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Tuesday, June 25, 2024

Wrong is right for Trump in golf and in life, by Bunmi Makinwa

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Image credit: GolfMagic.

There are several explanations or attempts to explain why Trump cheats. Says Harvard psychiatrist Dr. Lance Dodes, co-author of The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump: “He exaggerates his golf scores and his handicap for the same reason he exaggerates everything. He has to. He exhibits all the traits of a narcissistic personality disorder… People with this disorder have no conscience about it.”

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Since President William Howard Taft in 1909, nearly every U.S. president to date has played golf. President Donald Trump is known as a good golfer, but he stands out as the only one who cheats consistently and regularly. He once asked those who played on his team to make sure they cheated because all the other players would cheat; a false statement, but it was his way of finding a justification for such an illegal act.

The game of golf, unlike many other sports, does not have a referee to monitor and score the players. It is largely self-controlled and essentially relies on self-qualification. During competitions, players communicate their scores to their teammates, who can confirm and record them.

Golf is called a gentleman’s game, an honorable game, and similar terms of high moral standards. This does not mean that all golfers have high moral standards. Some players cheat and, when caught, their scores may be cancelled; their prizes, if any, are withdrawn; and their membership in clubs or access to playing on the fields may be restricted, among other sanctions.

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Above all, those who cheat lose the respect of their colleagues. Fortunately, only a few true golfers cheat, and being accused of cheating in golf is one of the worst labels that can permanently haunt a golfer.

There is a documented story of two world-class players who had not spoken for more than 20 years because one accused the other of illegally moving a blade away from his ball in a championship game. Both were deeply offended: one by what he thought his colleague had done and the other by feeling that his colleague would unfairly accuse him of such an act. Just one sheet!

Trump is well known for his properties and his politics. He is known as the first former president of the United States to be charged with a crime and for having 91 felony charges against him in court. He is also known as a passionate and frequent golfer and golf club owner. Although his golf cheating is widely published, the book Commander In Cheat: How Golf Explains Trump by Rick Reilly probably provides the most detailed information on the subject.

Reilly interviewed extensively with players, caddies, staff and those who have interacted with Trump in the game. The book is a wealth of information about the Trump kid, his upbringing, his love of golf and sports, his mannerisms, his priorities and his determination to win at anything and at any cost.

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The first day Trump and Reilly met, Trump took Reilly around the clubhouse and introduced him to everyone. At each appearance, Trump would give Reilly whatever title he thought would impress the audience. Confused and embarrassed, when they were alone, Reilly asked Trump: “Why are you lying about me?” “Sounds better,” Trump responded.

It’s just one of the many selfish ways Trump views life.

The author described a situation that may seem incredible to everyone except those familiar with Trump’s unique personality. “Trump casually walked into the Bedminster clubhouse just as a worker was putting the name of the newly crowned senior club championship winner on a wooden plaque. Trump had been out of town and had not played in the tournament, but when he saw the player’s name, he stopped the employee. “Hey, I beat that guy all the time. Put my name there instead.” The worker was puzzled. “Mister?” “Yeah, yeah. I beat that guy all the time. I would have beat him. Put my name in.” Of course, Trump’s name stuck and he stood there forever as the winner of a tournament he never played in.

Golf originated in Europe, where it was played for a long time before coming to the United States in the late 18th century. Most US presidents enjoyed gaming as a means of distraction from the heavy burden of office or as a social means of interacting with people.

“I played with him once,” recounted Bryan Marsal, a longtime Winged Foot member and chairman of the upcoming 2020 Men’s US Open (at the time). “It was a Saturday morning game. We walked out to the first tee and it couldn’t have been better. But then he said, ‘See those two guys? They cheat. See me? I cheat. And I hope you cheat because today we are going to beat those two guys’…”

Counting from Taft (1909-1914), the first golf fan in the White House, to current President Joe Biden, 20 presidents have occupied the White House, and only three did not play golf: Presidents Herbert Hoover, Harry Truman and Jimmy Carter.

Some of the golfing presidents were great devotees of the game. President Woodrow Wilson (1913-1921) would not stop playing, no matter what pressing state issues arose. During some of the most difficult moments of his presidency, he insisted on finishing his putt before attending to an emergency or important state policy. He played six times a week during the summer season.

President Dwight D. Eisenhower (1953-1961) used to start his days with swings of his golf club and often end the day by practicing a few shots on the White House lawn. He once had a bandage around his fingers and when a visitor asked him how serious the injury was, Eisenhower replied that it was so serious “that I can’t even play golf.”

President John F. Kennedy (1961-1963) was among the greatest golfing presidents. Like many other politicians, he kept his golf a secret from the public, as the game was seen as a pastime of the rich, the aristocracy and the oppressors of the poor.

Of the most recent American presidents, Bill Clinton (1993-2001) often played more than the usual 18 holes on the courses. Although he was left-handed, he played golf right-handed. Although he was not considered one of the best players, Clinton’s acceptance of the game was so complete that he was quoted as saying: “The best thing about this game is that the bad days are wonderful.” He is also known to claim mulligans (free throws) for his bad shots, but he wouldn’t cheat.

President Barack Obama (2009-2021), a left-hander, is the quintessence of connectedness in golf. He does all the right things. “No cheating, no mulligans, no replays.” After his presidency, he was able to reduce his handicap to 11. “Off the tee, he’s very straight,” says Tiger Woods, “but not for long. His chip is salty, but he is a disaster in the bunkers.”

Let’s go back to Trump in Reilly’s book. According to various sources, Trump’s handicap is around 10. Tiger Woods says that Trump “hits the ball very far for a 70-year-old man.” The tee shot is the best part of his game. His approach shots are “OK” and his chipping is “poor.” He prefers not to bite. His putt is “OK” and he makes it “even out of bunkers.”

The author writes: “So the caddy and professionals who make a living in the game estimate his (Trump’s) handicap to be between 7 and 10. The only problem with all this is that Trump insists his handicap is 2.8. In the world of golf handicaps, that difference is huge. If Trump is a 2.8, Queen Elizabeth is a pole vaulter. No way possible. It would take a 9 handicap, five good years of hard practice to get to a 2.8 and Donald Trump doesn’t practice.”

Trump insists on his truths and cares less about reality.

In the book, a political friend of Trump’s who played with him recounted an incident: “I remember on a par 3, he hit his first shot way out of bounds. I picked up another one and I think that one was lost too. The third landed about 12 feet from the hole. He made that putt. I’m pretty sure he hit a 2 on that hole. Look, I take mulligans too. I’m not judging…” For those who may not know how golf scores are counted, Trump simply improved his hole score by 4, which is a huge cheat.

Some media experts say Trump has found success in business by making grandiose claims about his wealth and assets and repeatedly getting away with it until it became second nature. Colleagues who have worked with him say he is “unhinged,” meaning he boasts and overwhelms people by talking loudly and insulting people.

A senior manager at one of Trump’s golf courses played a first round of golf with Trump and was asked if Trump improved his lie (places his ball in a better spot, which is against the rules unless he is specifically permitted). “All the shots except the starting shot,” the coach responded, throwing his head back laughing.

“At Winged Foot, where Trump is a member, the caddies got so used to watching him kick the ball back into the fairway (which is against the rules and amounts to cheating) that they came up with a nickname for him: “ Pele.”

“I played with him once,” recounted Bryan Marsal, a longtime Winged Foot member and chairman of the upcoming 2020 Men’s US Open (at the time). “It was a Saturday morning game. We walked out to the first tee and it couldn’t have been better. But then he said, ‘See those two guys? They cheat. See me? I cheat. And I hope you cheat because today we are going to beat those two guys’…”

One more story. Trump, during his presidency, invited Tiger Woods, Dustin Johnson, who at the time was the number 1 player in the world, and Brad Faxon, a golf media analyst, to a game. They made a bet, according to the usual rules: the three would play scratch and Trump would have an 8-point lead.

In a certain hole. Trump missed both of his shots and they went into the water. Trump dropped a third ball where he should have landed if he had stayed on his first shot, and ended up on the green ready to make a seven-putt, but claimed it was four. “How good is that?” Faxon recalled. “…It was a lot of fun to play with him. He picks up (picks up) every putt (as if it’s awarded), but you want him to. “You’ve heard so much about it that it’s almost like you want to witness it so you can tell the stories.”

It seems obvious that Trump pays his caddy very well or they share the same ethical rules. No matter where Trump’s real shots land, whether in the water, in the bush or on another fairway, the ball is always in the correct fairway and Trump and his caddy are always the first to get there and identify the ball. It is against the rules of the sport.

There are several explanations or attempts to explain why Trump cheats. Says Harvard psychiatrist Dr. Lance Dodes, co-author of The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump: “He exaggerates his golf scores and his handicap for the same reason he exaggerates everything. He has to. He exhibits all the traits of a narcissistic personality disorder… People with this disorder have no conscience about it.”

Some media experts say Trump has found success in business by making grandiose claims about his wealth and assets and repeatedly getting away with it until it became second nature. Colleagues who have worked with him say he is “unhinged,” meaning he boasts and overwhelms people by talking loudly and insulting people. Communication analysts place him in the league of propagandists like Hitler, who keep telling lies until people begin to doubt what is true and may ultimately believe the lies.

No matter how you look at it, Trump’s golf cheating adds another indelible negative stain and makes him a deeply flawed human being.

Bunmi Makinwa is the CEO of AUNIQUEI Communication for Leadership.

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