About the time Donald Trump tried to put his name on golf major championships
Golf Culture

About the time Donald Trump tried to put his name on golf major championships


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A little more than a decade before Donald Trump was elected the 45th President of the United States, the real estate developer and golf club operator announced a big investment in professional golf.

On June 22, 2006, Trump announced he would be putting his name on four big-money golf tournaments with a fledgling golf tour called, originally, the U.S. Pro Golf Tour. The tour was owned and operated by Greens Worldwide, a sports management and marketing company, and they had aims of growing their profile to compete not with mini-tours or even tours under PGA Tour ownership. They wanted to take on the PGA Tour. They thought bringing on the Trump name -- and his money -- would do just that.

In announcing the five-year deal, Greens Worldwide said Trump would sponsor one huge tournament in 2006, offering a $1 million purse to the winner, and four major championships in 2007, all with the Trump name on them.



From the release, the events would be:

THE TRUMP WORLD MATCH PLAY CHALLENGE -- PURSE: $5.0 MILLION
THE TRUMP MILLION DOLLAR INVITATIONAL -- PURSE: $1.6 MILLION
THE TRUMP CELEBRITY PRO-AM -- PURSE: $1.5 MILLION
THE TRUMP CHAMPIONSHIP -- PURSE: $2.0 MILLION

All of the events, naturally, would be played at Trump-named venues: Trump International Golf Club, West Palm Beach,
Fla.; Trump National Golf Club, Westchester, N.Y.; Trump National Golf Course, just outside of Los Angeles; and Trump International Golf Club on Canouan Island in The Grenadines.

Trump was in for $10.1 million per year over five years. It was a $50 million deal. In fact, Trump was thinking of putting additional backing on a season-long scoring title that would be called the GoTrump.com Cup, named after his new travel booking website (which quickly went belly-up).

This, no doubt in the minds of Greens Worldwide, would give them the firepower to attract world-class players to their tournaments and help them land more TV time beyond the one- and two-hour blocks the tour had scored in a deal with Fox Sports Net.

"There is no doubt the talent level is among the highest in the world, and we’re pleased to be an integral part of four major championships on the USPGT schedule," said Mr. Trump.

The first event, The Trump Million Dollar Invitational, was a remarkable spectacle with a unique format which aired on ESPN. At his digs in the Grenadines, the field would compete in 54 holes of stroke-play qualifying to get down to a top 10 players. Those 10 would carry over to the final day of competition. Those players would then engage in a nine-hole shootout to determine the million dollar champion. After each hole, any ties would be settled with a skills competition, like a putting or chipping contest. The worst player would be eliminated until the final two players dueled it out on the last hole to win the money.

Australian Stuart Deane, now the head golf coach at University of Texas in Arlington, won the $1 million on the first playoff hole after the nine holes were completed. It was by far the biggest paycheck of his pro life — definitely eclipsing the money he earned for finishing 59th at the PGA Tour's New Orleans event earlier that year.

Everything seemed gold for 2007, and the US Pro Golf Tour had serious momentum. Then, in a hastily-worded release just two days into 2007, Trump announced his withdrawal from the five-year agreement. He cited management changes at Greens Worldwide. Trump signed a memorandum of understanding with the U.S. Pro Golf Tour, and the language in it gave him that right.

"Although we firmly believe in what the U.S. Pro Golf Tour is doing for the game of golf by giving young professionals an international platform to showcase their talents, we've elected to exercise our option and step back until the new management presents a revised business plan," said Ashley Cooper, Senior Vice President of Acquisitions and Development for Trump Golf Properties.

Trump was unhappy Greens Worldwide founder Tom Kidd had left the organization and left its members high and dry after taking a $200,000 bonus, though he did come back to the organization eventually. However, without Trump's support, the US Pro Golf Tour was kaput. The 2007 season was cancelled entirely and all 450 members that paid dues for the year were told that the Tour would honor those fees in 2008.

In late 2007, a management company named SportsQuest, Inc., signed on with Greens Worldwide — which was publicly traded like a junk stock, whose price was basically zero at that point — to be presenting sponsor for the entire U.S. Pro Golf Tour season for three years. The 2008 season, promised to have five events with a total purse of $4,220,000, never happened -- not even the promised (no joke) Jefferson Starship concerts at each event.

For as easy as it is to malign Trump's business practices, he was being taken for a ride and recognized it. In fact, it was probably Trump's eye that kept him from being embarrassed and losing a lot of money.

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The original press release from June 22, 2006

The U.S. Pro Golf Tour, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Greens Worldwide, Inc. (OTC Bulletin Board: GRWW) announces a five year, strategic partnership with Billionaire entrepreneur Donald J. Trump. Beginning in 2007, four major championships of the USPGT will carry a total purse of $10.1 Million.

"After watching the U.S. Pro Golf Tour players in the recent Trump Million Dollar Invitational at my golf course on Canouan Island, there is no doubt the talent level is among the highest in the world, and we're pleased to be an integral part of four major championships on the USPGT schedule," said Mr. Trump.

Beginning in 2007, the Trump Championships will be:

THE TRUMP WORLD MATCH PLAY CHALLENGE PURSE $5.0 MILLION
THE TRUMP MILLION DOLLAR INVITATIONAL PURSE $1.6 MILLION
THE TRUMP CELEBRITY PRO-AM PURSE $1.5 MILLION
THE TRUMP CHAMPIONSHIP PURSE $2.0 MILLION

TOTAL PURSE $10.1 MILLION

Greens Worldwide Inc. CEO R. Thomas Kidd says this partnership will allow the U.S. Pro Golf Tour players an opportunity second-to-none.

"This is a special day for not only our more than 200 tour card holders on the U.S. Pro Golf Tour, but for the family of companies under the Greens umbrella. Our company is extremely pleased to continue this great association with Mr. Trump, and I'm certain our players will find this a career-making experience," Kidd said.

Andy Batkin, CEO of Innovative Media Solutions, LLC, which produced the upcoming Trump Million Dollar Invitational telecast on ESPN, will continue to play a major role in the Trump Championships.

"I am pleased to continue an association with the Trump organization and the U.S. Pro Golf Tour, which will demonstrate to the nation and the world in the upcoming ESPN special how truly special they are as some of the world's elite golfers," Batkin said.

Sites for the Trump Championships will be staged at four of Mr. Trump's golf courses, including - Trump International Golf Club, West Palm Beach, Florida, Trump National, Westchester, New York, Trump National, Los Angeles and Trump International, Canouan Island, The Grenadines. Dates and other information regarding the Trump Championships will be announced in the
coming weeks.

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