Trump Golf Course in New York City Will Host Saudi-Backed Event
A New York City-owned golf course managed by former President Donald J. Trump’s family business is expected to host a Saudi Arabia-backed tournament in October, a city official confirmed on Thursday.
The women’s golf tournament, part of the Aramco Team Series, was approved to be held at the Trump Golf Links at Ferry Point in the Bronx by the Eric Adams administration, according to a city official who was familiar with the matter but not authorized to publicly discuss it.
Like the LIV Golf series that has upended the highest levels of men’s golf by poaching some top players from the PGA Tour, the Aramco Team Series has close ties to the Saudi government’s web of enterprises. The two, though, are separate operations.
City officials determined that they could not “unreasonably withhold approval” for the event under the city’s contract with the Trump Organization, according to another city official who was familiar with the matter.
The Trump Organization’s management of the course was the subject of a tense battle with the city last year. The former mayor, Bill de Blasio, moved to terminate the company’s contract following the Jan. 6, 2021 riot at the Capitol in Washington.
But in April 2022, a judge ruled that the Trump Organization could continue to operate the city-owned golf course and found that New York City had wrongly terminated the contract. Mr. de Blasio had argued that Mr. Trump had incited violence in Washington, which he said qualified as criminal activity that gave the city the right to sever ties.
Mr. Adams, a moderate Democrat who took office in January, has been friendly with business leaders, and eager to boost tourism and the city’s recovery from the pandemic. His chief of staff, Frank Carone, held at least two meetings this year to discuss the possible tournament, according to a copy of Mr. Carone’s daily schedules released by the city Friday under a Freedom of Information request.
Mr. Carone had meetings listed on April 25 and May 4 to discuss the “Trump case,” regarding the Trump Organization’s request for approval of an Aramco event, according to the schedules.
By then, Saudi Arabia’s swelling interest in golf was causing tremors around the sport.
Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund, formally known as the Public Investment Fund and overseen by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, has bankrolled LIV Golf, which in turn has dangled billions of dollars to elite male golfers and spurred a wave of defections from the PGA Tour. LIV Golf held a tournament at the Trump Organization’s golf course in Bedminster last month that received international attention and stirred outrage.
Critics have accused the golfers of selling out to a country that is trying to distract public opinion from its poor human rights record. A group of family members of victims of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks protested near the Bedminster course, raising anew longstanding concerns over Saudi support for the terrorists.
The Aramco Team Series is only slightly older than LIV, having debuted as a road show last year. The sovereign wealth fund is its “presenting partner,” and its title sponsor, Aramco, is Saudi Arabia’s state-owned oil giant.
The Trump Organization did not respond to a request for comment Thursday.
But in women’s golf, a sport that struggles for global attention and significant revenue, the Saudi money has often been welcomed.
“Aramco stepped in and they are providing an opportunity for us to compete,” Bronte Law, a female English golfer, said at an event near London in June. “I think that shouldn’t go unheard.”
The New York plans for the team series came into focus as LIV Golf, which won Mr. Trump’s backing but has plenty of skeptics in Washington, formalized its efforts to sway opinion in the United States.
A government relations firm filed a disclosure form on Thursday that said LIV had hired Benjamin Quayle, a former Republican congressman and a son of former Vice President Dan Quayle, to lobby on “education and issues relating to the game of professional golf in the United States and abroad,” and on “protecting the rights of professional golfers to play when and where they choose.” Politico first reported the filing.
The Trump Organization’s recent legal problems could give the city a new reason to scrutinize its relationship with the company. Allen H. Weisselberg, the Trump Organization’s longtime chief financial officer, recently pleaded guilty to felony charges and admitted to participating in a long-running tax evasion scheme. The Trump Organization goes on trial in October, and Mr. Weisselberg is expected to be a central witness.
The women’s team series, which ventured into New York State last year when it held an event at Glen Oaks Club in Nassau County, has attracted less scorn and less attention than LIV.
Its ranks include some of the most talented players in women’s golf, including Jessica Korda, the runner-up in this year’s Chevron Championship, and her sister, Nelly Korda, who won the 2021 Women’s P.G.A. Championship and recorded a pair of top-10 finishes in major tournaments this year. (At an Aramco event in Spain last week, Nelly Korda won the individual competition while Jessica Korda led a group to the team title.)
The team series did not immediately comment on Thursday. The Ladies European Tour, which sanctions the series, did not respond to a message.
A spokesman for Mr. Adams, Fabien Levy, declined to comment.
The Aramco Team Series website lists an event in New York City scheduled for Oct. 13 through 15, but says only that more information about the venue is “coming soon.”