One of golf’s leading administrators has admitted there would be “huge political uproar” if an Open Championship was played at Turnberry amidst the furore created by Donald Trump.
Sandy Jones, chief executive of the Professional Golfers’ Association, was one of the guests of honour when Trump opened his course at Menie Estate, north of Aberdeen, two-and-a-half years ago. Like many others in the home of golf, however, the Scot has found himself cringing in recent months as the American billionaire has come out with a string of controversial remarks in his bid to become US president.
First, he attacked Mexican immigrants and, more recently, he called for Muslims to be temporarily banned from America following the terrorist attack on Paris last month.
Visiting Glasgow for the PGA in Scotland annual lunch, Jones expressed his sadness at golf being dragged into the mire and also cast doubt on the Open Championship returning to Turnberry in the near future.
It was believed that the Ailsa Course, which is currently undergoing a major renovation project, was in the frame for 2020 – the first available slot on the R&A’s rota for golf’s oldest major – but that now seems highly unlikely.
“Sadly, his political campaign in America seems to be getting in the way of all the great things golf offers,” said Jones. “The controversy is not a positive thing for golf.
“Donald has built some great golf courses and has two in Scotland, in Aberdeen and at Turnberry. I’d prefer to see less controversy around the game and, sadly, Donald is producing it through his political motive, not through his golfing ones. They are bound to be linked, there is no getting away from that.”
Speaking to BBC Scotland, Jones added: “I’m sure the R&A will be managing that situation very cautiously as they need to do and try to keep golf away from the political scene. An announcement to play at Turnberry would cause a huge political uproar.
“I’m sure they’ll come to the right conclusion at the end of the day.”
Paul McGinley, last year’s winning Ryder Cup captain at Gleneagles, is keen to see Turnberry remain on the Open Championship rota however he acknowledged that events on the other side of the Atlantic are giving the R&A a huge headache. “We’ve got great history there going back to ’77 with [Jack] Nicklaus and [Tom] Watson, and obviously Watson nearly winning a few years ago at the age of 60,” said the Irishman at the same event. “Unfortunately, it’s part of the modern world we live in now that sport and politics are very much blended in a lot of decision making. I don’t envy them [the R&A] having to make that decision. What would be a real shame is if Turnberry doesn’t happen to be on The Open rota because it’s a terrific golf course.”