Bolton, Mass. A divided city.
That seems to be the case in Bolton, Mass., a small town of about 5,600 residents and the site of the LIV Golf Boston event over Labor Day weekend at the International Golf Club that can attract crowds and dailies that exceed that number.
Some townspeople are worried about potential traffic jams for the event, which runs from Friday to Sunday and ends the day before Labor Day.
But the division is largely focused on LIV Golf, the entity that operates a new range that includes The International. LIV is financially supported by the Saudi government.
What worries some locals is the human rights abuses reported in the country and the possible message it sends to outsiders that Bolton is somehow condoning it.
“I was disappointed to hear the championship was coming here,” said Joe Myerson, a Bolton owner for nearly 40 years who has served on city boards and committees.
Patrick Mahoney, who is part of a group that does not want the event to take place in the city, said some Bolton residents raised a total of $1,100 to pay for opposition work at the event. Mahoney estimated the number of people who donated money at more than 20.
Bolton Town Director Don Lowe said protesters would have their say in a designated area near a car park normally used for the Bolton Fair.
This area is the only permitted parking area for tournament visitors, and shuttle buses will run between the stadium and the International Center.
Department in Bolton
Lowe admitted to dividing the city after serving as city administrator for the past 13 years.
“There are different opinions,” he said. “Some are vehemently against it, and some locals see it as beneficial as it will help businesses, given the economy.”
Bruce Slater, owner of Slater’s Restaurant on Main Street, said he sees the tournament as an economic boost for businesses in Bolton and surrounding communities.
“It’s a world-class event that benefits the city,” said Slater, whose family roots in Bolton go back to the 1950s.
Asked about the event’s relationship with Saudi Arabia, Slater said that The International is a private company doing business with another country.
“There are other private companies that other countries are doing just as badly,” Slater said.
He continued, “There is a lot of hypocrisy in this country. This event will attract people. I hope you don’t cast a negative light on the city.
“I love this city and this tournament is a good thing.”
Several companies on Main Street declined to comment because they did not want to be caught up in the controversy.
Sue Loring, owner of Quilted Crow, doesn’t think the tournament will bring much business to her fabric and quilt shop, but there could be some traffic delays outside her Main Street store.
On the tournament’s relationship with Saudi Arabia, Loring said she didn’t know much about it, adding, “I don’t want to go there.”
In a statement prepared by “International”, the club said it was pleased to bring the game of golf “on a large scale” to the region.
“LIV Golf wanted to come to our region in its first year and we are excited to bring top class golf to our region. We tracked fan experiences at each of the previous LIV golf tournaments and the feedback was very positive, consistently showing that fans were satisfied with the experience and eager to return in the future. Golf lovers, sports enthusiasts and the whole family are sure to enjoy it.
Escalante Golf, Texas International Owns Company, did not respond Telegram and newspaper Comments requested.
The heart of the division is the sponsorship of LIV Golf, a competitive league on the PGA Tour.
This supporter is Mohammed bin Salman, the Saudi crown prince and chairman of the Saudi Public Investment Fund. The fund will be the majority shareholder of LIV Golf Investments, the entity that organizes the LIV Championships.
The protests have characterized the LIV tournaments since the first event outside London in June.
Last month, 9/11 Families United protested at the LIV tournament at Trump National Golf Course in New Jersey, expressing outrage over the Saudi-backed league and the country’s ties to the 9/11 attacks.
The Saudi regime is also linked to violent suppression of dissent, including the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in 2018. A declassified US government document said bin Salman ordered the killing.
Earlier this month, a Saudi court sentenced a mother to 34 years in prison after she tweeted messages supporting women’s rights.
These developments relate to Mahoney, who also spoke of the “tiger pack” hunting Bin Salman’s opponents.
“I would prefer that the city deal with those who adhere more to core American ideals, such as freedom of speech,” Mahoney said. “Saudi Arabia, for us, we cannot forget the bad things it does.”
I can’t stop it
Mahoney and Myerson acknowledge that there is nothing preventing The International and Escalante Golf from hosting the event since it is a private company.
However, they see it as a case of “sports laundering” by bin Salman and the Saudi regime, a term to describe investment in sports property that generates public enthusiasm to divert attention from human rights abuses.
“He is trying to polish the evil image of bin Salman and show him as a sports benefactor,” Myerson said.
Public safety and security
Lowe’s goal is to keep residents safe during the three-day event.
Details from local police, state police and the fire department will be on site, allowing for a maximum of 6,500 participants per day. That includes golfers, volunteers and the media, according to Lowe.
LIV Golf will pay for these details plus a 10% management fee.
Lowe explained that Bolton’s city government did not get a penny from the tournament, dispelling any notion that the city was buying LIV.
Some naysayers, including Mahoney, believe the event was a foregone conclusion before residents knew it was happening.
Lowe said he received a friendly call from Steve Brennan, managing director of The International, in March, three hours before a press release from LIV said the championship was likely to go to Bolton.
Meetings involving the city, LIV and The International began in March, according to Lowe. The city selection committee first took up the issue in a public session in early June, and at another open session later that month, the council issued the special approval needed to move the event forward.
Lowe said all permits issued by the city were issued through standard channels that all businesses and local residents must comply with.
Paying 1 million dollars?
There’s also talk of an LIV payment to local nonprofits, and Lowe said he’s heard the total payments could be as high as $1 million.
Lancaster wants to get some of that money because the tournament parking lot is in that city. This comes alongside spending on security to keep traffic flowing and public safety.
Lancaster City Manager Kate Hodges said tournament director Mike Goggin told her last week that several Lancaster entities would receive cash donations.
“He (Joegen) said he would send me a list of these entities, and I did not receive it,” Hodges said Thursday morning. “I’m holding my breath.”
A LIV spokesperson said in an email that LIV Golf will soon announce details of its charitable support to the local community.
LIV to Give, the entity’s philanthropic arm, announced a $100 million commitment in June to support programs focused on education, environmental sustainability, golf development and community wellness.
As for Lancaster’s feeling about the championship, Hodges pointed out two issues.
“First of all, there is a problem with the sponsors of the tournament and where they receive the funding,” he said. “It’s personal to the people here.”
Another issue is the designated protest area which is causing some tension in the city. But Hodges said residents feel so much better that local police updated the Select Board this month on safety plans.
Lancaster police meet weekly with state police to ensure safety and traffic plans are in place. Lowe said Bolton police also meet weekly with state police.
Some will attend and some will not.
Lowe’s team will attend the tournament because they have work to do. But Lowe won’t, because he said it could be a distraction for his employees.
“I play no role there,” Lowe said.
Slater said he hopes to find time in his busy schedule to watch some golfers play.
If he can, he’ll bring his camera because he’d like to take a picture of star Phil Mickelson, a former PGA Tour golfer who now belongs to the LIV Series. Mickelson reportedly signed a $200 million deal to join LIV.
“If I could sneak in and take a picture of Phil Mickelson, I’d be happy,” Slater said.
Lucky is not a word to describe Meyerson and Mahoney – he will never set foot in the world.
It is unfortunate that the city is being used to polish the murderous regime of bin Salman. Bolton can’t do anything about it. Except, don’t go there, Meyerson said.
“If there are other places behaving like us, (the Saudi government) will fail to change the brand,” Mahoney said of those opposed to the Championship in Bolton.
“We’re a small town and we don’t want that here.”
Contact Henry Schwann at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @henrytelegram