Donald Trump takes center stage upon arrival at U.S. Women's Open

Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports

Donald Trump takes center stage upon arrival at U.S. Women's Open

LPGA Tour

Donald Trump takes center stage upon arrival at U.S. Women's Open

BEDMINSTER, N.J. – Fans turned their backs on golf when President Donald Trump walked into his special viewing box at the U.S. Women’s Open. They yelled “We love you!” and “Make America Great Again!” as he settled into a spot that overlooks Nos. 15, 16 and 18 at Trump National Golf Club.

Lauren Stephenson, a junior at Alabama, looked up to catch a glimpse of Trump on her way to the 16th tee. Despite the added distractions, Stephenson knocked her tee shot to 10 feet on the par 3. Stephenson’s father, Charles, joked that it was a good thing he wasn’t caddying for his daughter, since he would’ve been too busy looking at Trump to get her a yardage.

“You had a lot of people yelling and just a lot of movement. I mean, it’s pretty cool to be in the presence of the president, so I guess he gets a pass,” Lauren said, smiling.

Lexi Thompson hit a 3-wood up near the green on the par-5 15th, but not many noticed. Eleven people were in the grandstands on that hole when Thompson, Stacy Lewis and Brooke Henderson approached. Crowds were light all day in rainy Bedminster, but the commotion started to build upon Trump’s arrival.

When Thompson was asked if she noticed which direction fans were facing on the 15th, she laughed and said, “Yeah, not towards the golf.”

It was fairly predictable that Trump would be in his special suite when Thompson’s group rolled through. For years the two have played recreational golf at Trump International in West Palm Beach, Fla., along with Thompson’s older brothers.

“Unfortunately, I didn’t hit the best shot in front of him,” said Thompson of her third from just off the green.

A sitting U.S. President has never been to the U.S. Women’s Open, making Trump’s appearance an historic occasion. While Lewis was too focused to notice the backs of fans on No. 15, she did take note of the day’s significance.

“He tweeted about coming to the U.S. Women’s Open,” said Lewis. “Some people probably didn’t even know it was going on.”

Ryan O’Toole set her alarm for 4:30 a.m. on Friday morning, 20 minutes early to allow for the extra security officials told players would be in place. O’Toole was pleased to be done before Trump’s arrival, but had no issue with the attention turning his way.

“It is the U.S. Open,” she said, “so I think it’s kind of cool for the president to come to the U.S. Open. It seems fitting. No different than winning Solheim and going to the White House.”

Trump’s day began at 4 a.m. Eastern in Paris, where he took part in the Bastille Day parade as French President Emmanuel Macron’s guest of honor. Trump landed at the Newark airport around 2:45 p.m. and immediately made his way to Bedminster.

Players making the turn near the clubhouse had to wait until Trump’s motorcade rolled through around 3:40 p.m. He was in the second black Suburban with the miniature flags, waving to a line of media members pressed up against the green barricade. Secret service members with automatic weapons were perched near the scoreboard, and a small group of fans gathered by the practice putting green cheered as President Trump and the First Lady made their way through the scoring area and into a fenced off area near the 15th hole where the Trump family stays.

Soon after Trump arrived on property, security dogs made a sweep of the area adjacent to the clubhouse. Trump walked up to his private viewing area at 5:19 p.m.

It’s been all Trump all week, and that fact isn’t likely to change over the weekend. When Bill Clinton came to the 1997 U.S. Open at Congressional, the USGA built a special bulletproof tower for him to watch the action on Father’s Day with Chelsea. Clinton didn’t stay in that tower, however, and it’s unlikely that Trump will stay in his box, so to speak. He might even hand the trophy to the winner on Sunday.

China’s Shanshan Feng tried to figure out what all the screaming was about when she made it to Trump’s corner. Feng won a bronze medal at the 2016 Olympics and is searching for her second major title at Trump National. But on Friday, her 8-under 136 total was but a footnote.

On this day in women’s golf history, the Leader of the Free World was the only leader that mattered.

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