BEDMINSTER, N.J. (AP) — There will be no getting around President Donald Trump for the USGA and the world’s top golfers at the U.S. Women’s Open this week.
The biggest event in women’s golf is being held at Trump National Golf Club, and the first day of formal interviews Tuesday had as much to do with the tournament that starts Thursday as it did about the Republican president.
The USGA has faced pressure from women’s groups and three Democratic U.S. senators to move the event because of Trump’s comments about women and minorities, namely audio that surfaced during the campaign of Trump vulgarly describing his interactions with women. The USGA refused, keeping the marquee event at the course located a few miles from its headquarters in Far Hills.
Former Open champions Michelle Wie, So Yeon Ryu of South Korea and former world No. 1 Lydia Ko of New Zealand skirted questions Tuesday about Trump’s past, insisting they were focused on playing golf this week.
It’s unclear whether Trump will attend the tournament that runs through Sunday, said Matt Sawicki, director of USGA championships. Trump is scheduled to be in France on Friday for a Bastille Day celebration. The Federal Aviation Administration has issued the type of flight restriction around the club from Friday through Sunday that it typically issues when Trump is expected there.
Three-time Open winner Inbee Park said she was not surprised players are avoiding political questions.
”I don’t think they will get any advantage from saying whether they agree or disagree, and I mean I don’t really think that really has much to say with me because I think it is really up to him whether he wants to come or not,” Park said.
A USGA official moderating the news conferences, Beth Major, declined to give an answer when asked about the organization’s stance on sexual assault, saying the USGA was there to talk about the golf this week. But she said the USGA would discuss it later, away from the podium.
Brittany Lincicome, a seven-time winner on the LPGA Tour, recently told the Chicago Tribune that she hoped the president would stay away from the event so the focus will be on the golfers and not Trump.
Wie said she sees herself a female role model and takes it seriously, but did not go beyond that.
”The U.S. Open is our national championship. It is one of my favorite weeks of the year,” said the 27-year-old who won this event in 2014. ”So this week, you know, I really want to focus on the golf part and I want to hopefully inspire a lot of young women and women in general hopefully with my game.”
Ryu, the only two time winner on the LPGA Tour this year and the current No. 1 in the women’s rankings, said she does not know much about U.S. politics but understands it’s an issue because the tournament is being played at Trump’s property.
”I know he’s a huge fan of golf. This is one of the biggest tournaments in U.S. and I strongly say this is best tournament in U.S. and everybody wants to win this tournament and, well, he’s President of U.S. as well, so I think no matter his coming or not, the fact is not going to be changed,” Ryu said.
Danielle Kang, who won the KPMG Women’s Championship two weeks ago for her first LPGA title, said golfers are more comfortable talking about their sport.
”We’re here to play a major championship hosted by the USGA,” said Kang, who grew up in California. ”We’re all just really happy to be playing the U.S. Open.”