Golf tournament or political meeting? Donald Trump appears to believe the two go hand in hand as he used his hosting duties at LIV Golf DC to build support for his 2024 presidential campaign.
The former president was hosting the Saudi-funded series for the third time, this week at his Trump National Golf Club on the outskirts of Washington DC – a place he aims to return to.
As at previous LIV events held at its Bedminster and Miami courses, the crowd seemed to be there to catch a glimpse of Trump just as much as the professional golfers on display.
And the 45th president did not miss the opportunity to greet his loyal supporters.
Arriving at the driving range on his presidential golf cart accompanied by his motorcade of about 15 Secret Service carts, Trump drove around the practice field, waving to the assembled crowd.
Donald Trump seized the opportunity to rally his supporter at LIV Golf in DC on Saturday
The former president graced the driving range of his Trump National Golf Course
Many called him shouting ’45’, ‘No. 47’ or ‘Let’s go 2024’, which sparked a signature fist-pump from the former president.
He waved to PGA Championship winner Brooks Koepka before heading lower to chat with Phil Mickelson and Patrick Reed, who let him shoot from his place on the range.
Shouts and screams echoed along the line against the fence as he occasionally waved to his fans, who all had their smartphones out, cameras trained on their political star, rather than rebel LIV.
He even stopped to sign flags and caps – many wore his “Make America Great Again” or others were emblazoned with all caps “Trump”, like the only son Eric and his wife Lara had donned for the ‘occasion.
Where he stopped, the crowd surged, clamoring for his attention. Many begged for selfies, to which he obliged, others gushed their love for him, while a teenager informed him that he would be eligible to vote for the first time in 2024 – we don’t guess where that vote is going.
When asked if he could beat Ron DeSantis for the Republican ticket and emerge victorious in his third presidential battle, Trump didn’t answer. He didn’t need it. Trump loyalists responded for him with mockery and emphatic insistences “of course he can.”
If their electoral intent wasn’t already clear, Trump made sure he had their vote, reminding them all to “vote in 2024.”
Meanwhile, as his fan club continued to idolize Trump, the LIV stars had already left the lineup after the final five minutes, one minute and encores to head to their tees for the shotgun start of the second round.
The 76-year-old even paused to wave to fans to take a picture of himself in front of Patrick Reed
He stopped to pose for selfies with supporters and signed ‘Trump’ caps for fans
Onlookers gathered along the fence cheered as Trump waved at them
But a large crowd did not follow them. Instead of heading to the course to watch the professionals play – something they had paid a lot of money to see – a group of loyalists stayed behind to continue watching Trump’s show on a stage that was now completely the his.
Trump himself was in no rush to follow his own course to watch the shotgun begin. As the countdown to the first rides ticked away on the massive screens framing the driving range, Trump remained rooted, taking several long phone calls.
If LIV was hoping her presence in Potomac Falls, Va. would boost excitement around the tournament, then their wish has certainly been granted.
And while perhaps detracting from the main attraction on the fairways, Trump still paid tribute to the controversial breakaway.
Showing up for a practice round with Patrick Reed, Graeme McDowell, his son Eric and Bob Koepka – the father of PGA Championship winner Brooks – on Thursday, Trump was keen to praise the competition – and the Saudi money that floods the sport.
“I think the (PGA) Tour made a major mistake playing games,” Trump told reporters. “They have unlimited money and they love it. And that was great publicity for Saudi Arabia.
Tournament host missed shotgun start to take multiple phone calls on range
Dressed in a MAGA cap and shirt, he took the opportunity to show off his golfing skills
“They’ve been great for golf. The Saudis have been fantastic at golf. And they’re going to do a lot of it, inside their country, they’re going to do great courses.
LIV Golf is funded by Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund, and their huge finances have rocked the sport, prompting many of its top players to leave the PGA Tour to sign lucrative new contracts.
LIV’s critics have accused it of allowing sports washing, as Saudi Arabia seeks to distract from its terrible history of human rights abuses.
Trump was asked if he received a fee for allowing LIV Golf to use his courses for their tournaments, which he confirmed, but did not specify an amount.