A guy I know who’s been in the golf business a long time was earlier this summer contemplating the publication of a book about Prince Andrew’s involvement in golf. That was before what we might term the Jeffrey Epstein episode occurred. If you’ve been on another planet or are just totally Brexit-besotted, Epstein was an American financier with a 2008 conviction for paedophile offences with whom Prince Andrew was certainly friends (to the extent of maintaining a connection with him after Epstein’s release from prison) and allegedly, albeit robustly denied by HRH, the recipient of favours from young women steered his way by Epstein, who committed suicide on August 10 while being held in jail prior to facing charges of sex trafficking. I jokingly texted a mutual friend to suggest I couldn’t figure out whether this would be a really good time to be thinking of doing a book about the Duke of York or a really bad one. But I think we all know the answer to that.
At the height of this story in the news cycle, Prince Andrew was playing golf at Valderrama, venue of the 1997 Ryder Cup, in Spain. He is a past captain of the Royal & Ancient Golf Club, one year running up costs of £32,000 to the taxpayer by taking helicopter flights to St Andrews. This gained him the nickname of ‘Air Miles Andy’, which is rather funny whereas his previous sobriquet of ‘Randy Andy’ now sounds slightly sinister. The fact that ‘Duke of Hazard’ is the current go-to epithet is both neat and obvious.
In The Times on Saturday there was a story about the Duke of York Young Champions Trophy, being held this week at Royal Portrush, where Prince Andrew had been among the attendees during the Open Championship in July. This event is a competition for golfers aged 18 under, both male and female. Understandably the club feels it cannot disinvite Prince Andrew but one member told the newspaper that “maybe it would be best for everyone if he decided he wasn’t able to come.” All considered, a photograph of him warmly congratulating a victorious girl participant is perhaps something best avoided. We shall see what happens.
My reference to his previous helicopter costs seems coincidentally contemporary with the revelation that Donald Trump may be investigated by US financial authorities over allegations that he might have been using government funds to help drive business at Prestwick Airport in Ayrshire, a facility which his nearby Turnberry resort rather depends on to attract American visitors to his course, which is awaiting news as to when it might next get the Open, having last staged it in 2009.
The US president is undoubtedly keen to know the outcome of the R&A’s deliberations on that matter, although it’s not one with which Prince Andrew will be involved. He doesn’t boast about his golf like Trump does, pretending he’s a better player than he really is (but then he’s a member of the royal family; not a property developer/reality TV show host), although that has not stopped others in the past overstating his prowess at the game, presumably intending to do so on the royal behalf. But as the issue at Portrush shows, if Prince Andrew has not fallen out of love with golf, then golf has with him. As shames go, however, that’s hardly in the league of what Jeffrey Epstein put many young women through.
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