President Donald Trump really wants for his Trump Turnberry resort in Scotland to be in line to be a future British Open Championship venue.
So, he reportedly tried back in 2018 to use the power of his office to land Turnberry’s Ailsa Course in the Rota.
According to the New York Times, Trump asked Woody Johnson, the owner of the NFL’s New York Jets and the American ambassador to the United Kingdom, to ask the British government if they could compel the Royal & Ancient (R&A), which presents the Open Championship, to grant Turnberry a future turn as host of the oldest major championship in golf.
Johnson’s deputy and career diplomat, Lewis Lukens, reportedly spoke up and said it would be an unethical use of Trump’s presidential power. Nevertheless, Johnson felt pressured and asked Scotland’s secretary of state about the topic, according to the Times. Johnson soon thereafter forced out Lukens from the State Department.
Neither the governments of the United Kingdom, nor the government of Scotland, has any direct influence on the R&A’s selection of Open Championship venues.
Turnberry, which Trump purchased from owners in the United Arab Emirates in 2014, last hosted the Open in 2009, when Stewart Cink beat Tom Watson in a multi-hole playoff as Watson was bidding for a sixth Open title at 59 years old. Trump’s purchase was not well received by the R&A, which reportedly in 2015 decided internally that the venue would not host the Open again so long as Trump owned it.
The R&A has announced the hosts of the Open through 2024, and Trump Turnberry is not among them. At the time, however, future Open Championship venues were only known through 2022.
Trump’s pressure campaign, however elaborate, was not illegal — as the President is exempt from federal conflict-of-interest laws concerning self-enrichment. However, had the campaign somehow proven successful, and Turnberry had hosted the Open before his presidency ended, the event would have likely required a British security detail that could have been considered an illegal gift from a foreign government known in the Constitution as an emolument.
The Trump-owned Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, N.J., will host the 2022 PGA Championship.