The PGA of America has severed ties with US President Donald Trump following a vote on Sunday to take the 2022 PGA Championship event away from his New Jersey golf course.
In a fresh blow to the Trump brand, Sunday's vote came four days after the US president's words fuelled a riot at the US Capitol in Washington, as Congress was certifying the election victory of President-elect Joe Biden.
This is the second time in five years the PGA of America removed one of its events from a Trump course.
PGA President Jim Richerson says the board voted to exercise its right to “terminate the agreement” with Trump National in Bedminster, New Jersey.
“We find ourselves in a political situation not of our making,” Seth Waugh, the CEO of the PGA of America, said in a telephone interview. “We’re fiduciaries for our members, for the game, for our mission and for our brand. And how do we best protect that?
"Our feeling was given the tragic events of Wednesday that we could no longer hold it at Bedminster. The damage could have been irreparable. The only real course of action was to leave.”
The PGA of America, which has some 29,000 golf professionals who mostly teach the game, signed the deal with Trump National in 2014.
It cancelled the PGA Grand Slam of Golf in 2015 at Trump National Los Angeles Golf Club after Trump’s disparaging remarks about Mexican immigrants when he announced he was seeking the Republican nomination for president.
The event was cancelled for good the following spring.
'Breach of contract'
Wednesday's insurrection rattled the country, and in golf circles, attention quickly focused on whether the PGA of America would keep its premier championship – and one of golf’s four major championships – at Trump’s course in 2022.
“Our decision wasn’t about speed and timing," Waugh said. "What matters most to our board and leadership is protecting our brand and reputation, and the ability for our members to lead the growth of the game, which they do through so many powerful programmes in their communities.”
The Trump Organization said in a statement its groups have “a beautiful partnership with the PGA of America and are incredibly disappointed with their decision”.
“This is a breach of a binding contract and they have no right to terminate the agreement,” the statement said. “As an organization we have invested many, many millions of dollars in the 2022 PGA Championship at Trump National Golf Club, Bedminster. We will continue to promote the game of golf on every level and remain focused on operating the finest golf courses anywhere in the world.”
Waugh declined to say whether the PGA of America expected any legal challenges from the Trump Organization.
Blame for Capitol riot
Trump had delivered a speech to his supporters in which he repeatedly made baseless claims that the election was stolen from him and urged them to “fight”.
They stormed the US Capitol as lawmakers were in the process of certifying President-elect Joe Biden’s victory. After forcing their way inside, the violent crowd ransacked the building and sent terrified staff and lawmakers into hiding. Five people, including a Capitol police officer, died.
A new ABC News/Ipsos poll released Sunday found that 67 percent of respondents said Trump deserves a “good amount” or a “great deal” of blame for the violence.