You may have heard that President Trump will be in the UK for a state visit between June 3-5. He will be here as part of the 75thanniversary commemorations for D-Day (which at the time of writing does not stand for ‘Donald Day’). His visit is somewhat controversial – of course it’s controversial; it involves Donald Trump – but it is obviously important in that America is de facto one of our most important allies; perhaps the most, this even if the so-called two-way special relationship has latterly seemed more like a one-way street. Still, as a Sunday Times headline suggested last weekend, “give him golf, pomp and flattery on his UK visit, then we can talk business”.
Let’s talk golf. An eminent American sportswriter, Rick Reilly, has recently published a book called Commander in Cheat. Its subhead is ‘How Golf Explains Trump’. Reilly’s book seeks to explain Trump’s serial cheating at the sport. Even before the stories get underway, the author writes: “This book is dedicated to the truth. It’s still a thing.”
By page 3, The Donald is off. He plays a game with Reilly, then a journalist on Sports Illustrated. Trump introduces him to one guy as the publisher of the magazine, to someone else as the president. “Donald, why are you lying about me?” asks Reilly. “Sounds better,” he replies. Reilly writes that a friend of his had dinner with Trump and his wife, Melania, in 2015, and enquired where she came from. She told him it was Slovenia. “Say Austria,” interrupted Trump. “Sounds better.” There you have it – improving one’s lie is Trump’s take on life.
As for the cheating at golf, sometimes it’s quite amusing. LPGA Tour player Suzann Pettersen says he must pay his caddies very well “since no matter how far into the woods he hits the ball, it’s in the middle of the fairway when we get there”. (Somewhat appropriately, Trump doesn’t care about the honour; he always hits first.) On the other hand, some of his business dealings around golf are verging on the sinister. Either way, his scores are always fake news. Reilly writes: “Trump is not just a political outlier. He’s a golf outlier. Forget how he plays the game. Just in the simplest politeness of the game, the timeless etiquette of it, Trump seems to have come from another planet.” He drives his golf cart across greens, for heaven’s sake. Outlier indeed. As with all the course records he falsely claims he shot, he’s an out-and-out liar.
If I have one complaint about the book, it concerns the front cover. It shows Trump playing a shot apparently from some pretty thick rough. Since the overarching theme of the narrative is that nothing will stop the man from cheating, one wouldn’t expect him ever having to play from there. Still, I guess he improved his lie before he did. (I am reminded of a story told by the late, great golf writer, Peter Dobereiner, recounting a game of golf he played in Italy with some member of the landed gentry. “Is your ball lying well, count?” asked Peter. “Not yet,” came the reply.)
You should read the book, even if it sometimes makes you feel queasy. Because one thing is clear, per where we came in with that quote from the Sunday Times. Even when it comes to golf, business with Donald Trump is an ethics-free and dodgy zone. Put another way, the eagles are fabricated as surely as the chickens are chlorinated.
You can follow me on Twitter @robrtgreen and also read my other blog at f-factors.com – plus there’s more golf blogging from me in the 19th hole section on the Golf Today website