You are traveling through another dimension; a dimension of drivers, irons and putters; a dimension of fairways, roughs, sand traps and greens. A trip to the land of the overflowing imagination of Donald Trump. Your next stop, Cheater’s Paradise, aka Trump on the golf course.” – (with my apologies and a big bow to Rod Serling).
Big paydays, greedy golfers, sparse crowds, families protesting 9/11, a fiery Donald Trump using the presidential seal and still pushing The Big Lie, and appearances by Fox News host Tucker Carlson and Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.), were on the line last weekend when the LIV Golf Invitational Series — funded by the Public Investment Fund, Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund — was on display at the Trump’s Golf Club in Bedminster, New Jersey. “At one point,” according to The Hill, “the crowd gathered near where the trio was watching the action, in a tent right next to a tee, and broke into a chant “Let’s Go Brandon”.”
While the Saudi-sponsored tour has attracted dozens of PGA Tour golfers, including big names, it has yet to get a national television package, although it seems to be just a matter of time. Sports business pundits believe the backlash to league funding will be fleeting, and it already appears to be in the American rear-view mirror.
Trump is all in: “I think LIV has been good for Saudi Arabia, for Saudi Arabia’s image,” Trump said of the new league last week. “I think it’s going to be an incredible investment from that perspective, and it’s more valuable than a lot of other things because you can’t buy that, even with billions of dollars.”
Over the years, Trump has had a special relationship with golf: he owns several golf courses; had a the Golf Channel program titled “Donald J. Trump’s Fabulous World of Golf”; he left with some of the greatest players to ever play the game, including Tiger Woods; and he received wholehearted endorsement during the 2020 presidential campaign of Jack Nicklaus, considered by many to be the greatest to ever play the game. And, he’s considered a reasonably good golfer…but we also know that he cheats on the golf course.
Three years ago I reviewed Rick Reilly’s book, Cheating Commander: How Golf Explains Trump (Hachette Books, 2019) which details how Trump heals his scores, takes extra shots, mulligans himself, sabotages other players’ shots (he usually arrives on the greens first since he rides in a golf cart while other players roam the courses), not to mention rigid vendors and contractors. “He cheats like a mob accountant. He cheats like crazy. He cheats whether you’re watching or not. He cheats whether you like it or not,” Reilly told CNN’s John Berman on “New Day.”
In light of LIV’s appearance last weekend at Bedminster, and with all the indications that there could be more LIV tournaments at Trump Golf Clubs, here is my story from April 2019:
Does Donald Trump cheat at golf? You bet! Can you say anything about the character of a man who constantly cheats at golf? In effect! Does this reveal something we already don’t know about Trump? No way! The revelation that he cheats at golf, which comes in veteran sportswriter Rick Reilly’s new book, Cheating Commander: How Golf Explains Trump, will certainly come as no surprise to anyone who has watched Trump over the years. At the same time, the revelation is unlikely to have any effect on Trump’s base. So why tell the story? Because it’s one hell of a juicy story!
In a remarkably frank and frank interview with Ryan Bort of Rolling Stone, Reilly, who gave up writing about the sport several years ago, condemns Trump – who is a decent golfer – for essentially lying about his alleged championships. club winners, cheating on the golf course every chance he gets, and degrading the values of the sport that Reilly reveres.
In 2018, Trump claimed to have won the club championship at Trump International Golf Club in West Palm Beach, Florida. Here’s how Reilly describes what happened:
“They play [for the title, along with Virtue’s son], and the story I’ve heard now three times is that Trump hit it in the water on the 16th. They see the ball go in the water. Virtue hits him on the green, his son hits him on the green, but when they get up there, because Trump is still way ahead in his own cart, the caddy lines up Trump’s ball for a putt. Virtue’s son said: ‘Mr. President, this is my ball. The caddy says, “No, that’s Mr. Trump’s ball.” Your ball went into the water. And the kid, who’s 12 or 13 or whatever, says, ‘Dad, it was a new ball. It’s my ball. And Virtue is like, ‘I’m going to buy you another ball.’ Trump sinks the putt on that hole and goes on to win, and that’s how he’s the club champion.
“He tried to cheat Tiger Woods in a game; Tiger hits it like that, [Trump] hits two balls into the water, doesn’t count either, and claims he nearly tied Tiger Woods. So it doesn’t matter who he is; he must be the winner.
“What really bothers me is that he told people during the election campaign. . . he said, ‘I’m a winner; you have to vote for me because I’ve won 18 club championships” — he says this three or four times — “and it’s against the best players in the club. But I knew he was lying because he told me how he did it. Every time he opens a new course that he buys, he plays the first round alone and calls it the club championship, puts his name on the wall. (For more on Trump’s doctored “championships”see https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2019/apr/02/donald-trump-golf-28-club-championships.)
In a story adapted from the book for Esquire, titled “Donald Trump never cheats at golf. His caddy does this for him(https://www.esquire.com/sports/a26454538/donald-trump-rick-reilly-commander-in-cheat/) Reilly writes that when you’re about to play golf with Trump, “prepare- you, because according to my well-placed sources, what you are going to experience is not really golf. It’s more of a heavily armed paramilitary exercise with oddly shaped sticks, using a vague set of rules that forces you to lose, and it’ll all be over very quickly, so set your memory to “save”. First, you’ll be playing on one of Trump’s courses – since he became president, he’s only played on his own courses.
Cheating at golf is nothing new for Trump. In a 2015 Washington Post article, Reilly recounted to Ben Terris an afternoon when Trump noted scores he hadn’t actually achieved on his scoreboard, conceded putts while raking the ball in the hole with his putter rather than hitting it properly (‘He rakes like my gardener!’), and even called a gimme – something a player might claim for a two-foot putt – on what would have must have been a chip shot,” Terris wrote.
“‘He took the world’s first chip-in,’ Reilly said. At one point, Trump, after taking a number of second shots, told Reilly to ‘make sure you write I’m playing my first ball”. You don’t get a second ball in life. In life it may or may not be true that a person gets a second chance; and yet, as Reilly wrote, on holes 1 , 13 and 17, Trump effectively got a second ball.
While doing the rounds promoting his book, Reilly challenged Trump to a match: “I’m going to play it for 100,000, (for) one of our charities,” Reilly said. “But the rule is we can’t play his course, can’t use his cheat caddies, and there has to be a rules guy with each of us. And I’m going to play him all day.” Will Trump accept the challenge from Reilly, a man he says he’s already beaten? Not on your life!