USGA’s Davis addresses Trump’s presence at U.S. Women’s Open, policies on sexual assault

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USGA’s Davis addresses Trump’s presence at U.S. Women’s Open, policies on sexual assault

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USGA’s Davis addresses Trump’s presence at U.S. Women’s Open, policies on sexual assault

BEDMINSTER, N.J. – U.S. Golf Association executive director Mike Davis received criticism Tuesday for not being present to field questions at a news conference about hosting the U.S. Women’s Open at a club that bears President Donald Trump’s name.

On Wednesday, Davis met with selected journalists individually to address the USGA’s policy on sexual assault and the possibility of Trump attending the tournament this weekend.

“We’ve had a long-standing policy on sexual harassment within the USGA.” Davis told Golfweek. “It applies not only to all of our staff, but all of our volunteers, it would apply to the vendors here.

“But to go a step further when it gets to sexual assault, that crosses the line. We would be getting the authorities involved. Of course we wouldn’t support any type of assault. I guess I would just leave it at that. That crosses the line and you’ve broken the law. And we’re golf administrators and we’re going to follow the law and the authorities can get involved in that.”

Does Davis think Trump should attend the Women’s Open?

“We would certainly welcome him,” Davis said.

There will be a designated protest area at a local library about 4 miles from the golf course.

Davis noted he addressed the Trump situation at a media day in May, hoping that by championship week the focus would be solely on golf.

That, of course, was never going to happen.

Davis’ absence at Tuesday’s news conference left a foursome of USGA officials to field a question from USA TODAY’s Christine Brennan about the organization’s stance on sexual assault.  Brennan, who was referencing Trump’s comments in an Access Hollywood videotape, was initially told the USGA would address her question later. Several hours thereafter, the USGA provided Brennan with a statement. 

A sitting president has never attended a U.S. Women’s Open. In fact, only three sitting presidents have attended the men’s U.S. Open: Warren Harding (1921), Gerald Ford (1982) and Bill Clinton (1997).

Former No. 1 Stacy Lewis called the prospect of a president coming to the U.S. Women’s Open “cool.”

“If you can just say listen, we’re not about politics,” Davis said. “The idea, whether it was President Obama, President Trump, any one of those presidents … the office, you have to respect that. At least you’d like to think Americans would say ‘Hey, I don’t agree with his politics, or I don’t agree with whatever, but I respect (the office). That’s how we’re viewing it.”

The USGA awarded the Women’s Open to Trump National in 2012, long before Trump announced a presidential run. Davis said the success of the U.S. Juniors that were held concurrently in 2009 on the Old and New courses led us here. He recalled Trump walking outside the ropes watching a victorious Jordan Spieth in the championship match. 

“He tried to make sure that it wasn’t the Donald Trump Boys and Girls Junior,” Davis said.

Davis said he regrets that players have had to field questions that don’t pertain to the championship or their golf. He used last year’s men’s and women’s U.S. Opens as further examples, saying rules situations overshadowed the accomplishments of Dustin Johnson and Brittany Lang.

“Anytime the focus gets off the players and gets off this championship, and gets off the marvelous golf course and the ultimate test of golf,” said Davis, “anytime it’s that, it’s really too bad.”

For months protestors and media members have called for the championship to be moved. A USA Today report said Trump threatened to sue the organization if it moved the Women’s Open from Trump National.

Davis said he couldn’t comment on the USGA’s terms of contracts with championship host sites.

He did, however, tell Golfweek that when Trump became president, they looked, as they do with all their big events, at all possible scenarios. One scenario being that if the championship got bogged down in a legal battle, it might not take place at all in 2017.

“The thing we don’t want to see is a U.S. Women’s Open, a U.S. Amateur, a U.S. Open, a Boys Junior not be played,” he said.

Regardless of outside-the-ropes distractions, the show will go on.

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