A major and enduring piece of the South Florida sports landscape withered and died Wednesday after 55 years, disappearing into the summer sky. What had been a tradition predating Beatlemania and the day JFK died lapsed suddenly into the past tense as the PGA Tour announced it was leaving Doral and its iconic Blue Monster golf course.
Just like that.
What a shame — because it’s sad, and also because it feels like it didn’t have to happen.
Pot-bellied Billy Casper wins the very first Doral in 1962 and Aussie Adam Scott wins the last in 2016 and every single spring in between the best men’s golfers in the world made an annual pilgrimage to the playground in our backyard.
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Jack Nicklaus and Lee Trevino to Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods, all the best raised the trophy on Doral’s 18th green as Greater Miami beamed out across the country as a Mecca of golf, a postcard of perfect weather.
Only one golf course and tournament in America has a longer continuous relationship with the PGA Tour than we enjoyed: The Masters at Augusta.
Now that tradition of ours is done, nothing but a memory — as gone as the old Orange Bowl Stadium.
The civic gut punch came with a twist of irony that made you wonder if it might be a joke.
The PGA Tour is leaving us for Mexico City, the capital of Mexico.
No, seriously. How rich!
If that isn’t a well-aimed parting shot at Doral owner Donald Trump, it’s a coincidence bizarre beyond measure.
It was presidential candidate Trump’s controversial disparaging remarks about Mexicans last year (and talk of building a wall to keep out illegal immigrants) that first made the PGA Tour wonder about its relationship with Trump and his course properties such as Trump National Doral. The Republican’s later comments about barring Muslims from entering the U.S. caused a widening rift between Trump and the tour.
Before the news became official Wednesday, Trump himself first mentioned it Tuesday night in an interview with Fox’s Sean Hannity. He spun it as another example of America losing jobs to foreign countries. And took another shot at Mexicans, of course.
“They’re moving it to Mexico City,” said Trump, “which, by the way, I hope they have kidnapping insurance.”
The PGA Tour officially is leaving Doral because the World Golf Championship event could not find a title sponsor to replace the departing Cadillac.
That may be true, or at least part of the truth, but it begs two questions.
First, was the difficulty in finding a new title sponsor rooted in the fact corporations were wary of associating with a Trump course?
Second, why would the billionaire Trump himself not swoop in as sponsor to keep the event at the resort he owns?
Clearly, to me, the PGA Tour used the title sponsor issue as a break point to distance itself from Trump.
It was 11 months ago, remember, when four major golf associations — the PGA Tour, LPGA, PGA of America and USGA — issued a joint statement that Trump’s comments about Mexican immigrants “do not reflect the views of our organizations.”
It was five months ago when the PGA Tour, in the wake of Trump’s comments about Muslims, said it would “explore all options” about the tour’s future at Doral.
It stretches credulity to believe the more toxic element of Trump’s reputation did not play a role in South Florida and Doral losing its grip on 55 years of tradition.
Sadly enough, from golf to tennis, the Miami Open’s 32-year tradition (under various tournament names) on Key Biscayne also is fading — that event’s future seriously imperiled by a quagmire of political red tape and squabbling within the Matheson family.
Neither major sporting event should leave Greater Miami.
Neither tradition should die.
One just did, 55 years of history disappeared, only a memory in its place.
Read Greg’s Random Evidence blog daily at MiamiHerald.com and follow on Twitter @gregcote.