BEFORE the murky business involving Donald Trump, the Mexicans and the Scottish Open, the pretty, perjink but quiet East Lothian town of Gullane had not known many stooshies, writes Aidan Smith
Indeed, the only previous recorded conflict concerned pronunciation. Is it Gull-in, as in the big, ugly and increasingly urbanised bird? Is it Gill-in, the posh way? Or what about the American way, heard a few times over the past few days, which rhymes the name with Wayne and Dwayne and Maine?
Well, into Gull-ayne strode Phil Mickelson. Big Phil, Lefty, the guy with the goofiest grin in golf – and my new favourite, provocative sportsman in front of a microphone. Or he was, until he spoke up for Trump.
The man with the most ludicrous hairstyle there’s ever been had just rolled out a presidential campaign to match. Mexican immigrants were rapists and killers, blasted The Donald. What was Mickelson going to say to that? Phil doesn’t do statements which are straight down the middle – or he notoriously didn’t at the Ryder Cup when he monstered his captain, Tom Watson. This time, though, he flunked it. Sure, Trump had said the wrong things, was Mickelson’s general gist, but let’s not take the tournament away from the guy – he’s been great for golf.
Now, you might argue there’s consistency here – what was Mickelson doing if not being provocative once again? I don’t think so. You might claim that super-privileged golfers are maybe not the first group we’d look towards for the prominent display of a social conscience. True, but I kind of hoped the appalling nature of Trump’s remarks would have prompted a more damning response – and especially from one who witnessed the Ryder Cup overflowing with schmaltz and blandness and was determined to speak his mind.
That’s enough criticism of Mickelson, pictured right, though, for this is really about Trump. The word, before the storm broke, was that the Scottish Open would be coming to his Balmedie course near Aberdeen in 2017, returning in 2019 and again the following year. Mickelson, doing his PR bit, calls Balmedie “a wonderful course”. Nevertheless, it needs the credibility and kudos of a significant tournament. And Trump, who seems to want everyone in the world to be talking about him, all of the time, is going to be rather keen on having the golfing caravanserai parked on his “doons”.
Frankly, the man’s ego, narcissism, braggadocio, bad taste and desperate desire to own everything, daub it in gold paint and stick a “T” on it, should be ample reason for him not getting the Scottish Open, even before his racist rant, which was of course obscene.
There’s a view out there, in places which have been Trumped and those which haven’t, at least not yet, that Donald Drumpf, as we would know him if his German grandfather hadn’t changed the name, has undergone a strange and, he would say, rather wonderful transformation and become “cool”.
Americans generally respect the dollar. Men with lots of money have always been rated. Those who have lots, lose most of it and storm back with even more, are really rated. And especially on the east coast they liked Trump’s story. “The emblematic New Yorker,” the New York Times dubbed him, “the number one guy in the number one city”.
But TV made him a star, a walking catchphrase. The Apprentice opened up the west coast to him, as Christie D’Zurilla of the Los Angeles Times explained in a BBC documentary last year. She suggested that resistance to his relentless branding was well-nigh impossible. “He gets people to like things – gold, brass, over-the-top decor – that other cultures tell them not to like,” she said.
The man with a Trevi-like fountain in his living room and whose youngest son as a toddler had a floor of the Trump penthouse to himself, decorated in Louis XIV yellow damask, is either trying to cover everything in gold or sand, I’m not sure which. He would like, I think, Scotland to become one giant golf course, owned by him, and if he ever gets to be president then doubtless America would go the same way. Just watch out for the especially spiky and exploding hazards at the Mexican border.
Back in the days when Menie estate was so called – before the man re-christened it “The Great Doons of Scotland, a more important name than Meany” – we were able to view Trumpanomics with wry amusement.
This satisfied our sense of moral superiority and old-world decency. But now Trumpisation is here; we’re part of the occasional madness. There was resistance to the golf course. Noted aesthete that he is, Trump said of objector Michael Forbes’ home: “In the US we call that a slum.” As the documentary noted, Trump claimed there was “93 per cent approval” for the course, and kept repeating this stat like a mantra, but where was the poll? When victory was his, he announced he would stabilise the dunes. Wasn’t it their ever-shifting nature which made them unique? No, he was “saving” them. Trump likes always to be in control, even of sand and his weird barnet, dousing it with high-performance spray every day.
He’s boss of Balmedie and now Turnberry, too. We should be grown-up about the fact he’s here and try and get on with him and believe that he loves golf too much to turn his courses into gaudy trinkets. But it would nice if he tried a bit harder to understand who we are, that we’re not necessarily going to swoon at his audacity and pretend to cower when he roars. This is a less acquisitive, less blingy, less right-wing and – we like to think – less racist country. When England football fans come up to Scotland and sing “F**k the IRA” ad nauseam, the Tartan Army’s retort is a few jaunty verses of The Bonnie Bonnie Banks o’ Loch Lomond.
The Scottish Open? If the PGA of America are moving the Grand Slam of Golf away from Trump’s course in Las Vegas in the wake of his outburst, and if the LPGA Tour wish this month’s Women’s British Open could be played somewhere other than Turnberry, then I don’t see how the tournament can go to Balmedie. Let the course mature, find its place in the world. The owner, too.