Canzano: Take a hard pass on LIV Golf at Pumpkin Ridge
First event on American soil looms.
I’ve heard enough. I’ve seen enough. I’ve had enough. The LIV Golf Invitational Series made stooges out of a line of money-grabbing golfers. But we shouldn’t let it sink the rest of us.
The inaugural event started this week in London. The golf was barely visible through the fog of questions, disappointment and controversy. Phil Mickelson sold out. Dustin Johnson took the money, too. Decide for yourself what you’d have done in their golf shoes, but also know that we’ve got a stand to take ourselves.
“Portland” is billed as the event’s first stop on American soil. Pumpkin Ridge Golf Club is located in North Plains, 18 miles from downtown Portland. The course is owned and operated by Escalante Golf, a Texas-based corporation run by four former University of Oklahoma fraternity brothers.
As one Pumpkin Ridge member told me this week, “Let them hold this mess in Texas.”
They dropped it in our backyard instead. The Sovereign Wealth Fund of Saudi Arabia threw a pile of money at Escalante Golf. Two of its US-based courses — in Oregon and Massachusetts — will hold LIV golf events in the coming months.
Nearly 20 members at Pumpkin Ridge dropped their memberships, per a source. The head golf pro departed, but nobody will confirm the reason why. Escalante Golf did not return a message seeking comment and local management isn’t talking, either.
It’s a money grab, folks.
Pumpkin Ridge members were told via memo that the club will get some badly needed facility upgrades in the deal. A lot of them heard that news and muttered that the investment was long overdue. Members will also receive complimentary tickets to the June 30-July 2 event. They’re free to use them how they please.
Throw them out?
Use them to wipe down their clubs?
There are plenty of wonderful summer sports events in our region. Soccer and baseball provide rich experiences. The track and field World Championships are being held in Eugene in July. There are a line of gorgeous golf courses and Oregon beaches. Skip the Saudi-backed event, and spend your time and money on those things instead.
The LIV series was strategic. When organizers realized it couldn’t buy all of the greatest golfers in the game, it purchased the next best thing — some of golf’s big personalities. Also, it picked a quiet golf course on the outskirts of an under-served sports market as its first stop on American soil.
We’re essentially the toe-dip.
This event threatens to change golf. But contrary to the talking points, it doesn’t at all feel good for the sport. The LIV is spending piles of cash and trying to disrupt the market. It may burn out and fade away like the XFL and USFL did with similar attempts in professional football. Or pro golf may just become a disjointed, splintered mess like motor sports and professional boxing.
Royal Bank of Canada terminated its sponsorship of Dustin Johnson. Rocket Mortgage dumped Bryson DeChambeau when he announced he was selling out. And within half an hour of the start of the inaugural LIV event in England, the PGA Tour banned the golfers who participated. It shouldn’t take the rest of us that long to figure out why we shouldn’t buy tickets and support the Pumpkin Ridge stop.
We’ve got a pile of problems of our own in the US. We’re facing an epidemic of homelessness and mental health. Our middle class is shrinking, gas is $6 a gallon in some places and more American families are struggling to make ends meet. We have some heavy lifting to do. But we shouldn’t lower the bar for Saudi Arabia.
Rob Harris — a reporter from the Associated Press — was cut off as he tried to ask a question about Saudi Arabia’s poor human rights’ record at the first LIV news conference. He was led out by security after “not being polite.” He was eventually let back in.
On Thursday in London, Mickelson biographer Alan Shipnuck was removed from a news conference by LIV security guards. Shipnuck’s book points out that the regime is trying to use golf to smooth over its global image. Mickelson is quoted in the book as calling the Saudis, “scary motherf****rs.”
None of us should ignore human rights’ violations. We shouldn’t forget the assassination of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi. And a couple of painful, high-profile local criminal cases never saw justice because accused Saudi citizens were slipped out of the US in the middle of the night.
They’d like us to watch their golf now?
That’s a hard pass for me.
It should be for you, too.
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