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Opposition to U.S. Women’s Open golf championship at Trump National grows

Dump Trump National as the site of July’s U.S. Women’s Open, a new petition campaign demands.

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World Golf Championships-Mexico Championship - Final Round Photo by Buda Mendes/Getty Images

The PGA Tour last week proved that ditching Donald Trump can pay off bigly, as the renamed and newly re-situated WGC-Mexico Championship was a huge success. This, despite fears that moving the event from its established Miami home at Trump National Doral would increase security risks and dampen fan interest. And in spite of the food poisoning that forced Henrik Stenson to withdraw midway through Thursday’s opening round, caused Phil Mickelson’s caddie Jim Mackay to miss Friday’s second round, and could have contributed to Rory McIlroy’s sluggish finish.

“It was an absolute home run,” Matt Kuchar’s caddie, John Wood, said during a online discussion.

With enthusiastic spectators packing Club de Golf Chapultepec, a throwback to old-fashioned tree-lined, parkland tracks that encouraged aces and hole-outs from hither and yon, and a tournament organizer’s dream leaderboard, it’s safe to say the tour made the right decision leaving the Blue Monster in its dust.

“With all due respect to Doral, it had lost a lot of the buzz in recent years,” observed Wood, who added that the unfamiliar but “one of the most interesting” courses the PGA Tour plays “provided an energy to the tournament that we haven’t felt in a while.”

Tour commissioner Tim Finchem stated in June that the loss of the sponsor of the former WGC-Cadillac Championship necessitated the move. He had earlier joined other leading golf organizations in a tepid statement that suggested then-candidate Trump’s incendiary remarks about Mexicans and immigrants might compel a change of venues from Trump properties, most famously the Cadillac tourney at Trump National Doral.

Judging by the fan turnout and caddie and player reaction to last week’s event (Rory McIlroy said it was “awesome” that kids 16 and under got in for free), Doral and its Donald Trump-related baggage is firmly in the tour’s rearview mirror.

Which brings us to an online campaign that has garnered more than 100,000 signatures on a petition calling for the USGA and LPGA to move July’s U.S. Women’s Open from Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, N.J. Staging the event at the course means “giving millions in revenue, free advertising and branding to Trump, a misogynist, racist, and serial sexual predator,” according to a statement from UltraViolet, a national women’s advocacy group.

In addition to the PGA Tour’s Mexico shift (a move dripping with irony, given Trump’s notorious disdain for the country and its inhabitants), there is precedent in the golf world for pulling tourneys out of Trump-owned locales. Before eliminating the contest altogether, the PGA of America had uprooted the 2015 Grand Slam of Golf from Trump National Los Angeles.

At odds with its own Grand Slam decision, however, is the PGA’s determination to go ahead with two events slated for Trump tracks — May’s Senior PGA Championship (Trump National GC outside Washington, D.C.) and the 2022 PGA Championship (Trump National in Bedminster).

It’s the Women’s Open venue, though, that has the USGA and LPGA taking heat for holding the competition on a course owned by a man who boasts about molesting women.

It’s likely too late to find another course and rearrange all the logistics involved with the Open, but initiatives to get the powers-that-be to do so have been ongoing since last year’s Women’s Open.

Martha Burk, who unsuccessfully lobbied Augusta National to admit women in 2002, in July joined Dr. Jeffrey T. Sammons and other African American golfers in demanding relocation of the Women’s Open from the Trump course. In October, three U.S. senators entered the fray, writing to USGA executive director Mike Davis to request a change of venue for the tournament after a 2005 video, in which Trump boasted about groping women without their consent, came to light.

“The decision that the USGA makes is more consequential than simply the geographic location of a golf tournament,” senators Bob Casey (D-PA), Edward Markey (D-MA), and Dick Blumenthal (D-CT) wrote. “In declining future association with a brand that degrades women, the USGA and LPGA have an opportunity to make clear to the world, and most especially young Americans, that our nation will not tolerate nor do business with any company that condones or excuses action that constitutes sexual assault.”

USA Today’s Christine Brennan does not care what it takes to change locations; just do it, she wrote in October.

“The USGA is not just another business running another golf tournament. It is the national governing body for golf in this nation, with a mission to look out for the best interests of boys and girls and men and women in a game that millions love,” Brennan wrote. “The USGA has focused particular and admirable attention the past few years on the game’s decades-long discrimination against women and girls, and it has made a special effort to encourage them to take up the game.

“So, how can there be any doubt about what the USGA must do?” Brennan asked rhetorically. “It must dump Trump National and find another location.”

Except that several LPGA players, who consider the 45th POTUS a personal buddy as well as a friend to women’s golf, would take issue with the calls for a site shift.

“I’m a woman. I’m all for women’s empowerment and everything. Donald’s done tons for the women’s game,” Cristie Kerr told from the CME Group Tour Championship in Naples, Fla., in November. “I just think it’s unfair [Burk’s] pressing our organization to jump on the bandwagon when not all of us feel the way she does.”

LPGA commissioner Michael Whan has sounded relieved not to have the last word when it comes to such a weighty decision.

"All I've said to the USGA is this, 'You have long since proven you support women's golf so if you tell us this is the right place to play then we're right there with you,’” Whan told Reuters in October.

The USGA, for its part, replied to the most recent petition demand with a vague non-response.

"The USGA has a deep respect for the freedoms we all enjoy in our country to express our views," the USGA told "We are committed to fostering a game that is welcoming and inclusive to all who choose to play it, and ensuring our championships are conducted without discrimination and in a safe and secure manner for athletes, volunteers, staff and fans. We are excited to provide a comprehensive test of golf for the very best female players in the world.”

In addition to the fiery competition on the playing field among such luminaries as Kerr, Lydia Ko, and Inbee Park at the upcoming Women’s Open, expect fireworks outside the ropes as well. Should be quite the explosive week.