In 2009, early in his first term, President Barack Obama had the White House tennis court repurposed into a basketball court. Mr. Obama is an avid basketball player and fan, and since he doesn’t play tennis, it was an easy decision. An enthusiastic Chicago Bulls fan, Mr. Obama also made it a tradition to fill out a bracket for the men’s and women’s NCAA college basketball tournament, going on ESPN to reveal his predictions each year.
There is a long history of presidential support for sports. From George Washington’s expert horsemanship to Abraham Lincoln’s illustrious wrestling career, the backgrounds of each man to hold the office are necessarily different and varied. The last several presidents serve as a great example of this diversity. George H.W. Bush was a passionate tennis player; he has a training center named after him in Midland, Texas. Bill Clinton’s insistence on jogging through Washington DC apparently created headaches for the Secret Service. The younger President George Bush has deep roots in the baseball world as a one-time owner and longtime fan of the Texas Rangers baseball team.
President Trump continues this tradition of support for sports by the commander-in-chief. Interestingly, Mr. Trump’s sport of choice is one which he has in common with many recent presidents: golf. As of early May, Mr. Trump has played 15 rounds of golf. Of course, Trump isn’t just a prolific player. He also operates 16 golf-related businesses worth somewhere between $550 million and $675 million as part of his larger business empire. Mr. Trump’s predecessors, Obama and Clinton, famously hobnobbed on the course with the likes of Tiger Woods on several occasions, and George W. Bush became famously recalcitrant about his golfing after what was perceived as an insensitive gaffe made to the media while playing a round.
So, what does it mean when the most important and influential person in the world has a deep-seated love for the game of golf? At a minimum, it can inspire individuals to take up the game who may not otherwise have done so. Although polls reveal that tour players tend to be more conservative politically, there isn’t a lot of political data on golfers in general. But Trump’s support came from a wide range of demographics and his supporters are very enthusiastic, it seems likely that votes for Trump could translate to new golfers.
Mr. Trump also continues to have the support of the professional tour. In July, the U.S. Women’s Open will be held at Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, NJ. And anonymous polls of professional women tour players reveal that – despite ugly comments made about women many years ago – most would accept an invitation to play with Mr. Trump if they were invited. No plans have been made to move future tour events away from Trump-owned golf courses.
Ultimately, Mr. Trump’s effect on the game of golf may rest with public perceptions of his presidency. It’s likely his frequent golfing will continue to be a point of contention among his critics, but those people won’t be willing to give up a game they love merely to spite a president they disagree with. If Mr. Trump goes on to fulfill many of his campaign promises, the golf industry will be buoyed along with the rest of the country.
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