Despite hopes that President Donald Trump wouldn't show up to the United States Women's Open Golf Championship, the president and known misogynist arrived on Friday afternoon to the event after his week of festivities in France.
Left Paris for U.S.A. Will be heading to New Jersey and attending the#USWomensOpen, their most important tournament, this afternoon.— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 14, 2017
The tournament was already fraught with political tension given its location at the president's golf course, and Trump's presence only amplifies that hostility further.
The fact that the United States Women's Open Golf Championship is being hosted at the Trump National Golf Club is cruel irony, but what is far worse is the potential for that fact to dwarf the incredible skills of the women competing.
News coverage and President Donald Trump himself threaten to do just that, but golf fans can make the event about the athletes and not the unfortunate location if they so choose.
Women's rights activists protested the course choice for the major tourney, a deal which was cemented in 2012 long before Trump became a national pariah.
"Holding the tournament on this course sends the exact wrong message," said Shaunna Thomas, co-founder of the women's rights group UltraViolet, to NPR. "They're giving millions in revenue, free advertising and branding, to his platform and policies, which repeatedly degrade women, and encourage hate and division."
The USGA spinelessly kept their commitment to the Trump course though, insisting that they are "a golf association and we're sticking to golf." The decision not to change to another, less politically-fraught, location could also have something to with Trump allegedly threatening to sue the USGA if they moved.
As a result, the U.S. Women's Open is turning into more of a political event than a golf tournament. Journalists attending the tourney have asked politically-geared questions of the players, which, while understandable, also runs the risk of directing the public's attention away from the women playing.
Michelle Wie, winner of the 2014 U.S. Women's Open, has had to contend with both questions about her golf and the president — and she's not willing to entertain the latter.
"I will not comment on any political part this week," Wie announced on Tuesday. "This week is about the golf for me. I'm excited to compete in this championship and it's really purely about the golf.”
"There’s not a whole lot I can do about it," pro-golfer Stacy Lewis said last year when the protests against the USGA's 2017 location began to heat up. "As players, what are we going to do, just not show up and not play the U.S. Women’s Open? I don’t think people are going to do that. You just have to rely on the governing bodies. I’m sure they will be prepared for everything that week. We have to rely on them.”
The USGA and many players have kept a frustratingly neutral stance amidst an ever-escalating political landscape, attempting to maintain a separation between sports and politics despite the highly politicized location of their 2017 tournament. However, some have diverged from the "golf only" message to not only show the president he is unwelcome, but to try and return the reporting to the players.
"Hopefully maybe he doesn't show up and it won't be a big debacle and it will be about us and not him,” said golf player Brittany Lincicome, whose statement caused such a ruckus that she temporarily quit Twitter.
"I hope he doesn't show up," avid golf fan Chris Scofield told NPR reporters. "Because I think that would ruin the event, and take away from how good these women play."
"We don't want to buy something that has his name on it," another fan, Leah Delacruz, said. "But we also want to support the ladies," Veo Cubero, also a fan of golf, interjected. "We love the LPGA."
Unfortunately, given Trump's penchant for making everything worse, there is a chance he may set aside controversy and matters of state to watch the tournament and even present the trophy to the winner. His presence will only overshadow the champion though if fans and activists let it.
In a better world, the USGA would have broken contract and relocated the Women's Open to a place that wasn't owned by a misogynist and sexist, but it's the first day of the tourney, and fans will be watching strong female athletes compete on a Trump golf course.
It's twisted, to be sure, but it's also a chance to make an unavoidably political situation political in a way that is also powerfully feminist: Ignore the jerk and enjoy some women's golf.