The first LIV golf event in the United States will begin Thursday as a group of survivors and families who lost loved ones in the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks plan to gather in a nearby park to speak out against the Saudi-funded tour.
Brett Eggelson was 15 years old when he lost his father in the collapse of the World Trade Center. Almost 3,000 people were killed that day in 2001.
“We want golfers to know who they are sleeping with and who they are with,” Eggelson said.
“Every golfer who chooses to play in an LIV tournament should listen to the family and look us in the eye and explain to us why they are taking the Saudi money and why they are playing in this tournament. And we want the ability to educate golfers about what we know about the Saudi role on 9/11.”
Eagleson, now 36, is among the critics of the LIV Championship and its connection to a system of disregard for human rights. All but four of the 19 hijackers on 9/11 were Saudi nationals, and Saudi Arabia was the birthplace of Osama bin Laden, the al-Qaeda leader and mastermind of the attack.
LIV Golf bookings begin Thursday at Pumpkin Ridge Golf Club, about 20 miles west of downtown Portland.
Eagleson is particularly disappointed with childhood champion Phil Mickelson and his decision to join LIV Golf. The tour, led by Greg Norman and funded by the Saudi sovereign wealth fund, offered signing bonuses — some of more than $100 million in the U.S. — that some players found irresistible.
Now to see him, he is dragged into the Saudis, and says he does not do nonsense, does not waste with struggle, pain and misery. Three thousand Americans died. He doesn’t care. Because they offered him a tip? “This is the worst form of greed,” Eggelson said.
Watch the Saudi-sponsored golf league cheer for the best talent on the PGA Tour:
In addition to Mickelson, Majors Championship winners Dustin Johnson, Brooks Kobaca and Bryson de Champao have also joined Leaf Golf Club. Mickelson did not speak to reporters before the Oregon Championships.
As much as the first rounder naturally wants to escape the criticism, he can’t help it. In pre-tournament press conferences, golfers were asked about the Saudi relationship and gave similar answers, welcoming questions on the topic, reflecting differences in the message that golf can be a “force for good.”
But long before LIV Golf reached the tiny North Plains, the mayor and those from nearby towns wrote to club owners in Texas to protest the event, saying it went against community values. Senator Ron Wyden described the incident as “sports laundry” to divert attention from human rights abuses.
The Portland Station is the second of eight LIV golf events this year. Families of 9/11 victims and survivors are also speaking out against the ground-breaking event held outside London earlier this month.
Kupka, who recently joined LIV Golf after initially denouncing it, downplayed concerns about Saudi funding.
“They are allowed to have their say,” said Kupka, the former world number one and four-time major champion. You know, we heard it. I think everyone did. I grew up. “But look, like we said, our only job is to play golf, and that’s what we’re trying to do. We are trying to develop the game.”
Part of the lure of LIV Golf is the money. In addition to signing bonuses, the 48 group will compete for a $20 million portfolio, as well as an additional $5 million prize pool to compete with the group. Charles Schwartz won the London event (and part of the team) and collected $4.75 million.
LIV courses are played over 54 holes without chipping, and even the person who comes in at the end gets $120,000. The organizers promise exciting events that they say will attract new fans.
The PGA Tour responded to the LIV golf challenge by suspending any active members who participated in the first LIV event. Those playing in Oregon will also be suspended unless they leave companies on their tour.
The John Deere Classic of the PGA Tour takes place this week in Illinois.
Former Masters champion Fred Coples will lead an American team of competitive athletes at the Liberty National Show in New Jersey starting Thursday. The pair, Hall of Fame, spoke out against LIV Golf and said they hoped the event would attract more spectators.
The couples said: “I find it strange that the only way they can convince these guys to leave the tour is by cashing in their money. There is no other reason. All other things are a bachelor’s degree.” “It doesn’t improve the game. They play between 8 and 10 tournaments here. How do you improve the game? “
9/11 survivors, families protest Saudi Arabia-sponsored GIV golf tour at its US premiere