On Sunday, Donald Trump posted this on Truth Social:
“A great honor to have won the Senior Club Championship at Trump International Golf Club, one of the best courses in the Country, in Palm Beach County, Florida. Competed against many fine golfers, and was hitting the ball long and straight.”
(Breitbart News saw fit to write a story about Trump’s triumph, which he subsequently sent out to his press list.)
If you are keeping count — and I am! — that’s at least Trump’s 3rd senior club championship at the course. He also won it in 2012 and 2013. Trump also claimed to have won the club championship (not just for seniors!) in 1999, 2001, 2009 and 2018. (Yes, Trump won the club championship while he was president of the United States. Amazing!)
Trump, in fact, has said he has won 20 club championships during his playing career.
“I've won a lot of club championships,” Trump told Golf Digest in 2014. “Anytime I win a club championship, I'm proud of those rounds. Club championships are like our majors.”
I did a whole bunch of research on Trump’s golf prowess (and his claims about his golf prowess) for my forthcoming book: “Power Players: Sports, Politics and the American Presidency.” (It’s out April 18! Preorder it now!)
And I learned something interesting about that claimed 2018 club championship that might, um, shed some light on how Trump manages to win so damn many of these things.
From the book:
The story goes like this. A man named Ted Virtue (not making him up), the CEO of MidOcean partners, played in and won the club championship in 2018. (Virtue helped finance the movie “Green Book,” which won the Oscar for best picture in 2018). Sometime after Virtue’s win, Trump bumped into him at the club and somewhat jokingly told him “The only reason you won is because I couldn’t play.” Trump proposed that he and Virtue play a 9 hole match for the title of club champ. Trump won. Hence the plaque on the wall.
So, yeah, that’s not how club championships work.
Two other Trump tricks I learned about during my research for the book:
Trump often plays the first round at a new course he owns and then declares himself the club champion for having shot the lowest round at the course (thanks to Rick Reilly for that one)
Trump, in a random round, shoots lower than the winning score shot during the club championship — and subsequently declares himself the de facto club champion.
He appears to have pulled just these sort of tricks in order to win his latest club championship, in fact.
As the Daily Mail has noted, Trump was in North Carolina last Saturday— during the club championship; he spoke at the funeral of Diamond (of “Diamond and Silk” fame/infamy), a high-profile supporter of his.
So, how did Trump wind up at the top of the leaderboard despite not playing in one of the rounds? The Daily Mail has more:
Insiders told DailyMail.com that competitors arriving for day two of the contest on Sunday morning were surprised (although not exactly shocked) to see his name at the top of the leaderboard with a five-point lead over the overnight leader.
He apparently told members that he had played a cracking round on Thursday and that would count as his first day's score.
None of that is to say that Trump is a bad golfer. No one who has played with him or watched him play would say that. In fact, he is widely seen as quite a good golfer for someone his age. (Trump is 76 years old.)
Luke Kerr Dineen, the play editor at Golf magazine and someone who has analyzed the swing of every president for which there is footage, told me of Trump:
“He hits the ball a long way off the tee. And he focuses singularly on hitting the ball off the tee. To him that’s the sign of a good golfer. Putting and all these other details are not as telling as your ability to hit the ball.”
Dineen said that Trump’s real handicap is like “somewhere between a 5 and a 8” when you factor in “lots of gimmes” that he tends to take.
Trump’s golf game is best understood as a metaphor for his broader life. As I write in the book:
Yes, he was born into money – his father gave him a $1 million loan when he turned 21 – but by any account he has made lots and lots more money. He has had success on television. And, hell, he was elected president of the United States in his first run for any elected office!
And yet, none of that is good enough for Trump. He can’t just be wealthy. He has to exaggerate his wealth by several degrees. He can’t just have been successful on TV. He has to have had the biggest hit in the history of the network in “The Apprentice.” He can’t have just won a single term as president. He has to have actually won a second term only to be cheated out of it by (nonexistent) voter fraud in swing states.
Nothing is ever enough. He can never be good or even great. He must always be the best.
And, for Trump, it doesn’t matter how you get to be the “best.” Just that you can say you are the best. Or put it in a press release.
While there are far more important and dark things he’s done than cheating at golf, the relentless, unapologetic and open cheating at golf could itself be all you need to know about his character.
Also think it’s funny how all of these “alpha” males allow themselves to constantly be steamrolled and bent over by this guy on the golf course.
For more on this, I highly recommend Rick Reilly's book Commander in Cheat. One thing he likes to do is tee off first, no matter whose honor it is (he'll say it's his honor always because it's his course), then before you can even stick a tee in the ground, his cart is halfway down the fairway so he can go "improve his lie."