The real Trump surfaces on the golf course

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The real Trump surfaces on the golf course

Commander in Cheat: How Golf Explains Trump by Rick Reilly, Hachette Books, US $28.00, Pp 244, April 2019, ISBN 978-0316528085

President Trump loves to buy, build and play golf. He owns 14 golf courses and runs another five. He claims he never loses and has won 18 golf championships. But he never tells us how he won all these championships. It is now for Rick Reilly to tell us that story in Commander in Cheat. Based on more than 100 interviews with more than 100 golf pros, amateurs, developers and caddies, Rick Reilly brings out the real Trump we all want to know. He says that the most important thing for President Trump is to win. How he wins is not important for him. He uses the tricks he learned from the hustlers at the public course where he played as a college student and then improvised them.

The White House is a kind of prison for presidents with butlers. You cannot go anywhere without a squadron of Secret Service people and a week of planning. You sleep above your office, where a desk full of the world’s biggest problems silently screams for you. Rick Reilly says, “That’s why golf is perfect for presidents. With no skyscraper windows, no streets for people to line up on, no intersections, no passing cars, presidents can stay relatively safe.” He argues that where they play, how they play, how often and why they play can sometimes tell you more about a president than a room full of historians.

Golf didn’t become trendy among American presidents until the turn of the 20th century, and one of the first to get bit was William Howard Taft, a man who weighed more than 300 pounds. He loved the game so much that he once blew off the president of Chile, who was waiting for him back in the White House, to keep his tee time. Other presidents who played golf included Woodrow Wilson, Warren Harding, Frank D Roosevelt, Dwight Eisenhower. Rick Reilly says that it is no wonder Trump fell in love with golf. Every round of golf comes with 18 chances of to win, plus the 19th chance — my final score versus yours. ‘If I beat you, I win. You’re a loser.’ He writes, “Trump’s love affair with golf has far outlasted any romance he’s had with any woman or career or party affiliation.” He continues, “Donald Trump himself didn’t take up the game with passion until college in the late 1960s, and I could give you 1,000 guesses where and you’d never get it.”

Donald Trump once played golf with Tiger Woods. After playing with Donald Trump, Tiger Woods blogged “What most impressed me was how far he hits the ball at 70 years old. He takes a pretty good lash.” The author says that the rest isn’t nearly as good. Former tour star and now Fox golf analyst Brad Faxon played with Trump in West Palm Beach. “He’s good off the tee, hits this nice draw every time, Faxon says. “His irons are OK. He’s a poor chipper. He’ll do anything not to chip, so he’ll putt any time he can, even out of bunkers if he can, around water. He’s an OK putter. He’s a 4 [handicap] tee to green and a 20 [handicap] chipper.”

Rick Reilly says that golf and Trump are an odd couple because in golf the most revered thing is not winning but honor. It was not until Tiger Woods that the idea of scorched-earth wining came along. Woods’ father, Earl, once told Rick Reilly they used to have a mantra they repeated after every victory: “We came. We saw. We won. We got the fuck out of tome.” Still, Woods would rather finish last than cheat. In golf, you don’t cheat. Period. Somehow, either from his father drilling into his brain or the Crickers drilling into his wallet — this was lost on Trump. “Win or else” flattened “honor of the game” in a one-round knockout. Trump had to win, no matter what, and those great spaces of golf allowed him the cover to do it. Rick Reilly quotes the vice president of Trump Plaza Casino from 1987 to 1990, Jack O’Donnell, who said, “He found a game that suits him to a T. He has such a short attention span that makes golf perfect for him. You stand on the tee box for a minute and chat, then you hit, then you go your own way. It’s very short periods of concentration. But the part is that it’s self-regulated. He can cheat any time he wants.”

Commander in Cheat is a very insightful book that helps you understand the personality and politics of President Trump. Rick Reilly has clearly shown that the real persona of the player surfaces in golf. If you behave in an appalling way on the golf course, you will behave the same way in the White House. Commander in Cheat is one of those books that are funny and serious at the same time. This book is a more damaging indictment against President Trump than any other future indictment in a court of law. Commander in Cheat teaches you a lot more about President Trump and his politics than any other book. Rick Reilly has known President Trump for a long time which makes him the best person to write such a profound book.

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