Five years ago, Donald Trump brought Doral Golf Resort & Spa back from the brink.
The home of the renowned Blue Monster had fallen on hard times, undercut first by cost-cutting by previous owners and later by the real estate downturn. When the property was put up for auction in January 2011, it found no takers.
That’s when Trump stepped in, buying the 800-acre resort out of bankruptcy for $150 million. Soon came a $250 million upgrade of everything on the property, including new teeth for what had become a tired, outdated Blue Monster.
Now again among the PGA Tour’s 10 toughest layouts, the Monster is well worthy of its World Golf Championships standing. The resort is first-class. Miami is an international hub.
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And yet, now there’s a fair chance Trump may ultimately cost Miami its 55-year standing reservation on the PGA Tour schedule.
While Trump the presidential candidate has been piling up GOP delegates — he added seven more states to his portfolio on Tuesday — he’s clearly put golf executives in a nervous state with his fiery words on immigration.
It started when he said the southwestern United States “has become a dumping ground for Mexico” and vowing he’d not only get that border wall built, he’d find a way to make Mexico pay for it.
Then came Trump’s call for a ban on Muslims entering the country, at least until the State Department figures out how to tell the difference between a refugee and a potential terrorist.
How is golf supposed to reach across racial and socioeconomic lines — a stated goal of every grow-the-game initiative for at least a decade — when one of its most prominent proprietors keeps muddying the well?
Golf’s ruling bodies have been quick to disassociate themselves from Trump’s rhetoric, twice issuing statements that said his words are “inconsistent” with their commitment to an inclusive sport. Only one event, though, has been pulled from a Trump course — last fall’s Grand Slam of Golf, set for Trump National Los Angeles.
That could come to a head soon, though, as both the 2017 U.S. Women’s Open and 2017 Senior PGA Championship are scheduled for Trump courses. To find another venue could take up to a year to redo all the contracts, sell skyboxes, launch new marketing, etc.
Even so, those are only one-time events. The fate of the PGA Tour’s stop at Doral bodes a much longer-reaching impact.
The PGA Tour has come to Miami’s west side since 1962, shortly after hotelier Al Kaskel turned 800 acres of swampland into a golf destination. Billy Casper won the first Doral Open, storming back from a four-shot deficit with eight holes to play.
Subsequent champions have included Jack Nicklaus, Lee Trevino, Raymond Floyd, Greg Norman, Nick Faldo, Ernie Els and Tiger Woods. Norman once famously said the PGA Tour season “doesn’t start until Doral.”
Only three current venues — Colonial, Augusta National and Pebble Beach — have had longer tenure on the PGA Tour.
Technically, the PGA Tour has a contract with now-Trump National Doral until 2023, though there’s some fine print that a new tournament sponsor would have the right to take it to a different venue.
Cadillac made it clear long ago it wasn’t going to renew sponsorship, even before Trump hit the campaign trail. The question now is what entity might like South Florida enough to withstand the heat.
Though a recent PGA Tour statement tried to focus on making this week successful, what wasn’t said also may have spoken volumes.
“The PGA Tour has had a 53-year commitment to the Doral community, the greater Miami area and the charities that have benefited from the tournament,” it said. “Following the tournament, all parties will examine the Cadillac Championship’s successes on all levels and determine what’s in store for the future.”
Translation: All bets are off.
As for Trump, he recently told Golfweek that the tour “would be foolish to move it, because it’s the best course in Florida.”
He also noted that the resort has 100 percent occupancy and if the tournament did leave, “I would make more money.”
Unfortunately, alternatives in South Florida are limited. The tour reportedly looked into Crandon Park, a public course on Key Biscayne that once hosted the Champions Tour. There’s also Turnberry Isle Resort, which once hosted an LPGA stop and has both an upscale flavor and spectacular skyline views.
Both, though, could bring a traffic nightmare.
Of course, there’s one surefire way to both resolve the sponsorship issue and keep the Blue Monster on the schedule.
How does the WGC-Trump Golf Championship sound?