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EDITORIAL: Golf is just part of the game at Trump National

Like the news, golf is a game of situational character. Faced with obstacles, players must make the right choices as they confront obstacles, some anticipated, others unforeseen.

The game looks easy from a distance: Strike the ball in the fewest number of swings required to land it in a small cup in the ground that’s situated hundreds of yards away. But up close in the player’s mind, the game is an abstraction -- a series of corrections that take golfers from the general to the specific in a discrete series of moves around trees, over water hazards, in sand bunkers and on variable cuts of grass.

The first stroke is a leap of faith. Each succeeding stroke corrects the previous. Ultimately, you end up on the green putting the ball into a very specific place, a 3.5-inch cup that you can’t see from the tee.

A leap of faith took us back to Trump National Golf Course in Potomac Falls this week. It was media day for the Senior PGA Championship, a time for news organizations, sponsors and partners to set and adjust impressions about the tournament, the golf course and the man who owns the country club where the championship will be played next month.

He’s not just any owner. He’s Donald Trump, president of the United States, and he has brought unexpected strokes into play.

First stroke: Out of bounds. Trump makes untoward comments about Mexicans and proposes building a wall at the border. The PGA cancels tournaments at Trump properties in Miami and Southern California, considers moving the Senior PGA Championship from Trump’s Loudoun County course, then later issues a statement defending its “strong commitment to an inclusive and welcoming environment in the game of golf.”

Second stroke: The water hazard. Introducing the new championship course, Trump pauses between the 14th hole and the 15th tee where he installed a flagpole on a stone pedestal overlooking the Potomac, to which he affixed a plaque designating “The River of Blood.”

Trump recounts the history of the property as he reads from the plaque: “Many great American soldiers, both of the North and South, died at this spot. The casualties were so great that the water would turn red and thus became known as ‘The River of Blood.'”

Fake history, Loudoun County historians determine. “The River of Blood” is the figment of imagination. The closest Civil War battle occurred 15 miles upstream at Balls Bluff outside Leesburg.

Third stroke: Taking the trees out of play. To improve the view of the Potomac from the property, Trump removes more than 400 trees where golf holes hug the river. Environmentalists call for a penalty, but the county allows Trump to improve the lie.

Fourth stroke: Playing through. The president plays golf at Trump National while the White House claims he’s holding meetings in the Oval Office. Photos show him at Trump National wearing golf clothes, shoes and glove.

So Trump has a golf attitude. Big deal. It’s a common condition.

On Monday, the impulse to play a championship course on media day for the Senior PGA Championship brought reporters and other hackers to the first tee at Trump National. There’s no separating news from Trump National as long as Donald Trump, the president of the United States, plays there. At Trump National, the game is as much about politics, policy and personality as it is a number on a scorecard. The unfortunate political vandalism at the course in recent weeks is a reminder that more is in play at Trump National than fun and games.

Trump’s face is everywhere in the clubhouse, a vanity gallery of photographs and magazine covers of Trump with the rich, the famous and the heroic, like the late Arnold Palmer. While the club pros who qualified for the tournament came to Trump National to chart the course, the presence of Donald Trump was never farther away than a 300-yard drive. The pros focused on their game while acknowledging this venue was different than all others they had played.

Over Memorial Day weekend, 156 of the world’s best golfers over age 50 will tee it up on a marsh formerly known as Lowes Island in perhaps the biggest major sporting event in the county’s history. Forty thousand to 50,000 spectators are expected for the four-day event. Many are expecting the president to make an appearance. They’re anticipating a grand arrival: Marine One setting down on Trump’s helipad behind the first hole following a 26-mile journey up the Potomac from the White House.

The Senior PGA championship has already been overshadowed by the player who owns the place, but don’t remind the Virginia club pros who have spent decades preparing for the moment. On media day, we met and played with teaching pros such as Brendan McGrath of Hidden Creek Country Club in Reston, who qualified by playing his way into the tournament.

We’ll be sharing Brendan’s story and others as we follow the shots from Trump National, where a championship begins with a leap of faith and ends in a very specific place.

Comments


We in Loudoun got an early glimpse of Mr. Trump’s penchant for making things up and I am glad that a few Republicans called him out on it.


We get it, you hat Trump…please stick to community stories.


Your timeline is off. He cut those trees down well before he did anything.

Well, if it was supposed to be a timeline. This was a really disorganized editorial that I guess tried to use golf to link it all together. I’m still not really sure what the point of it was.

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