How Trump's golf predicted his presidency

Donald Trump at Pebble Beach in 2005. (Getty)
Donald Trump at Pebble Beach in 2005. (Getty)

In this, the latest installment of sports and politics intersecting in 2018, we bring you a story of President Donald Trump’s behavior on the golf course. Fair warning: this story does not present the president in a favorable light, except in the sense that he is able to get those around him to bend to his will, which, in an abstract sense, is an admirable trait in a leader. If you wish to keep politics out of your sports, which is just fine and certainly your right, we recommend you check out some of our fine politics-free coverage of the World Series or the NFL season. Cool? Cool.

President Trump loves golf. In that sense, he’s not unlike many other presidents. But President Trump also owns a number of golf courses, and in that sense he’s very different from anyone who’s ever held the office before him. The president’s close relationship with golf, both as a sport and as a business, gives a rare opportunity to see how his habits and actions on the links might be reflected in his habits and actions in office.

Trump’s golf sins

Trump’s golf course etiquette has come in for criticism, and now Eamon Lynch, a golf writer who teed it up with Trump in 2010, offers up his own perspective on how the president’s behavior on the golf course presaged his behavior when in office. A few choice bits from the full article:

• Trump disregards longstanding golf standards of behavior. “Trump drove his cart right onto the tee, forcing the group in front to scatter and let us play through. At any other course, such behavior would constitute grounds for fisticuffs, but it seemed to be accepted conduct for Trump, who cheerfully bantered with the golfers he had displaced.”

• Trump wants to be accepted by golf’s elite, but he’s been stiff-armed at every turn, and Lynch has an idea why. “The qualities that confer stature in politics, real estate, and reality television — newer, bigger, bolder — are anathema in golf, where history, pedigree, and class, none of which can be purchased, hold sway. That might explain why golf’s elite have long dismissed him as a brash vulgarian. Wealth won him access — it always does — but not acceptance. The man often accused of favoring the white and the wealthy has never found favor in the whitest and wealthiest sport.”

• Trump takes a cavalier approach to the idea of family. “Midway through the round, a staffer approached to announce that the Trumps would be receiving a ‘Golf Family of the Year’ award from a local association. Trump turned to us and said, ‘You know what that tells me? I can’t get caught having an affair for the next year.'”

There’s more there if you wish, stories about Trump trying — and failing — to land a British Open at his Turnberry Course, and Trump using golf as a way to influence his political allies on Capitol Hill. It’s all interesting stuff, particularly if you believe that golf reveals character.

Will this change anyone’s mind about Trump?

It’s tough to imagine an article like this changing any minds at this late date — if you’ve ridden this far with Trump, you’re not likely to suddenly change your mind based on a description of his golf course behavior — but where it might be a bit instructive is in the way it describes people around Trump — the people who understand full well who he is and what can happen to those who align themselves with him, and yet proceed anyway.

“Everyone I knew tolerated him as a golf course owner because he’d throw a lot of money around,” one unnamed member of a Trump club told Lynch. “Yeah, it was gaudy, and it was brash, and he didn’t always leave a great taste in people’s mouths. You could care less because the property was always in great shape. People want to get into a private club. It’s an environment people want as a recreational asset, and they compartmentalize Trump out of it. They just accept Donald for who he is. It’s not an endorsement of him.”

We’ll leave it to you to connect the dots with our present state, should you wish. Or, you know, you could deem all these independent yet similar stories as “fake news” and ignore them all. Your choice.

We now return you to your regularly scheduled politics-free sports.

Jay Busbee is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Contact him at or find him on Twitter or on Facebook.

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