As proof, Gilbert, who was not playing this weekend, wore a “Let’s Go Brandon” jersey when he was near the first hole.

“Honestly, the PGA Tour has smeared Trump every time they’ve come around here,” Jordan said, referring to the tour’s decision to move an event from Trump’s Doral course years ago.

Allie Gilbert was not wearing a suit mocking the current occupant of the White House. She wore a LIV Golf t-shirt instead. “Ninety-nine percent of the community here” were Donald Trump supporters, she offered, saying she didn’t understand why the PGA made that decision. “I just don’t understand.”

Like many things the former president touches, professional golf is rapidly fracturing along the fault line of whether or not to support Trump. LIV Golf, the Saudi-funded tour that shook the golf world and Washington, becomes the vehicle for this litmus test.

The Doral complex, which Trump bought in 2012, had hosted a PGA event for more than 50 years until the organization announced in 2016 that it was moving the event to Mexico due to sponsorship-seeking issues. LIV and its eye-popping event prizes filled in the holes.

The new tour hosted a number of different events on courses not owned by Trump. But his most high-profile venues are at the venues he owns in Bedminster, NJ, and in Doral, the site of this season’s finale.

Beyond that, LIV’s rebranding of golf looks a bit like how Trump framed his own overhaul of national politics: a self-proclaimed outsider, rebranding the traditional approach with something more brash, garish and anti-establishment.

Throughout the weekend, skydivers affixed to red, white and blue parachutes descended on the course. Tour staff members tossed free T-shirts into the audience, and Justin Timberlake’s “SexyBack” blared through the speakers. Rapper Nelly performed “Ride Wit Me” in front of a raucous crowd. A man in glittering silver pants was juggling clubs on a unicycle. Free mullet haircuts were available at a field station.

The presence of Trump, who often touted America first, was ubiquitous throughout the Saudi-funded tournament. Some attendees said they came, in part, to support the former president.

“I was in DC on January 6! shouted a young man near a bar. Spectators wore “Make America Great Again” caps – or could purchase MAGA hats for $36 apiece at the golf store.

With his huge prize money and his relentless efforts to recruit top talent, LIV’s goal has been to challenge what he sees as the PGA’s monopoly. This is done through commercial and cultural means too, presenting itself as the reverse of the stiff, stuffy version of a sport whose audiences have long been well-off, older men.

As it continues its mission, the tour has taken steps to manage the political fallout. He enlisted political and public relations bigwigs to guide his communications. These include a subsidiary of Edelman, Arlington firm McKenna & Associates, which has provided management consulting services, and lobbying firm Hobart Hallaway & Quayle Ventures, which counts among its partners former Rep. Benjamin Quayle (R-Arizona).

One of the unstated purposes of this outreach is to try to shield the tour from criticism that it is a way for the Saudi government to improve its image in America.

LIV denied POLITICO’s request for media credentials, effectively preventing a reporter from watching Trump play and attending official press conferences, on the grounds that it was a sporting event that had just had a former president as a host.

“LIV Golf is a professional sports league and our event accreditation policy naturally prioritizes local golf, sports and media,” the tour said when asked for a comment explaining its reasoning. “We regularly provide free passes to other media, even those who do not wish to cover golf.”

But despite these efforts, it was difficult to keep a real distance between golf and the political climate in Doral. Trump, for his part, told reporters Thursday during LIV’s pro-am round that the PGA made a mistake in its dealings with the Saudis, calling those behind LIV “really good people with unlimited money.” .

And nearby earlier today, 9/11 Justice – an organization founded by families of 9/11 victims – called on LIV Golf and those associated with the tour to register as agents of Arabia. Saudi Arabia under the Foreign Influence Law known as the Registration of Foreign Agents. Law. In a letter to Sen. Bob Mendez (DN.J.), Brett Eagleson, president of 9/11 Justice, also called for congressional hearings on Saudi influence efforts in the states.

For months, the group protested the golf tour, pointing to links between the Saudi kingdom and the 2001 attacks. oil profits to fund exhibition golf, hoping to distract you from their policies of oppressing women, murdering journalists and supporting the 9/11 terrorists. During Thursday’s press conference, Dennis McGinley, who lost his brother in the attacks, referred to LIV Golf as “Death Golf”.

Political tension was also evident elsewhere. Across an intersection from Trump National Doral, Pat McCabe and his wife Sandra Ferretti held up a sign that read, “Trump’s LIES + LIV Golfers GREED empowers the Saudi government. at ‘Sportswash’ CRIME. The couple, who marched from Coconut Creek, Florida, originally intended to protest closer to the course, but were asked to move. As they spoke, a man wearing a Make America Great Again hat crouched down next to the couple for a photo. Another man booed them as they passed. The couple said they received a fair share of “F you” and “Trump won” as well.

“Usually what I get here from them is, ‘What if Biden kills babies? What about Biden and inflation? What about high gasoline prices? McCabe said at a protest on Sunday, explaining that passers-by ignored the ‘sportwashing’ allegations to switch to, ‘You must be a Biden guy, if you’re here, opposed to Trump and LIV. “

When Joe Ontano, 69, got out of his Uber to attend a golf event on Friday, he claimed a protester called him an idiot for attending because of the organizers’ association with the Saudis.

“We have to move on,” said Ontano, who noted that her son joined the military shortly after the 9/11 attacks. “We have to have some sort of resolution and say, ‘OK, it’s over. OK, I know you weren’t the guy to pull the trigger. Maybe you helped. Let’s move on.'”

Inside, things were less tense. Some attendees took selfies with Eric Trump. Among them was a man who called himself Skylar, who was there to play golf and support his “homie, Mr. Trump himself.” He didn’t seem bothered by the Saudi money funding the tournament, calling the kingdom “people okay with it”.

“Let’s not even start on Biden because I’m going to spend hours on this man,” he said, holding a cigarette and a LIV brand koozie.

Bopeep Harrison, 24, who describes himself as ‘not a voter’, just bought a hat with the number 45 on it. ‘This hat is dope, the event is dope, cool people here,’ he said said. Harrison added that part of the appeal of the event was the networking opportunities. He said he had rubbed shoulders with Norman, who he said was hosting a Saudi prince at one of the clubs at the event.

On Friday, Roly Perez, a Miami-area golf fan, said unlike many others at the event, he was indifferent to it taking place on Trump’s course. He hadn’t given much thought to the Saudi connection, and later said others were confused as to why a political reporter would even be there.

The next day, Perez flagged POLITICO, saying he had been thinking about the LIV controversies. He wasn’t entirely sure that LIV could put PGA out of business. But he thought it was smart for them to form an alliance with Trump.

“I mean, let’s face it, if you’re tied to the president and one day he becomes the current president — OK, you have a direct line,” Perez said.