why his behaviour was so offensive.
Clearly, at 27, he has still got an awful lot of growing-up to do.
Justin Thomas has clearly got a lot of growing up to do after using a homophobic slur
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