BEDMINSTER, United States: US President Donald Trump took in a little golf on Friday, receiving a warm welcome at the US Women’s Open despite calls for the US Golf association to move the elite event from his Trump National Golf Club.
Trump ended speculation about whether he would attend with a tweet when he was en route.
“Left Paris for U.S.A. Will be heading to New Jersey and attending the USWomensOpen their most important tournament, this afternoon,” Trump tweeted after departing Bastille Day celebrations in France.
Activists angered by Trump’s controversial comments about women during his presidential campaign had urged the USGA to move the tournament, the richest event in women’s golf. The venue had been announced years before Trump launched his presidential bid.
Protests were expected outside the facility after a group from nearby Philadelphia staged a demonstration at the year’s first US LPGA event in Arizona.
Two-time major champion Brittany Lincicome said two weeks ago that she hoped Trump would not attend, fearing it would distract from the competition.
But the USGA said Trump would be more than welcome at one of their flagship events.
“If the President of the United States decides to attend the US Women’s Open Championship, we welcome him,” the governing body said in a statement. “It will be the first time a sitting president has attended the US Women’s Open and is only the third occurrence in our entire championship history.
“Our focus remains on conducting the championship and ensuring a great experience for the players and fans this week.”
The other two sitting presidents whom have attended US Open championships are Warren Harding in 1921 at Columbia Country Club in Maryland and Bill Clinton in 1997 at Congressional Country Club, also in Maryland.
Fans, too, seemed to enjoy their glimpses of the president.
Trump arrived at the course in a motorcade of black vehicles and later could be seen standing in an enclosed viewing area near the 15th hole.
Fans cheered and snapped pictures as he came to the window to wave, and marshals reminded them to keep their voices down as play continued on the nearby green.
After watching golf on television with about a dozen people for about an hour, Trump exited the viewing area and got into a car.
As he departed, one man yelled “That’s my president!” and another called “Thank you!” Several dozen people gathered on the clubhouse balcony to wave as he left.
US player Lexi Thompson – who has played with Trump in Florida – said she felt “pretty comfortable” playing in front of him on Friday, adding that it was “definitely entertaining” to have him at the course.
American Stacy Lewis was asked if she was aware of Trump’s presence during her round.
“I honestly had no idea where he actually was,” Lewis said. — AFP