EYES ON THE PRIZE Golfers leave ego at club­house when play­ing with Trump

The Washington Times Daily - - SPORTS - BY NANCY BENAC

Leave your ego in the club­house if you ever get the chance to golf with Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump. He may well throw shade on your game.

Trump sug­gested to his good friend Phil Ruf­fin that maybe he should be hit­ting from the women’s tees. Years ago, he re­peat­edly ribbed an AP golf writer af­ter his drive didn’t go as far as a fe­male pro’s – who hap­pened to be ranked No. 1 in the world. As pres­i­dent, he’s even had the chutz­pah to give grief to Ernie Els, who’s play­ing in the Masters this week.

“He’s very good at the nee­dle,” says Jim Her­man, who was an as­sis­tant club pro at one of Trump’s cour­ses be­fore Trump spot­ted his tal­ent and helped him join the PGA Tour.

Since tak­ing of­fice, Trump has made it clear he has no qualms about spend­ing qual­ity time on the golf course even though he crit­i­cized Pres­i­dent Barack Obama re­lent­lessly for do­ing the same. And Trump isn’t shy about toast­ing his own skills as a golfer, even prod­ding a busi­ness leader who was at the White House re­cently to re­count a time when the pres­i­dent got a hole-in-one years ago.

This is one area where the pres­i­dent’s boasts are borne out by per­for­mance.

At age 70, the pres­i­dent still is a very good golfer, with a strong drive, quirky but ef­fec­tive putts and mul­ti­ple holesin-one and 19 club cham­pi­onships to his credit.

While he hasn’t recorded scores for a while, his hand­i­cap was an im­pres­sive 2.9 last fall, even bet­ter than the 3.5 for 77-year-old Jack Nick­laus, the 18-time ma­jor cham­pion.

“He’s got to give me two shots,” as Nick­laus, who is re­tired, ex­plained it.

In his 10 weeks as pres­i­dent, Trump has turned up at one or an­other of his 16 golf prop­er­ties at least 17 times, spend­ing more than 63 hours in all at dif­fer­ent clubs.

But the White House, sen­si­tive to ac­cu­sa­tions that it’s hyp­o­crit­i­cal for Trump to golf a lot af­ter crit­i­ciz­ing Obama for do­ing just that, fuzzes up ex­actly what the pres­i­dent is do­ing dur­ing all those hours at his clubs.

Trump is proud to say he uses his golf game to lu­bri­cate busi­ness and po­lit­i­cal pur­suits.

As he tries to re­vive the ef­fort to re­peal the health care law, Trump on Sun­day in­vited Repub­li­can Sen. Rand Paul of Ken­tucky, who had op­posed the lat­est plan, for a round of golf at his course in north­ern Vir­ginia.

Paul said Mon­day that Trump likes to talk about “how we come to­gether to get ev­ery­body on the same page, and he likes to do it through golf.”

Trump made a point of golf­ing with Ja­panese Prime Min­is­ter Shinzo Abe in Fe­bru­ary, us­ing the golden driver that Abe had given him just days af­ter the elec­tion. The two used the Florida out­ing to foster deeper re­la­tion­ships in Asia, ac­cord­ing to the White House.

Els, who was part of a four­some with Trump and Abe that week­end, says the talk wasn’t all busi­ness.

“He was giv­ing me grief about my game,” Els re­ported. “He’s one of the boys. He didn’t talk any­thing down on the ladies or any­thing like that, so that was nice.”

The pres­i­dent doesn’t just talk busi­ness while play­ing golf. He talks golf while con­duct­ing busi­ness.

Ir­ish Prime Min­is­ter Enda Kenny said that dur­ing his White House meet­ing last month with Trump, who has a course in Doon­beg, Ire­land, “we dis­cussed the kind of driver that the pres­i­dent uses — Titleist, 9-de­gree loft, Doon­beg, wind off the At­lantic. You have to roll the wrist at the top to get that shot straight.”

Dur­ing a Fe­bru­ary meet­ing with CEOs at the White House, the pres­i­dent prod­ded GE’s Jeff Im­melt to re­count the time he saw Trump get a hole-in-one in the early 2000s. Im­melt obliged: “We were try­ing to talk Pres­i­dent Trump into do­ing ‘The Ap­pren­tice.’ ... Pres­i­dent Trump goes up to a par of 3 on his course. He goes up to the three of us and says: ‘You re­al­ize I’m the rich­est golfer in the world?’ Then gets a hole-in-one.”

Trump gen­tly cor­rected: “It’s amaz­ing. It’s amaz­ing. No, I ac­tu­ally said I was the best golfer of all the rich peo­ple, to be ex­act.”

Since be­com­ing pres­i­dent, Trump has re­fined his crit­i­cism of Obama’s golf­ing habits to scold him for play­ing with friends when he should have been play­ing with peo­ple who would be use­ful to his pres­i­dency.

But Trump him­self doesn’t al­ways tee off with an agenda. He’s got a cadre of reg­u­lar golf­ing bud­dies with whom he loves to talk trash.

“I’m up­set with him about golf be­cause he told me, ‘If you’re go­ing to play with me, you’re go­ing to have to play from the ladies’ tees,’ be­cause I don’t hit the ball that far,” says Ruf­fin, one of Trump’s best friends and an oc­ca­sional golf­ing com­pan­ion. “He slams it. He’s a great golfer. He’s huge.”

In 1993, Trump got what he said was his third hole-in-one dur­ing a pro-am com­pe­ti­tion at Spy­glass Hill in Cal­i­for­nia.

“I just hope I don’t have to buy drinks for 25,000 peo­ple,” Trump joked, The New York Times re­ported at the time.

He was play­ing with Paul Goy­dos, then a rookie on the PGA Tour who re­mem­bers golf­ing “com­pletely aw­ful” that day, so he and Trump were elim­i­nated be­fore the fi­nals of the three-day tour­na­ment.

For at least that one time, Trump went easy on his part­ner. “He couldn’t have been nicer,” Goy­dos re­mem­bers.


Rory McIl­roy hits from the 15th fair­way dur­ing a prac­tice round for the Masters on Wed­nes­day in Augusta, Ge­or­gia. McIl­roy needs just a Masters win for the ca­reer Grand Slam.


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