“Commander in Cheat” is the title of ESPN writer Rick Reilly’s book on President Donald Trump, the golfer. The President disregards rules, fair play and decency in golf, as in life, Reilly says. He elevates dishonesty to an art form. Reilly tells us some things we didn’t already know, too.
“I’ve won 18 Club Championships ...” Trump tweeted in March, 2013. Except that he hadn’t. Rather, he fools himself into thinking he’s a “winner.” Each time he purchases a golf course (he owns 14 and operates four others) he insists on playing the first round by himself. Voila, he is “club champion.”
Trump, who had been out of town and hadn’t played a recent tournament, walked into his Bedminster clubhouse just as a worker was erecting a plaque naming a new seniors champion. Trump ordered the champion’s name changed to his own, saying, “Hey, I beat that guy all the time ...”
He always tees off first, then speeds down the fairway to accomplish his cheating, according to his numerous golfing partners. ESPN’s Mike Tirico recalled hitting a shot within 10 feet of the hole, only to catch Trump tossing it into a bunker. Actor Samuel L. Jackson saw Trump hook one into a lake, until his caddy “found” it in the fairway. LGPA player Suzanne Pettersen said, “... no matter how far into the woods he hits the ball, it’s in the middle of the fairway when we get there.” Trump kicks the ball away from tree stumps, marks his ball closer to the hole than he should, takes mulligans (do-overs), subtracts shots when filling out his scorecard and even takes gimme putts from five and six feet away, say his playing partners.
“When it comes to golf, there are very few people who can beat me,” he has boasted. Except in televised matches. In the celebrity pro-ams at Lake Tahoe in 2004, 2005 and 2006, with fields of 80 ex-athletes, actors, singers and other non-pros, Trump finished 56th, 42nd and 62nd. In the last of these he averaged 89 per round, which would suggest a handicap well into in double figures (he claims a handicap of 3). In fairness, he may have been suffering exhaustion at the 2006 event, given that he evidently spent a lot of time with adult film actress Stormy Daniels and Playboy model Karen McDougal (while wife Melania was home with 4-month-old Barron Trump).
Trump’s notorious stinginess and dishonesty about money translates to the links as well. At a charity tournament at Trump Westchester, a man named Marty Greenberg aced a hole that was advertising a $1 million prize for the hole-in-one. Trump refused to pay. Greenberg sued, settling for $158,000.
But Trump’s cheating, of course, isn’t confined to golf. It’s his way of life. He lies about the number of floors at Trump Tower, inflating it by 10, Reilly reports. He lies about his height and weight to avoid the obese label. While he was publicly boasting that his Westchester course was worth $50 million, he was suing the city of Ossining, New York, in order to pay less in property taxes, saying the town’s valuation of $11 million was too high and the course was worth just $1.4 million.
The late Arnold Palmer’s daughter said her dad (who had played with Trump), while watching Trump on television, made a “sound of disgust — like ‘uck.’” She added, “I think he’d cringe,” at Donald Trump today.
Author Reilly perfectly sums up Trump the golfer and Trump the person, saying, “It’s like buying a trophy in a pawn shop ... it only reflects the face of a loser.”