Donald Trump made history when he attended the final day of the 2017 Presidents Cup at Liberty National. And the controversial US President has been rumoured to be heading to our shores for the 2019 staging in December. If Trump does head Down Under, a first-hand account of the impact his presence had in 2017 offers an insight into what might be expected.
Golf and the Office of the US President have hardly been strange bedfellows over time but to say current President Donald Trump knows a little about golf is to say Jack Nicklaus knows a little about winning majors.
The 74-year old Potus (President of the United States) remains a keen participant in the game, some critics would say too keen at times for a man with a day job such as his. Websites dedicated to listing his number of golf ‘outings’, even the amount of time spent at golf clubs since his inauguration, provides both an illustration of his interest and the degree of interest others have in his interest.
Trump owns some 15 golf courses in the United States, Great Britain and the U.A.E, with a managing interest in another in New York. So, fair to say, he also knows a little about how to run golf courses. Courtesy of the office he holds, he’s also an extremely skilled exponent at grinding golf courses to a halt, as his attendance on the final day of the 2017 Presidents Cup matches in New Jersey demonstrated.
When Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison extended the leader of the free world an invitation earlier this year to attend the Presidents Cup matches at Royal Melbourne Golf Club from December 12-15, I wonder if he had any semblance of the extent of the hoopla and logistical carnage that might descend on Black Rock Village and surrounds should he accept?
Having personally experienced, if not endured, Sunday at Liberty National in 2017, I suspect not.
The fortunate thing for the event, the Royal Melbourne Club and the city of Melbourne is that the core of the PGA Tour’s President Cup organising crew that were front and centre during the Trump visit in 2017 and will be on deck again in Melbourne in 2019. They now know what it takes if a sitting President should decide to drop in at short notice.
The 2017 matches, if you recall, were kick started amid wonderful scenes around the first tee on Opening Day featuring the attendance of three former Presidents – George W Bush, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama. Seated in a VIP area directly to the side of the tee, their presence had the galleries in raptures and rendered golf royalty in former Cup captains Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player, Hale Irwin and David Graham sitting alongside them to bit part status, at best.
Security measures in play on the course boundaries, at the check-in points, at the shuttle bus areas in the New Jersey area, were not so completely out of the ordinary by comparison to experiences attending other major championships or sporting events. Certainly, there did not appear to be an overt display of additional security to support the attendance of three former Presidents on Day 1.
All that changed, however, on the fourth and final day when it became clear to all on arrival that Trump would indeed be attending.
Security staff who had been checking bags, tickets, credentials and walking you through metal detector screenings all week were doing so on the final day only after patrons had first run the gauntlet of an army of ‘hi vis’ Secret Service agents doing their own series of thorough security procedures. Leaving and re-entering the media centre compound within the grounds also required a full screen and body search with Secret Service agents on each occasion, to the point that we were nearly on a first name basis with them by day’s end.
When Trump did arrive mid-afternoon via a Marine One helicopter, he assumed an elevated viewing position in the clubhouse behind reinforced glass overlooking the 14th green. For the next hour or more, he watched each group pass through, waving to players and the growing throng craning for a glimpse and a distant ‘selfie’ of dubious quality.
In the process of presenting the trophy to the victorious American skipper Steve Stricker and his team with the Manhattan skyline as a backdrop, he became the first sitting President to do so in Cup history dating back to 1994.
For those thinking they were being wise to skip the presentation and seek an early exit from the premises on a Sunday afternoon in the heavily populated New Jersey/New York City area, many were soon wishing he hadn’t bothered to come at all. That had absolutely nothing to do with his politics but simply the broader lockdown created in the surrounding Jersey City area, meaning not a bus, vehicle, boat, individual or animal could enter or exit the premises while the President was on the grounds..
Not until the Marine One choppers were in the skies headed back to Washington some 60 minutes after the trophy presentation did the buses start to roll in to begin the exhaustive process of returning the tired, the exultant, the intoxicated, even the infuriated, in their thousands to their drop off points, all amid the chaos of Presidential visit-inspired traffic gridlock as far as the Lincoln and Holland Tunnels across to Manhattan.
RIGHT: Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison may not have known what he was getting into when inviting Trump to Royal Melbourne. PHOTO: Getty Images.
The same scenario is unlikely to unfold in precisely the same manner on a Presidential visit to suburban Melbourne but rest assured, should Trump come, Presidents Cup patrons will be in for an experience unlike any they’ve probably witnessed before on home soil.
The spectacle will be almost worth the price of admission on its own.