U.S. Golf Association executive director Mike Davis told members of the USGA’s executive committee that Donald Trump threatened to sue the organization if it moved the 2017 U.S. Women’s Open from Trump National Golf Club in Bedminister, N.J., according to a person with direct knowledge of the meeting.
Davis informed the USGA executive committee about Trump’s threat on a conference call about two years ago, just as Trump was beginning his successful campaign for president, according to the person, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the USGA has not publicly discussed the matter.
Davis, who told the group he and other USGA officials had met with Trump, told the executive committee, “We can’t get out of this. He’s going to sue us,” according to the person.
Reached on his cell phone Monday morning at Trump National, where the U.S. Women’s Open takes place this week, Davis said, “I have no comment on that. It would be inappropriate if I said that it happened or that it didn’t.”
Davis added later in a statement to USA TODAY Sports: “As a matter of policy, the terms of our contracts with championship host sites are confidential and accordingly the USGA will not comment. We are excited that our U.S. Women’s Open Championship week has begun and are focused on providing the ultimate test of golf for the best female players in the world.”
Michael Cohen, Trump’s longtime attorney, referred request for comment to Trump organization executive vice president and chief legal officer Alan Garten and Trump organization executive vice president of development Larry Glick. USA TODAY Sports left messages for both men as well as two officials at Trump National in Bedminster Monday afternoon. None of the messages has been returned.
The USGA’s choice of Trump National to host the crown jewel of women’s golf was barely noticed when it was announced in 2012. That began to change in the spring of 2015, according to the person, with Trump’s interest in and subsequent announcement that he was going to run for president.
“More than anything, it was very pre-emptive, before the storm if he did get elected president,” the person said. “We were starting to get some pressure and so it was brought up and he said he would sue us if we moved it.”
Then, in October 2016, during the final weeks of the presidential campaign, the infamous Access Hollywood video tape was made public, on which Trump is shown bragging that his celebrity status allowed him to grope women without having to worry about ramifications. This was particularly embarrassing for the USGA, which, as the national governing body for golf in the United States, has sought for years to attract more women and girls to a game with a history of discriminatory and exclusionary practices at private clubs.
After the Access Hollywood tape surfaced, three U.S. senators — Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Edward Markey (D-Mass.) and Bob Casey (D-Pa.) — sent a letter to the USGA asking that the 2017 U.S. Women’s Open not be played at Trump National.
“The decision that the USGA makes is more consequential than simply the geographic location of a golf tournament,” the senators 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.”
The USGA declined to move the tournament, which begins Thursday morning at Trump National.
“Let me make it very clear,” Davis told reporters in May, “that when we came here, it was all about coming to a great golf course playing the greatest championship in women’s golf. The USGA, since its founding in 1894, has never been involved with politics. Our focus is solely on the game of golf. We appreciate that there’s some out there that want to make this a political event. We’re not. This is a golf event of the United States Golf Association. We’re really excited about this.”