Bob Bestler

Golfing with Trump: A novel walk down memory lane

By Bob Bestler

Dustin Johnson holds the Gene Sarazen Cup with course owner Donald Trump after wining the Cadillac Championship golf tournament in 2015.
Dustin Johnson holds the Gene Sarazen Cup with course owner Donald Trump after wining the Cadillac Championship golf tournament in 2015. AP file photo

One of my favorite sports writers has long been Rick Reilly, who once owned the back page of Sports Illustrated before moving on to ESPN.

Reilly has written several books, including a couple on golf. In one of them, “Who’s Your Caddy,” he caddied for several famous golfers, pro and amateur, to see what made them tick.

It’s a revealing look at some of the top players of the day and none is more revealing than the round on which he accompanied Donald Trump.

It was written in 2004 and is a bit of a harbinger of the Donald Trump we see today. Many of the phrases and adjectives Reilly applies to Trump are the same that would be used today, if political writers had Reilly’s gifted touch.

Unlike the others in the book, Trump refused to let Reilly be his caddy. He already had a caddie; besides, he did not want to play alone while Reilly just tagged along.

Reilly agreed to play with him — it’s difficult to say no to Donald Trump — but asked if Trump could play with a friend the next day so Reilly could actually caddy for him.

“Trump stops and looks me square in the eye.

“Believe me,” Trump says. “One day of me is enough.”

Another harbinger of things to come?

Even back then, Trump was “the mayor of Superlative City.”

“If it’s not ‘the greatest,’ then it’s the ‘biggest,’ the ‘richest,’ the ‘nicest,’ the ‘farthest’ and ‘most expensive,’ ‘most beautiful’ and ‘absolute top of the A list, Baby.’ ”

Even the cheeseburgers at his course, Trump National Golf Club in Briarcliff Manor, N.Y.: “How about this cheeseburger, Baby? Can you tell we brought in the best cheeseburger chef on the entire Eastern seaboard?”

And yes, the 2004 Trump called everyone “Baby,” including the young woman who accompanied them on the round, his future wife Melania — or, as Reilly put it in reference to a potential future first lady:

“Trump’s code-blue, neck-snapping, cantaloupe-breasted, walnut-eyed, gazelle-legged Austrian goddess girlfriend Melania Knauss, who is so centerfold beautiful she ought to come with staples.’’

It’s Trump’s course, so he nitpicks as he goes along. When he sees something that doesn’t meet his approval, he’ll “harangue the stonemason, the path paver and the greenskeeper to redo the bricks, or retrim a tree, or repave a path that is not absolutely, immaculately Trumpalicious.”

And when he spots five workers, all from Chile and unable to speak English, doing a good job he praises them and gives them three $100 bills from his wallet.

“Now those guys are the Donald Trumps of Chile,” he laughed.

What amazed Reilly was Trump’s golfing skill and how much he loved he game.

After climbing out of a $9.2 billion debt, he was asked to list 10 things that helped him recover. No. 1 was Play Golf. “It helped me relax and concentrate,” he said. “It took my mind off my troubles.”

Reilly guessed that Trump was, at the time, a 7 or 8 handicap golfer. He hit most every fairway and on one hole he drove the ball 310 yards.

“Man is 56 yeas old,” Reilly wrote. “Doesn’t matter how much hellajack you’ve got, you can’t buy a golf game.”

Throughout the round, Reilly noticed how, if the conversation strayed from him for 15 seconds, Trump lassoed it back around himself — his wealth, his golf courses, his name dropping, his financial deals, his girlfriend.

“The man,” Reilly wrote, “is flamboyant, creative, energetic, unpredictable, fun and nuts.”

And by the end of the round, Reilly agreed with Trump: One day was enough.

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