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Teed off by Trump? Why protests to move the US Women’s Open miss the mark

A campaign calling for Julys US Womens Open from Trump National Golf Club to be moved has reached critical mass. But the author, a former LPGA Tour pro, insists that moving the tournament isnt as simple as it seems

A few years ago, when the United States Golf Association announced that it would hold the US Womens Open at Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, New Jersey, it was business as usual.

Except no one anticipated that Donald Trump, who built Trump National just 13 years ago, would be president of the United States. Nor did anyone at the USGA forecast that Trumps infamous grab [women] by the pussy tape would make international headlines. And really, how could they?

When that tape surfaced, people immediately denounced the USGA, asking them to move the US Womens Open to a different course. This led to calls for the Ladies Professional Golf Association to get involved, asking players and the LPGA itself to boycott the US Open and demand a change of venue.

With the US Womens Open less than four months away, UltraViolet, a US-based womens advocacy group, has gathered over 100,000 signatures for their petition to move the tournament, writing: The USGA and LPGA need to send a clear signal to young golfers, including women, people of color and people with disabilities that it stands for inclusiveness, and move the upcoming US Womens Open from Trump National Golf Course.

Most recently, UltraViolet held a protest at the LPGA Founders Cup last week, handing out golf balls that said with the imprint, LPGA: Dump Trump.

So why arent the protests working?

The protests are futile and heres why: UltraViolet and its protesters seem to be unaware of the fact the USGA and the LPGA are do not function under the same umbrella. Specifically, the LPGA serves a different function than the USGA. The protesters are going after the wrong people.

Each organization has its own governing body that makes decisions with respect to to the US Womens Open, just because you play on the LPGA does not mean you automatically get into the US Open. For instance, just under 100 players with status on the LPGA are exempt to play in the US Open without having to compete in a sectional qualifier, leaving about 60 spots open for non-LPGA members.

Those qualifiers are open to any woman or girl who dreams of playing in the US Open, like Lucy Li, who played in the US Open at 11 years old in 2015.

So targeting the LPGA and its players within the organization is a waste of protesters time. Why target players who may not even qualify for the US Open, or better yet the LPGA who had no decision making power in where the tournament was held?

In response to the protests, the LPGA released this statement: Regarding the US Womens Open, the USGA not the LPGA owns and operates the event and we are delighted to have so many of our LPGA members qualify to participate each year. When it comes to decisions regarding venue, purse, TV, etc, those are solely made by the USGA.

So as protesters troll LPGA players online and disrupt LPGA tournaments, what they need to be doing is targeting all female golfers who have signed up for the sectional qualifiers taking place in May and June. In 2015, over 1,800 women signed up to play in the US Open sectionals qualifiers, so it looks like theyll need to enlist more protesters.

Do the protesters understand how golf tournaments work?

Perhaps not all of them do. Moving a major championship to a different golf course is not as easy as finding another restaurant to eat at simply because all the tables are reserved. Putting on a major tournament takes time and a lot of people power. This year, almost 2,500 people will have volunteered to help host the US Womens Open. The USGA is a non-profit organization, so their reliance on people who are flying in from all over the world who have made prior arrangements to help the golfers have a great US Open, is crucial.

Moving a venue would mean losing many of those volunteers, and perhaps having to reimburse them for their plane tickets. It would also mean finding another golf course that meets the standards of holding a major championship. It takes months to prepare a course for a major and involves a lot more than just watering the greens. Play at the host club is limited. Often areas are renovated to host the major at the cost of the club, and getting the putting greens ready takes more dedication and time than outsiders realize.

Moving the tournament could result in 1) not having enough volunteers and 2) a new venue not up to major championship quality.

Who would be most affected if sponsors pulled out of US Open?

While UltraViolet is claiming that theyre doing this for the greater good of women, they would actually hurt women in the process should sponsors pull out of the US Open. The tournament is the largest purse of the year for womens golf, at $5m. For the athletes, the winnings could change their lives.

Heres why.

Players on the LPGA dont make a lot of money unless they finish top 40 on the money list for the year. The breakdown of costs to play golf professionally is as follows:

  • Tournament entry fees: $250 to enter an LPGA event x 30 events a year = $7,500 annually
  • Paying a caddie weekly fee: $1,500 x 30 events a year = $45,000 annually
  • Average flights: $700 x 30 events a year = $21,000 annually
  • Hotel: $100 per night for a week-long event x 30 events a year = $21,000
  • Total: $94,500

This does not include the cost of paying for instructors, trainers, golf course membership fees, food during the week of travel, and also being able to afford to pay your rent or mortgage back home.

The vast majority of players on the LPGA do not have lucrative sponsorship deals, nor do they have their expenses covered by a team like players in the NBA or NFL. They are independent contractors whose living is based on performance. So if some of these players have a good week at the US Open, it could mean earning enough money to play the following year.

If sponsors were to boycott the US Open, the women on tour who work extremely hard to earn their way into the tournament would essentially be punished for something they have no power over.

So the fault is with the protestors then?

Not at all. Golf most certainly has a long way to go in supporting female players. Ive written about this issue in the past, and I anticipate that I will have to continue writing about it in the future. Male-only golf clubs still exist, women golfers continue to receive barely a fraction of coverage in the media, and female golfers earn just under a third of what their male counterparts make.

What golf needs to focus on a whole is how to engage women and make sure they are properly represented in positions of power.

In all honesty, the USGA could have said and done more to decry Trump. The USGA could have said, Hey, we dont like what Donald Trump said in the very least, but we are begrudgingly contractually obligated to hold the US Open at his course, or we will lose millions of dollars and could face a major lawsuit.

The USGA and the LPGA could have come together and proposed to hold a forum at the US Open to discuss what their future plans for womens golf are to help grow the game with women, to make women feel more included, to help close the pay gap, and to help fight sexist attitudes in the sport.

Had the USGA and LPGA been more proactive in finding a way to engage people who had concerns with the US Open being held at Trumps course, they could have shown that they are interested in a better future for women overall, rather than releasing standard PR statements that are surface level at best.

Lastly, what is the dream scenario for the US Womens Open this year?

The best thing that could happen at this point would be for an ultra-feminist golfer to win the US Open this year, and while accepting her trophy and giving her speech, she says, As a feminist, this is a great moment in my life. And to Donald Trump, despite your attitudes towards women, despite thinking were just objects merely to be ogled and degraded when we dont agree with you, I hope that I can use my platform as a US Open winner to elevate and lift women up, and encourage them to fight the patriarchy.

Then Donald Trump will no doubt tweet: This so-called golfer is overrated, and on her best day is not even a 7. SAD!

Nothing would get under Trumps skin more than a woman using her major championship win at his golf course to speak out against him.

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Tearful Jason Day pulls out of WGC to be with stricken mother

(CNN)A tearful Jason Day has withdrawn from the World Golf Championships Match Play to be with his stricken mother Dening who has lung cancer.

The world number three walked off the course after playing six holes of his match with Pat Perez in Austin, Texas before giving an emotional press conference.
Day explained his mother had been diagnosed with lung cancer at the start of the year in Australia and given 12 months to live.
    She has since joined the 29-year-old and his family at their home in Ohio, where she has undergone further tests.
    “The diagnosis is much better being over here,” the 2015 US PGA champion told reporters.

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    ‘Very emotional’

    “She’s going in for surgery this Friday, and it’s really hard to even comprehend being on the golf course right now because of what she’s gone through. I’m glad I brought her over here.”
    Dening now faces surgery at the James Cancer Centre at Ohio State University on Friday to remove a 3-4 cm mass on her lungs.
    Day was 12 when his father Alvyn died of stomach cancer. He subsequently began drinking, fighting and getting in trouble regularly.
    Dening took out a second mortgage on their house and borrowed money to send Day to a boarding school famed for its golf academy. It was there his association with caddie and coach Col Swatton began.
    “It’s been really hard to play golf lately,” Day explained. “It’s been very, very emotional, as you can tell. I’ve already gone through it once with my dad. And I know how it feels.

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    “As of now, I’m going to try to be back there with my mom for surgery and make sure everything goes right with her.
    “Emotionally, it’s been wearing on me for a while and I know my mom says not to let it get to me but it really has, so I just need some time away with her to make sure that everything goes well because this has been very, very tough for me.
    “I’m going to do my best and try and be there the best I can for her, because she is the reason that I’m playing golf today. Family is first. It’s just a hard time.
    “I’m hoping for a speedy recovery for her, and we can get this behind us and she can live a long life.”

    ‘Gutsy guy’

    Day was defending champion at the WGC Match Play after winning the the title for the second time in 2016, beating South Africa’s Louis Oosthuizen in the final.
    After a string of second-placed finishes, Day finally got his hands on his first major title in 2015 at the US PGA Championship.

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    Day, who later that year became world No. 1 for the first time, said after his three-stroke triumph at Whistling Straits: “Without my mom’s sacrifice, there is no doubt I would not have made it.
    “Her and my sisters did so much for me so I could have the chance to succeed and I will forever be grateful. There is no telling where I would have ended up. Maybe jail. Maybe dead. But she made sure that wasn’t my path.”
    The first major of 2017 is two weeks away, but it is unclear at this stage whether Day will take his place at Augusta National for the Masters.
    “Whatever happens, happens. Whether he’s playing that … I know it is something he wants to do,” his manager Bud Martin was quoted as saying by the PGA Tour website.
    “But anyone that has a mother, I think you know that she comes first. Being by her side in Ohio when she has the surgery is something that I think just overwhelmed him. He thought that was where he needed to be.
    “Jason is a gutsy guy. You don’t accomplish what he’s accomplished on the golf course without having resilience.”

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