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Lively crowd at LIV Golf Bedminster doesn’t care about Donald Trump, Saudi Arabia connections

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BEDMINSTER, New Jersey – The already lively crowd erupted in cheers and chants of “Four more years!” and “Let’s go, Brandon!” when former President of the United States Donald Trump appeared on the first court before Friday’s start of the LIV Golf Invitational Series at the Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster.

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“What (PGA Tour commissioner) Jay Monahan is doing right now? Cry!” shouted another fan.

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The former president has faced significant criticism for hosting the series, directed by Greg Norman and backed by Saudi Arabia, especially from a group of 9/11 families who held an emotional protest on the Friday morning before the round began. Despite all the outside noise, the atmosphere around the course is similar to that of the last LIV event in Portland, as fans put the debate aside and take part in golf.

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“My first message to my brother was, ‘I think I’d rather watch this on TV,’” Bob Teed, a New Jersey native, said with a laugh. “I have never seen a PGA tournament before. I play golf a couple of times a week and there’s nothing in the area that I could go to and it was probably the closest I was ever going to get.”

Teed’s comments point to part of the genius of LIV Golf’s plan to host events not just across from the weaker PGA Tour stops, but also in regions of the country that love golf and crave tournaments, such as Portland, Chicago, Boston and Miami.

“I hate to talk about politics and stuff like that, but they could say the same about China,” Teed said, referring to 9/11 families criticizing Trump for hosting a Saudi-funded series. “It actually opens up the game to more people who can’t get out and see it.”

Dave Teed, a local firefighter who came to the event with Bob, said he was a little worried about the Saudi association, but if China were supporting LIV, “I wouldn’t be here.”

Dave cited President Joe Biden and his son Hunter and their connection to China as the reason for his position. When asked if the same could be said about former President Trump and Jared Kushner’s connection to Saudi Arabia, he said, “To be honest, I don’t know much about it.”

“I just read a bit about the connection to the golf tournament and golfers and things like that, which worries me a little because the PGA has brought these guys to where they are today,” Dave explained. “But it’s still fun to come here, see the players, it’s local and it’s great that it brings money into the local economy. I think it’s a good deal. Saudi Arabia I can handle, but like I said, if it’s China or something like that, no way. I wouldn’t be here.”

LIV Golf has long been criticized for the Kingdom’s attempt to launder its human rights record. Saudi Arabia has been accused of wide-ranging human rights violations, including politically motivated killings, torture, enforced disappearances and inhumane treatment of prisoners. And members of the Saudi royal family and government have been accused of being involved in the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, a Saudi journalist and Washington Post columnist.

Michael and Richard Adams didn’t know what to expect when they showed up on Friday after a two-hour drive from Chester County, Pennsylvania, but they immediately fell in love with the atmosphere.

“As soon as we got here, we felt that there was a fun atmosphere here,” Michael said.

“We like the crowd because it is not overbearing,” added Richard.

The couple have acknowledged their bias against former President Trump, and when asked if they had any doubts about attending the event due to their connection to Saudi Arabia, the answer was a resounding no.

“(America) did a lot worse than they did,” Richard explained.

Pennsylvania natives Berthus Wessels and Eric Mahoney toured from Philadelphia and both compared the LIV to the WM Phoenix Open PGA Tour, a fan-favorite event that is on the schedule every year.

“It’s definitely different from anything I’ve ever been,” Wessels said. “I’ve been to other events on the PGA tour and it seems less stressful and the players seem to be talking to each other. I mean, music is playing everywhere, people are skydiving, so it’s very different, but I think it’s good.”

“I watched the first two on YouTube. It’s hard to watch and keep up,” Mahoney explained. “Like Bertus said, it almost reminds me of the WM Phoenix Open. So it’s different, but it’s pretty cool.”

Like their fellow Pennsylvanians, the Kingdom’s connection to the LIV was not a problem.

“(Saudi Arabia) is doing other things as well. People just don’t want to see what they don’t want to see,” Wessels said.

“This is golf,” Mahoney added.

The story originally appeared on GolfWeek.


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