It’s hard to imagine that the PGA Tour’s leadership saw this one coming, but professional golf is on a collision course with the wildest presidential campaign in recent memory.
Things will come to a head this Sunday at the WGC-Cadillac Championship at the National Doral in Miami. Or, as it has been known since 2012, the Trump National Doral Miami.
That’s right, The Donald bought the resort property, including the course known as “The Blue Monster” more than three years ago for a bargain-basement price of $150 million (his daughter, Ivanka, actually negotiated the deal), and he poured more than $250 million in refurbishing what is consistently ranked among the best Florida PGA Tour stops. Trump hired golf course architect Gil Hanse to bring more water into play.
The course has a long, rich history and has hosted PGA events since 1962. It is the second-longest running tournament on the PGA Tour behind the event at Colonial Country Club.
Whether that streak continues into 2017 is uncertain.
“Immediately after completion of the 2016 tournament, we will explore all options regarding the event’s future,” PGA officials said recently in a statement. The PGA was not-so-subtly expressing its discomfort with the controversy and circus-like atmosphere that have surrounded the billionaire real estate mogul’s surprisingly successful presidential campaign.
It’s not the first time the tour’s leadership and Trump have locked horns since he became a White House contender. The PGA had an agreement with Trump to play its Grand Slam of Golf competition last October at the Trump National Golf Club in Rancho Palos Verdes, Calif. After Trump jumped into the presidential race and made several strong comments last year about illegal immigration, the tour in July 2015, announced it was pulling the tournament from Trump’s course. When a new venue could not be found quickly, the tournament was cancelled entirely.
There have been incidents over the years as well that have led some to claim Trump is a distraction when tour events are at courses he owns – and even some he doesn’t. The distraction most often cited is Trump’s helicopter, which often leaves or arrives while play is underway, forcing golfers to halt play while the chopper is on the move.
With a $9.5 million purse, this tournament is one of the richest on the PGA Tour. The world’s top three players are all there: Jordan Spieth, Jason Day and Rory McIlroy.
Since Trump will be in Florida this weekend (UCF on Saturday), it is expected he will drop by via the infamous helicopter on Sunday.
The future of Doral and the PGA is literally up in the air.
Orlando City Kicks Off Season on Sunday
Downtown Orlando is awash in purple. The dedicated fans of Orlando City Soccer are out en masse participating in Kickoff Week events culminating in the season opener this Sunday against Real Salt Lake.
A special ceremony was held on Monday for the new stadium being built in downtown Orlando to open for the 2017 season. It highlighted a purple beam that was taken to all the Kickoff events for fans to sign, dubbed the Purple Steel Tour. Eventually it will live in the new stadium.
The Lions second season looks as promising as its inaugural one. Social media is buzzing with the #FillTheBowlAgain hashtag.
“The fact that we could be within touching distance of putting another 62,000 people in the Citrus Bowl this Sunday for our opening game for the second season, the fact we could do that for our opening game is incredible to me and it’s a testament to all of our staff and to the community of Central Florida who so loves this game of soccer that City represents,” said Phil Rawlins, founder and president of Orlando Lions.
Just over 48,000 tickets were sold as of Monday morning.
History just might repeat itself.
Photo Credit: Top image courtesy of the Golf Channel.