Donald Trump details his golfing ambitions, dustups with Jack Nicklaus, the USGA and Golf Digest

Donald Trump
Vincent Laforet
In his letter to the magazine Trump alleged that Golf Digest "fraudulently manipulated the results of the raters."

Dustup Number 2: D. Trump vs. the USGA (Governing Bodies Division). . . .

On Jan. 21 USA Today published a front-page story that outlined Trump's golfing ambitions, most particularly his desire to have a U.S. Open at Bedminster, his New Jerseycourse. But there was one paragraph in the story that caused problems. In the story Trump describes David Fay, the executive director of the USGA, as a member of the club who plays the course frequently and has a locker near Trump's.

Fay read the story, seething. He told me later that he was only an honorary member and that he had played the course as an honorary member exactly once, and that if he had a locker there, he knew nothing about it. He said he had called Trump and resigned his honorary membership. According to Fay, Trump said to him, "I think you just fired me."

As an incident it wasn't much. But it revealed the disconnect between Trump and the organization he most wants to woo. Courses for the U.S. Open have been assigned through 2013. All sorts of clubs, from all over the country — most of them member-owned and old — are trying to get themselves in position to be selected by the USGA for U.S. Opens for 2014 and beyond. But none of the representatives of those clubs would ever court the USGA as Trump has, so publicly and so immodestly. To the volunteers on the USGA's executive committee, who make the organization's biggest decisions, Trump raises questions of style, right down to how he names his courses. These are not people who respond to bombast or egotism. They dress British and think British.

There are USGA executives and committeemen who think Bedminster is very good — Mike Davis, who runs all the USGA championships, loves it — but that it needs time to settle in and grow. It needs refinements. It's not yet the course it can be. It needs to host the U.S. Junior and other national championships before it could even be talked about as a U.S. Open site. More to the point, the USGA is already overwhelmed by the number of places in metropolitan New York where it wants to hold U.S. Opens. There is Shinnecock Hills, Bethpage Black, Winged Foot and Baltusrol. "The dance card is full," Fay told me. Trump thinks the Open will someday get to Trump National, Bedminster. "I might be an old man, being wheeled around, or even dead, but it'll happen," he said.

Dustup Number 3: D. Trump vs. Golf Digest (Industry Press Division). . . .

A few weeks before the May 2007 Golf Digest came out — the one with the '07â€"08 list of America's 100 Greatest Golf Courses, As Ranked by Golf Digest — Trump received distressing news: His West Palm Beach course, the one that had been No. 84 on the '05â€"06 list, had fallen out of the top 100. Trump was stunned. It made no sense to him that the course, which he obsessively tries to improve, would drop 17 or more spots. Such dramatic drops don't often happen.

Remember how certain things in business are on the short list of things that actually matter to Trump? Getting dropped from the Golf Digest top 100 qualifies. The list has had broad credibility in golf, and it's the kind of seal of approval Trump craves. Trump is a sucker for the word greatest. He knows that almost every course chosen for a major championship is on the 100 Greatest list.

And then something happened that got Trump even more upset. A reporter from the New York Post called and said that a p.r. person from Golf Digest, a CondÃ'© Nast magazine, was pitching the paper on a story about the Trump course falling off the list. "I suspect Mr. Trump will be extremely displeased when he learns of this," the Golf Digest director of public relations, Andrew Katcher, wrote in an e-mail to the paper. "Depending on what he says, we thought this could be a fun — and potentially biting — piece."

The Post reporter read the e-mail to Trump, and Trump responded with this: "It's despicable they send out a release to announce Trump is not on their list. For shame!"

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