LIV Golf, the tour supported by Saudi Arabia, splits the host city in 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—Since the day I heard a golf tournament was coming to town, Terry Lanhan, the mayor of this 3,400-person city in suburban Portland, has been worrying about things you’d never expect to worry about don’t be

She worries about protesters who may appear in the streets, painted in murals of early 20th century townspeople driving rickshaws and carting grain. She is worried about the attention of the big media, the public, and what could happen if something goes wrong in a town whose biggest annual madness is the Geen Elifant festival.

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

“It’s something in my head,” Lanhan said. “I don’t know if we should expect that level of dignity, or what he might 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 off on American soil for the first time next week, it will be at Bamkin Ridge, a picturesque country club in the northern plains.

Bin Salman did not appear at the first LIV Championship meeting in London. But Phil Mickelson, LIV’s longest-serving recruit, did 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 a popular golf club. It has 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, Bucken 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 resigned in protest of LIV’s arrival. Some members have spoken out against the tournament and criticized the club that owns the club, Escalante Golf Texas, for standing up to what they call “sports washing” – attempts by the Saudi government to use the sport to distract 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 US government.

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

“Escalante Golf Club sold the honor of our club, and to some extent I feel they sold a little bit 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 frankly.

“You think differently in Texas – why don’t you keep it there?” He said of Escalante, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of concerns about professional repercussions. “For me , [Jamal] The Hashukage thing is very annoying. For that reason, I cannot support him in principle.”

But there are many at Bamkin Ridge who see LIV Golf differently, intrigued by the roster of golf’s greatest 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 absolutely cannot agree with that,” said Gaylord Davis, a longtime friend and owner of Lampkin’s until he sold the club to Escalante. In 2015. “But when I put on my golf hat, I feel so happy to see some of the best players in the world come here to play golf.”

Davis noted that dozens of members who left since the tournament was announced have been compensated by many who 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 received from many friends was 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 our tournament increase membership 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,” Barrett said.

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

An extensive network of LIV-branded stages and buildings popped up overnight at Pumpkin, but there are also new roofs, floors and furniture in the pro clubs and shops that will last long after the tournament begins. The Champions Grill’s rich brownwood ceilings have been painted gloss 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 ahead of the tournament, the club was asleep, in contrast to the bustle of construction equipment and crews working outside. On TV in the dining room, the golf channel showed a PGA player rejecting 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 were thinking about 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 Pampoenberg range. The city is less than 20 miles from 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 on 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 returned from a round of golf at another local course. “The [PGA] Boring tour”.

He said Jenkins pushed for the Golf Channel but found the PGA Tour stagnant, and found himself frustrated by the lack of passion from the top players. At least the LIV Golf format, which includes teams selected by captains, was something Else. He said Jenkins was aware of the Saudi record but said Saudi money was 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 away, Brett Keeler, an engineer in Portland, wasn’t as concerned as Jenkins about the sources of the money. But he worries about the future of the PGA Tour, and the athletes, such as Mickelson and Dustin Johnson, who have left it. “I don’t like the way they jumped out of the PGA just for the money,” Keeler said. “I love golf. My feelings are about money — it doesn’t matter who owns it.”

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

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

“The Saudis are just trying to wash their bloody hands,” Weeden told The Post of LIV Golf. “I play golf. If you were playing in a tournament 20 minutes away from where a Saudi national ran over a woman, I would say – how would you feel if that was your daughter?”

When she considers the impending chaos at the North Plains Championship, Lanhan worries 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, this 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 town.

North Plains plans to host a July 4 fireworks display at Pumpkin Ridge, an event it did last year. “People loved it,” the mayor said. But the LIV Championship 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 had already been decided.

There will be an “old fashioned parade,” a barbecue, Lanhan said, but 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 healthcare workers. She told “Nahan” that the Saudi involvement was what made her see the case as a “slap in the face”.

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

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