Golf

Donald Trump expected to attend Doral golf tournament

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump attends rally in Doral

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump delivers a speech Friday night, Oct. 23, 2015, during his first presidential campaign rally in Florida at the Trump National Doral Miami resort.
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Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump delivers a speech Friday night, Oct. 23, 2015, during his first presidential campaign rally in Florida at the Trump National Doral Miami resort.

Donald Trump has been busy running for president, but apparently not too busy to fit in some golf watching.

It’s official, or as official as it gets, that Trump will attend the World Golf Championships-Cadillac Championship at Trump National Doral next week.

Trump said so.

“I’ll be there very limited because I have the Secret Service,” Trump told GolfWeek magazine. “But I’ll be there.”

In addition, two senior officials from Trump National — golf director Darrin Helfrick and tournament chairman Butch Buchholz— confirmed Trump’s attendance is “fully expected and likely” and plans are being made for that occurrence.

But a PGA Tour spokesperson declined to say Thursday what level of participation Trump would be permitted to have at the tournament.

“It’s his property, his resort,” Buchholz said Thursday. But “it’s not his event. It’s the tour’s event.”

The PGA Tour, which prides itself on being an inclusive organization, has objected to some of Trump’s campaign comments, particularly concerning Mexicans and Muslims.

Those comments prompted the tour to issue an ominous statement in December that referred to Trump by name.

“Immediately after the completion of the 2016 tournament, we will explore all options regarding the event’s future,” the PGA Tour said.

“We continue to stand by our earlier statement, and the statement of other golf organizations, that Mr. Trump’s comments are inconsistent with our strong commitment to an inclusive and welcoming environment in the game of golf.”

The Miami Herald asked the PGA Tour by email, with Trump at the Doral event and PGA Tour officials also there, if they might sit down and resolve some of their differences and discuss the tournament’s future.

The PGA Tour’s response: “We, the PGA Tour, Cadillac, our volunteers and secondary sponsors are all focused on putting on the best possible tournament this year. … We will focus on the 2017 event immediately following this year’s tournament.”

Buchholz said Trump participated in the trophy presentation in past years. Asked whether Trump would be permitted to do so this year, PGA Tour spokeswoman Candace Reinheimer declined to answer, saying the tour was unaware of his schedule.

But Reinheimer said Eric Trump, the third child of Donald Trump and first wife Ivana, is expected at the tournament and will be permitted to participate in the trophy presentation if he chooses.

At past tournaments, Trump enjoyed mingling with the people, mingling and signing autographs until pens ran dry. There were fist bumps, high fives or handshakes for just about any fan who wanted one, although that scenario is likely to change somewhat with Secret Service now calling the shots in protecting Trump.

Trump “would have guests, and he would use it [as] an entertainment vehicle,” Buchholz said.

Asked whether his movement at this year’s tournament would be restricted, Reinheimer declined to comment, again noting that the tour is unaware of his schedule.

Trump has been a focal point of the Doral event since he bought Trump National Doral four years ago. He has been at the tournament nearly every day of play, and often before and after the event. Trump is an aficionado of the sport and has even given thought to the idea of eventually being buried on a golf course.

“Where can you have a nicer place to end up at than a golf course?” he has said. Trump, master of the grandiose entrance, arrives at Doral each year in his helicopter, setting down on a helipad that he had built just off the ninth tee of the tournament’s famed Blue Monster course.

This year, however, it is not known if Trump will arrive via helicopter. Trump might not even be there all four days. If not, the most likely day for him to attend would be for the final round on Sunday, March 6. That would allow him to be center stage (actually, center green on the 18th hole) to make the trophy presentation.

Asked whether his presence during the tournament might be a distraction, Buchholz said: “I don’t know if it’s distracting because we’ve never experienced [having a presidential candidate as the owner of the course].”

The Golf Channel will televise the first two rounds and NBC will air the final two rounds, and a spokesman for the networks said he did not know what the extent of NBC’s coverage of Trump would be during the event.

It appears Trump’s political campaign schedule works out well with the time period of the Cadillac Championship.

This Tuesday is known as “Super Tuesday,” with primary voting in 12 states and one U.S. territory.

The Cadillac Championship begins two days later.

Then, nine days after the golf tournament ends on March 6, the key Florida primary will be held on March 15.

So whether it be for political reasons or golf reasons, Donald J. Trump could be spending a lot of time in Florida.

Miami Herald sportswriter Barry Jackson contributed to this report.

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