On Thursday afternoon, Donald Trump gave an impromptu interview to Michael S. Schmidt, a political reporter for The New York Times, at his first Florida golf course. That interview resulted in a front-page story in Friday's paper, which was sprinkled with golf from start to finish. After a reference to North Korea as a "nuclear menace," the piece mentions the PGA Tour player Trump knows best, Jim Herman.
"Mr. Trump gave the interview in the Grill Room at Trump International Golf Club after he ate lunch with his playing partners, including his son Eric and the pro golfer Jim Herman," the Times reported. "No aides were present for the interview, and the president sat alone with a New York Times reporter at a large round table as club members chatted and ate lunch nearby.
"Noting that he had given Mr. Herman $50,000 years ago when he worked at the president's New Jersey golf club and was trying to make the PGA Tour, Mr. Trump asked him how much he made playing on the professional circuit.
"It's like $3 million," Mr. Herman said.
"Which to him is like making a billion because he doesn't spend anything,' Mr. Trump joked."
Jim Herman, modest by nature, was off by nearly three million. Just in 2016 and 2017, Herman earned $3.3 million on Tour. His career Tour earnings, since playing in his first Tour event in 2010, is $5.6 million. He made another $735,000 on the Web.com circuit. Of course, after taxes, Herman's Tour haul is closer to $3 million.
In interviews, Herman has noted how much Trump helped him when he was an assistant pro and teaching pro at Trump's course in Bedminster, N.J. Trump gave Herman a paying job, allowed him unfettered use of the two Bedminster courses there and the club's practice tee, played with him regularly and built up the golfer's confidence by bragging regularly to others about Herman's golfing prowess. He has never said that Trump "staked" him, or simply gave him money to launch his career.
There are various moments of Trumpian hyperbole in the piece. He said in the interview, "I know the details of taxes better than anybody. Better than the greatest C.P.A." But the piece's kicker includes a final quote that any golfer of a certain again will recognize for its accuracy:
"After the interview, Mr. Trump walked out of the Grill Room, stopping briefly to speak to guests. He then showed off a plaque that listed the club's golf champions, including several years in which Mr. Trump had won its annual tournament. Asked how far he was hitting balls off the tee these days, Mr. Trump, who will turn 72 next year, was modest. 'Gets shorter every year,' he said."
Michael Bamberger may be reached at email@example.com.