LIV Golf, the Saudi-Arabia-backed tour, divides the host city into the Portland region

North Plains, Ore, Mayor Terry Lanhan, outside the city library.">
North Plains, Ore, Mayor Terry Lanhan, outside the city library. (Leah Nash / For The Washington Post)

North Plains, RAW — Ever since I heard about a golf tournament coming to town, Terry Lanhan, the mayor of this suburb with 3,400 people in suburban Portland, has been worrying about things you never expected to worry about. be not.

She is concerned about protesters who may appear in the streets, painted in murals of early 20th-century city dwellers driving rickshaws and hauling grain. She’s worried about the attention of the big media, the public, and what could happen if something goes wrong in a town whose biggest annual craze is the No Elephant Festival.

Although it She knows this is absurd, and even Lanhan was worried when Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman touched the helicopter.

“It’s something in my head,” Lanhan said. “I do not know if we should expect such a level of dignity, or what he can say. I was a Girl Scout – you have to be prepared. “

When LIV Golf, the tour backed by bin Salman and the Saudi Public Investment Fund, takes to US soil for the first time next week, it will be at Bamkin Ridge, a scenic outdoor club in the northern plains.

Bin Salman did not appear at the first LIV Championship event in London. But Phil Mickelson, LIV’s tallest recruit, did it Go with the ruler From the Saudi Public Investment Fund, Yasir Al-Rumayyan, who is also the chairman of the English football club Newcastle United.

Bamkin Ridge is not one of the most popular golf clubs. It’s been more than two decades since it hosted the major men’s tournament, an American amateur in 1996, best known for winning Tiger Woods. And Saudi Arabia, Buckkin Ridge and the northern plains, like LIV itself, would become the epicenter of the Gulf earthquake.

Two people familiar with the club’s operations said more than a dozen Pumpkin Ridge members had resigned in protest of LIV’s arrival. Some members have spoken out against the tournament, criticizing the club that owns the club, Escalante Golf Texas, for standing up for what they call a “sports wash” – attempts by the Saudi government to use the sport to divert attention. of a long list of alleged human rights abuses. Bin Salman confirmed the assassination of Washington Post columnist Jamal Hashokaji and his home in 2018, according to an intelligence report released by the U.S. government.

Escalante is hosting two LIV tournaments this year. Two others will be detained on properties owned by former President Donald Trump, whose family has had close ties with the Saudis.

“Escalante Golf Club has sold the honor of our club, and to some extent I feel they have sold some of my honor,” said Andy McInnes, a member of the club’s board of directors.

Another member of Bamkin Ridge, who said he was among the original club members, put it more honestly.

“You think differently in Texas – why do not you keep it there?” He said of Escalante, who spoke on condition of anonymity due to concerns about professional consequences. “For me , [Jamal] The Hashukage thing is very annoying. For this reason, I can not support him in principle. “

But there are many at Bamkin Ridge who see LIV Golf differently, intrigued by the list of golf’s best names and the rare chance to see their club’s green in the spotlight.

“There is no doubt that the Saudis have a poor record of human rights abuses, and we can absolutely disagree with that,” Gaylord Davis, a longtime friend and owner of Lampkin, said until he sold the club to Escalante. In 2015. “But when I put on my golf hat, I felt so happy to see some of the best players in the world come here to play golf.”

Davis noted that dozens of members who have left since the tournament was announced have been compensated by many who have joined. “You don’t hear people talk about that side of it,” he said.

Escalante manager Ryan MacDonald declined to be interviewed but said the club has welcomed 34 members since announcing it would host LIV. “The response we have received from many friends has been positive in anticipation of the upcoming event,” MacDonald said in a statement.

In a statement, LIV spokesman Alan Barrett said the tournament was “delighted to see that our tournament has increased the number of members for Pumpkin Ridge, knowing that most people welcome the sport into their communities.” We also understand and respect the views of those who do not support us. ”

“Our tournament is all about golf, and we look forward to playing it,” said Barrett.

Just as LIV Golf made large sums of money before experienced and advanced golfers, LIV’s agreement with Escalante, whose value was not disclosed, paid for substantial upgrades to Pumpkin Ridge.

An extensive network of LIV brand stages and buildings popped up at Pumpkin overnight, but there are also new roofs, floors and furniture in the pro clubs and stores that will last long after the tournament begins. The Champions Grill’s rich brown wood ceilings have been painted glossy black, and the ornate red carpet has been replaced with dark gray laminate.

On a sunny afternoon earlier this month, with the club’s public stadium already closed before the tournament, the club was asleep, as opposed to the hustle and bustle of construction equipment and teams working outside. On TV in the dining room, the golf channel showed how a PGA player rejects LIV.

For McNeiss, the new black and white coats glow in a kind of myopia. He said in meetings with friends after the tournament was announced, Escalante emphasized the promotions she could offer the club.

“They never said they thought of morality,” McInnes said. “All I heard was, ‘We have a lot of money.’ “

In the northern plains, the population is also divided beyond the gates of the Pumpkin Mountain Range. The city is less than 20 miles from the liberal but politically diverse Portland, where rural conservatives mingle with outsiders occupying new developments. The city is surrounded by many golf courses, and there is a golf cart agency in its 11-block main street. At Rogue Brew bar and restaurant, golf is played on the TV above the bar, and groups of golfers mingle with locals for a beer.

“I’m in favor of anything that makes golf more interesting,” said Jim Jenkins of Milwaukee, who recently took a round of golf at another local course. “The [PGA] Boring tour “.

He said Jenkins insisted on getting the golf channel, but found the PGA Tour stagnant, frustrating himself with the lack of passion from the top players. The LIV Golf format, which includes teams selected by captains, was at least something Else. He said Jenkins was aware of the Saudi record, but said Saudi money is everywhere in the United States

Near Jenkins at the bar table, one of his golf buddies disagreed. “The issue of human rights is a big issue for me,” he said. He said he and Jenkins, both veterans, were offered free tickets to LIV but planned to stay home. Jenkins plans to go.

A few tables further, Brett Keeler, an engineer in Portland, was not as worried as Jenkins about the sources of the money. But he’s worried about the future of the PGA Tour, and the athletes, like Mickelson and Dustin Johnson, who left him. “I do not like the way they jumped out of the PGA just for the money,” Keeler said. “I love golf. My feelings are about money – it does not matter who owns it. “

The most unusual thing about LIV, the Northern Plains and beyond, however, is the way it has drawn so many people outside of golf, such as Lanhan and a group of 10 other mayors of the surrounding Washington County, who wrote an open letter to Escalante , expressing his opposition to the championship.

Senator Ron Wyden (Raw Democrat) has meanwhile turned the tournament into an embrace in his long campaign against documented abuse by the Saudi government, which embarrasses LIV players for their alliance with MBS. He said the abuse is more personal in Oregon, which has seen documented cases of Saudi citizens fleeing prosecution after being accused of crimes in the country – including in 2016 hit-and-run. Teenager Fallon Smart was killed in Portland.

“The Saudis are just trying to wash bloody hands,” Weeden told The Post of LIV Golf. “I play golf. “If you played in a tournament 20 minutes away from where a Saudi citizen drove a woman around, I would say – how would you feel if it was your daughter?”

When she considers the impending chaos at the North Plains Championship, Lanhan is concerned about it, similar to the state of Smart that could happen in her city. Smart’s accused killer, a Saudi student, disappeared before his trial in Portland. “Knowing the history of the Saudi government, it has become a real safety and security issue for me and my community,” Lanhan said.

There are other smaller routes where the sudden arrival of LIV Golf to the North Plain disrupts the city.

North Plains plans to host a fireworks display on July 4 at Pumpkin Ridge, an event it did last year. “People loved it,” the mayor said. But the LIV Championship’s fast rally, scheduled for the fourth weekend of July, replaces the show. MacDonald, the Escalante representative, said they never promised to host the fireworks again, and by the time the municipality requested, the tournament was already decided.

There will be an “old parade” and a braai, Lanhan said, but there will be no city-sponsored fireworks. Instead, LIV will host its own fireworks display at the end of the tournament, with free tickets for children, veterans and health professionals. She told “Nahan” that it was the Saudi involvement that made her see the case as a “slap in the face”.

Zion Rodgers, a North Plains resident, ignored golf on screen in front of him while sitting in a Rogue Bar. When he heard what was going on at Pumpkin Ridge, he had only one thought: “I prefer fireworks over championship golf.”

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