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Why pro golf's power struggle reflects broader social change

From left: Jimmy Dunne, Yasir Al-Rumayyan and Tiger Woods.

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For 175 years now, millions of us, representing all walks of life, have been drawn to professional golf for its purity. Shoot points, get rewards. And over all that time, the sport has had a certain appeal to the rich and powerful, who are as drawn to golf as Snooki is to the Jersey Shore. Golf as a tool of capitalism. Golf is like a well-tracked mountain of social climbing. Golf as a showcase a soup the ability to run.

(Caveat emptor: Beware of authors who put French and Latin into their copy when they have limited knowledge of their native language. Be careful in general. (Your reporter doesn't know anything about Snooki, but she can confirm that Jersey Shore's bodysurfing and surfcast opps.)

Enter Yasir Al-Rumayyan, a Saudi businessman of immeasurable wealth and power but still seeking a public position in some of the best grill rooms and golf sheets. Yasir (easily) oversees PIF's sponsorship of LIV Golf, which, from the day the league was announced, was seen as an existential threat to the PGA Tour and its status as the king of the tour.

Enter Jimmy Dunne, American clubman and good stick, a self-made Wall Street success story. His stock trading, to boil it down to one word, of course charisma. As a member of the PGA Tour's board of directors, Dunne had the idea that he could be a Lancelot or a Kissinger at a time when the PGA Tour needed the magic of negotiation. She married Yasir. In his opening words to him, he spoke like him, only his last name.

Enter Barack Obama, who played West Palm Beach the other day – known as The Park – accompanied by the CEO of the PGA of America, Seth Waugh.

Enter Donald Trump, who maintained, in campaign interviews in 2016, that one of his qualifications for the presidency was his ability to make short putts under pressure.

Yasir. Trump. Obama. Dunne. The foursome, right there on your morning news feed.

On Monday, in a New York City court, prosecutors revealed a list of 54 names, people Trump had on speed dial. Pete Bevacqua, Waugh's predecessor as PGA of America CEO, was on the list, among other golf personalities. Larry Glick, who helps run Trump's golf outings. John Nieporte, a senior manager at Trump's studies in West Palm Beach. Lou Rinaldi, a contractor, engineer and scratch golfer whom Trump calls “my cart boy.” (Trump prides himself on the quality of his fairways; Rinaldi has paved miles of them.) And Jack Nicklaus, once one of Trump's sworn enemies in business, since Nicklaus' role in the construction of Trump's course in West Palm Beach, but later. one of Trump's golf confidants.

You could say there is nothing new here. After all, Arnold Palmer and Dwight Eisenhower were members of a mutual respect society. But as time goes on, there seems to be something effortless and delightful about their friendship. Dwight and Mamie Eisenhower, in the 1960s, lived in a farmhouse near the Gettysburg Battlefield. Arnold and Winnie Palmer lived in a farmhouse a few hundred yards from the first course at the Latrobe Country Club. The Ike house to the Palmer house was a straight shot, 130 miles, on US 30, known as the Lincoln Highway. You'd like to think they enjoy being together, because it's lovely to think so. Well, that's certainly true, but there was more to it than that because there's always more to anything. The levels we can see and the ones we can't.

Bevacqua was on Trump's Get-Me-Blank list because the 2022 PGA Championship was scheduled to be played at Trump's course in Bedminster, NJ, and Trump was looking forward to that, and looking at other PGA of America events at his courses. He was looking to improve his golf skills, and make money.

Tiger Woods tees off on the green at the PGA Championship

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After 6 Jan. 2021, the attack on the Capitol Building, Waugh, as Bevacqua's successor, began the process of moving the 2022 PGA Championship from Trump Bedminster to Southern Hills in Tulsa. In a phone interview two years ago, Trump told me it was his bad luck that Bevacqua was hired away from the PGA of America to become an executive at NBC Sports, and that Waugh was after him. Otherwise, he would not have lost the '22 PGA, which was won by Justin Thomas. Since then, Trump has broken with the Golf Establishment and embraced LIV Golf.

Brooks Koepka, LIV Golf's top recruit from the PGA Tour, won last year's PGA Championship at Oak Hill. He won it and will remain so for many reasons and one of them is because he won his fifth title at one of America's greatest and most historic golf courses. Jack Nicklaus won a major at Oak Hill as did Lee Trevino and Curtis Strange. Koepka's win raised the profile of LIV Golf. Make LIV Golf a world golf powerhouse. Jon Rahm, who signed with LIV late last year, is the same. The situation is funny. You are given to others. Try too hard to find it and you'll fall into the pit first.

This week's PGA Championship (everyone reading this knows it) is being played at Valhalla Golf Club in Louisville. It's the Jack Nicklaus course. Big Jack and the PGA have a relationship that goes back to a simpler time, from Jack Grout, head professional at Scioto Country Club, to Nicklaus' five PGA titles, the second of which came at the PGA National, owned and operated by the PGA of America . .

The PGA used to own Valhalla, until it was sold to a private group. It's good for business, if the presenter owns the platform as well. Florenz Ziegfeld owns the Ziegfeld Follies again The Ziegfeld Theatre. That was successful. In the future, a number of PGA of America events will be held at PGA courses in Frisco, Texas. Will that work? We will see.

But there is no PGA at the new course in Frisco, Texas, which will have the immediate karmic appeal of the PGA at Oak Hill in Rochester. That's because Rochester has been a golf town for 140 years, and Oak Hill is as good a Donald Ross course as we get. Yes, there are many ideas here, which make it true. Watch out for surprises (EB White) and masks (Tom Wolfe). Masks and pretense are close cousins. You don't say cousin kisses anymore. Things change. Notice the change.

Jordan Spieth at Valhalla for the PGA Championship.

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Jimmy Dunne had a great idea: Find out what Yasir really wants to do in professional golf. But he wouldn't get the real answer because Yasir couldn't speak for himself. Ownership of this great, old thing of the world, professional golf, in all its civil dogfight glory? It may be in Yasir's head. We like to say that it is not for sale. Someone will tell you that everything is for sale.

I don't know.

Jimmy Dunne could not calculate that Tiger Woods, who eventually, quote, joined Dunne as a board member of the PGA Tour, would do to protect his legacy. That legacy is built on those 82 PGA titles. He built wealth and status, behind those 82 chariots, 15 of which were major titles. It doesn't matter what Woods says, and he doesn't say anything, he loved the program that made him. He loved you so much. That system is the core of who he is, at least in his public life. He doesn't want a deal with the Saudi investors who hired Phil Mickelson and Brooks Koepka and Dustin Johnson and Jon Rahm, thus doing permanent damage to the PGA Tour. That is, his journey. Nicklaus' visit. Arnold's visit. Hogan's tour. Why on earth?

Therefore, Jimmy Dunne was cut off from further discussions with the PIF leadership. And in this ongoing chaos, the man with the check, Yasir Al-Rumayyan, is gaining more power by the day. It says here that the premise of LIV Golf – 54-hole events, no cut, group play, beauty pageant list – is offensive. At the very least, it strikes those of us who value, in our bones, the war of professional golf.

I heard one really smart idea in this madness. It came from Fred Perpall, president of the USGA. He's new to golf but he doesn't read people. I asked him, what does the Tour have to say to anyone who wants to jump ship and go LIV? “Let them go,” said Fred. You can't hold on to people who don't appreciate what they already have.

There are so many that I need a long lunch break to unwind.

Ben Crenshaw had a crush on a lifer caddy named Adolphus Hull, also known as Golf Ball. I got this from Hull, who is on his deathbed. Ball was remembering a dead world but sharing living details.

Bengu: “Bola, what do you do if you like a girl but she doesn't like you?”

Ball: “If he doesn't like you, you should let him go.”

Ben: “I believe you're right.”

Ball: “I know I'm right.”

Ball knew what he knew and, if he were alive today, he would know that Fred Perpall was right.

There is a wonderful solution here, the United Nations of professional golf where all the world's best tours, men's, women's, senior players, development players, operate under one roof. The 2034 PGA Championship is on the docket for Frisco. Maybe this will be resolved then. Big maybe.

There has been a broader change in society, but it is almost invisible. There is a viewfinder for golf as there is a viewfinder for almost everything in golf. Arnold Palmer had a mentor in the world of business and life. So are Jack Nicklaus, Tom Watson, Curtis Strange and Adam Scott, a PGA Tour board member. But most golfers under the age of 40 don't want the Elder Statesmen telling them anything. They think that their skill in one area translates to the rest of the world. Hmm. It can't happen. It's a tricky thing, knowing what you don't know. Jimmy Dunne wanted to find out what Yasir wanted. Look where that took him, and look where we are.

Michael Bamberger welcomes your comments at [email protected]

Michael Bamberger

Michael Bamberger Contributor

Michael Bamberger writes for GOLF Magazine and Prior to that, he spent nearly 23 years as a senior writer for Sports Illustrated. After college, he worked as a newspaper reporter, first at (Martha's) Vineyard Gazette, later for The Philadelphia Inquirer. He has written a variety of books on golf and other subjects, the most recent of which is The Second Life of Tiger Woods. His magazine work has been featured in numerous Best American Sports Writing programs. He holds the US patent on the E-Club, a utility golf club. In 2016, he was awarded the Donald Ross Award by the American Society of Golf Course Architects, the organization's highest honor.

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