Our president enjoys his golf and his private clubs. The golf world now turns its focus to one of the best-known private clubs in the country. Which leads us to this question: Is Donald Trump a member of Augusta National?
Don’t look to the club itself to offer up any hints. Augusta National guards the identities of its members with fierce dedication, and multiple other Augusta-connected sources contacted by Yahoo Sports declined comment. So we’ve got to go at this question from other directions.
Astronomers locate black holes by observing the effects of gravity on surrounding celestial objects. In the same way, we can arrive at a reasonable hypothesis based on the effects — on social media, on golf, on the known universe — we’d expect to see were Donald Trump a member at Augusta.
• First, no list of the club’s estimated 300 members has ever included Trump. The most comprehensive list, compiled by Bloomberg two years ago, does not list Trump or any family members on its rolls. That’s not definitive, of course; that list comprises only about 40 percent of the club’s members. Still, it’s a start.
• Second, Donald Trump has not been observed wearing a green jacket on the grounds at Augusta National. Keep your eyes open around Augusta National during Masters week, and you’ll see everyone from NFL commissioner Roger Goodell to former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice strolling the grounds sporting green jackets. Donald Trump is not one to remain in the clubhouse, and unlike other billionaires who claim membership at Augusta, he can’t pass anywhere unnoticed. He also, as we’ve seen on the campaign trail, enjoys attention and adulation … exactly the kind of reverence that patrons pay to anyone wearing a green jacket around the grounds of Augusta.
• Third, Donald Trump’s personality — how best to put this? — runs counter to the prevailing less-is-more ethos of Augusta National. The club opens its gates to a carefully curated segment of the public only once a year. Obtaining a badge to attend the Masters remains one of the toughest gets in sports. The club itself remains hidden behind ten-foot-tall hedgerows, protecting its image and its secrets. That philosophy is 180 degrees removed from Donald Trump, who proudly attaches his name to everything around him that’s not actively in flames, and who declares every event a better place to be simply because of his presence.
• Fourth, Donald Trump doesn’t often mention Augusta or the Masters. This is a corollary of the Trump-as-center-of-the-universe theory above; Trump tends to make sure everyone knows how wonderful the locations are that he visits, and by association how lucky those locales are to have him around.
Trump’s public Twitter comments about the Masters are largely congratulations to winners and kind words about the course:
Really looking forward to watching The Masters this weekend – one of THE GREATEST SHOWS ON EARTH!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 10, 2014
A great @The Masters. The course looks so beautiful. Fantastic for golf and television ratings!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 12, 2015
Plus, he once played golf analyst and (correctly) predicted a bright future for a kid named Jordan Spieth:
.@JordanSpieth Great playing at the Masters and don't get down Jordan, you will win many tournaments and many MAJORS! Keep working hard.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 14, 2014
This being Trump’s Twitter, though, there’s the occasional unfortunate choice of words, this in reference to then-14-year-old Chinese player Guan Tianlang, who played his way into the 2013 Masters:
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 13, 2013
Trump apparently hasn’t tweeted about Augusta or the Masters since April 2015, two months prior to declaring for the presidency.
• Fifth, Donald Trump has a vested financial interest in not going overboard in proclaiming the merits of the course at Augusta National. He’s angling to host majors at his own courses, including Trump Turnberry in Scotland and Trump Bedminster in New Jersey. While a membership at Augusta National wouldn’t preclude that, it would place Trump in an awkward, deferential position regarding the relative merits of his courses. (Golf Digest’s latest annual rankings place Augusta National second only to Pine Valley among America’s finest courses, while Trump’s lone entry, Trump International in West Palm Beach, comes in at No. 156.) Trump, as we’ve seen, enjoys his alpha-dog status, but no one is more alpha at Augusta National than the club itself.
We reached out to Trump for comment; the Trump Organization referred us to the White House, which offered up a noncommittal statement: “We aren’t going to comment on this topic at this time,” White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders told Yahoo Sports. “Will let you know if anything changes.”
But the fact that one must now consult the White House regarding Donald Trump brings up a new wrinkle. Would Trump get a membership based on his new gig? Not necessarily. Dwight Eisenhower is the only president that’s confirmed as a member of Augusta. While others have played there during or after their presidency, only Ike apparently got a green jacket of his own.
So, the verdict: We can’t say for certain that Donald Trump isn’t a member of Augusta National. Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence, as the lawyers say. Even so, there’s more than enough circumstantial evidence to indicate that on the question of Augusta National membership, you and the President of the United States have something in common.
Yahoo News’ Olivier Knox contributed reporting to this story.
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Jay Busbee is a writer for Yahoo Sports and the author of EARNHARDT NATION, on sale now at Amazon or wherever books are sold. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or find him on Twitter or on Facebook.