DAVID GREENE, HOST:
And one of the biggest tournaments in women's golf tees off today. It's taking place on one of President Trump's golf courses in New Jersey. The U.S. Open is going ahead despite protests from women's rights activists who urged organizers to move the tournament elsewhere. But now the best female golfers in the world may be sharing the stage with the president. Here's NPR's Joel Rose.
JOEL ROSE, BYLINE: President Trump will loom over the U.S. Open this weekend in New Jersey, whether he's there or not. The tournament organizers built a special glass-enclosed skybox overlooking the 16th tee where the president could watch. And the tournament will be played on one of his favorite courses at the Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster.
CHRIS SCOFIELD: Absolutely gorgeous. It's hilly. It's challenging, a lot of undulation on the greens. They're quick. The rough is deep.
ROSE: Chris Scofield lives just down the road from the golf course. He's the kind of fan who comes to watch the practice rounds, and he gets why the U.S. Golf Association picked this course. But he hopes President Trump will stay away this weekend.
SCOFIELD: I hope he doesn't show up because I think that would ruin the event and take away from how good these women play.
ROSE: The USGA chose this course in 2012, years before Trump decided to run for president and long before the release of the infamous "Access Hollywood" tape, where Trump is heard bragging about groping women. It's the first time the course has hosted a major tournament, which is a big deal in the golf world.
SHAUNNA THOMAS: Holding the tournament on this course sends the exact wrong message.
ROSE: Shaunna Thomas is the co-founder of UltraViolet, a nonprofit group that advocates for women's rights. It's been pushing the USGA for months to move this tournament to another course. UltraViolet even hired a plane to fly above the U.S. Open men's championship in Wisconsin last month pulling a banner. It said, take a mulligan. Dump Trump.
THOMAS: They're giving millions in revenue, free advertising and branding to his platform and policies, which, frankly, repeatedly degrade women and encourage hate and division.
ROSE: But the USGA didn't budge. Here's its CEO Mike Davis back in May.
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MIKE DAVIS: We're a golf organization. We're simply not going to cross that line into politics. We can appreciate that some people do. But we are a golf association, and we're sticking to golf.
ROSE: USA Today reports that Trump threatened to sue if the USGA moved the tournament. The USGA won't confirm that, and Davis skipped a press conference this week. At least one player, Brittany Lincicome, said last week that she wants Trump to stay away. Other top golfers were asked this week if they agree. One by one, they politely dodged the question. Here's former U.S. Open champion Michelle Wie.
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MICHELLE WIE: I take my role as a female role model very seriously. But, you know, this week is about the golf.
ROSE: At a practice round this week, fans were more forthcoming. And some are pretty conflicted about holding the tournament on Trump's course, like this young couple from Brooklyn named Leah Delacruz and Veo Cubero.
LEAH DELACRUZ: We don't want to buy something that has his name on it...
VEO CUBERO: Yeah.
DELACRUZ: ...You know.
CUBERO: But we also want to support the ladies.
DELACRUZ: The ladies. And...
CUBERO: Like, we love the LPGA.
DELACRUZ: ...It's - yeah.
DELACRUZ: It's like, how can you not come and support your favorite players?
ROSE: Frank Hayn likes keeping the tournament here. He's a Trump supporter and a member of this golf club.
FRANK HAYN: The players, male or female, deserve to play on some of the best tracks in the country. And this is definitely one of them.
ROSE: But even Hayn concedes that the competition on the course may be overshadowed by the president and the protesters.
Joel Rose, NPR News, Bedminster, N.J.
(SOUNDBITE OF ELIOT LIPP'S "NOT QUITE AWAKE (EMANCIPATOR REMIX)")