By Steve Holland
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – For Donald Trump, the rigid rules of golf are flexible, allowing for the kick of a wayward ball into a better location, skipping a putt that looks close enough. What’s the big deal?
That is according to Rick Reilly, a former Sports Illustrated columnist who has just written the book “Commander in Cheat,” which alleges Trump is guilty of all sorts of sins on the golf course.
In an interview with Reuters on Thursday, Reilly laid out a number of accusations to support his view that the U.S. president’s golf game is, well, not par for the course, particularly for a president who owns a string of golf resorts.
Among the charges: Playing with pros Tiger Woods, Dustin Johnson and Brad Faxon in November 2017, Trump hit two balls in the water on one hole but didn’t charge himself any penalty strokes.
The pros all saw it happen, but just grinned their way through it. Why didn’t they call him out for the violation?
“Because he’s so fun and we want our own stories to tell about the cheating,” Reilly said he was told.
At Winged Foot, a famous golf club in Westchester County, New York, Trump had a reputation among the caddies for kicking his ball into a better position so often that they called him “Pele,” the former soccer star, Reilly said.
While Trump has in the past claimed a golf handicap of 2.8, meaning he typically will average three strokes over par over 18 holes, his handicap is actually about 10, said Reilly.
“This idea that Donald Trump is a great golfer – he’s not,” said Reilly. “He’s good. He’s a 72-year-old man who’s a 10 handicap. That’s pretty good. But why isn’t that good enough?”
One time Democrat Hillary Clinton, who Trump defeated in the 2016 election, had her brother, Hugh Rodham, to play a round at Winged Foot but showed up wearing shorts and was told he had to have long pants, Reilly said.
Rodham ended up wearing Trump’s rain pants in order to meet the dress code, and gave them back when he was done. This didn’t sit well with Trump when he found out about it.
“Somebody tells Trump this and he was so mad he made the club buy him a whole new rain suit,” said Reilly.
Reilly said the point of the book is to show what Trump is really like behind the scenes.
“Golf is a window into a guy’s soul and this gives a pretty good view of the guy,” he said.
The White House declined to comment.
(Reporting by Steve Holland; Editing by Susan Thomas)