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Donald Trump

US President Donald Trump said to have threatened United States Golf Association with lawsuit if they moved women's Open

Organisation believed to have been uncomfortable with Access Hollywood video tape, on which he is shown bragging that his celebrity status allowed him to grope women

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 11 July, 2017, 2:30pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 11 July, 2017, 3:41pm

Executive director Mike Davis told members of the United States Golf Association’s executive committee that US President Donald Trump threatened to sue the organisation if they moved the 2017 US Women’s Open from Trump National Golf Club in Bedminister, New Jersey, according to a person with direct knowledge of the meeting.

Davis informed the United States Golf Association (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.

But after being contacted this week at Trump National, where the US 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 US 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 attorney, referred request for comment to Trump organisation executive vice president and chief legal officer Alan Garten and Trump organisation executive vice president of development Larry Glick.

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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 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.

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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 tape surfaced, three US senators – Richard Blumenthal, Edward Markey and Bob Casey – sent a letter to the USGA asking that the 2017 US 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.”

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The USGA declined to move the tournament, which begins on 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.”