80th Masters brings back memories of Trump encounters

By Joel Walker

For the Troy Daily News

AUGUSTA — I’ve had two, let’s say, confrontations with Donald Trump.

Both were brief and pleasant.

I don’t remember when the first one was, but it took place here at the Masters maybe 10 or 12 years ago.

As the 80th Masters begins today and with Trump dominating the news, I recall my meeting with him during his first Masters.

How did I know it was his first Masters? He didn’t know where the big oak tree was.

“You’re with the media, right,” he asked me as he glanced at my badge. “Where is the big oak tree? Take me there.”

Trump had only a regular badge. He didn’t have access to the clubhouse, the lockerroom or the area on the golf course side of the clubhouse where the famous oak tree was.

Anybody who is anybody has a badge to get under the oak tree, the clubhouse and about everywhere else. But Trump didn’t have what he needed to get there.

As we headed for the oak tree, Greg Norman walked by. “Trumpster,” he yelled.

“Come to the first tee with me.”

Trump, a young woman who was with him and a scruffy-looking aide followed.

I followed along, too. We passed the oak tree and I pointed it out to him. Norman went to the first tee, but the next move Trump made indicated again it was his first Masters.

Trump and his two companions went over by the first tee and sat down in three of the empty chairs.

Here’s the way it works at Augusta. Most patrons (that’s what Masters officials call the fans) arrive early with chairs, park them at their favorite spot to watch the later action and then go out and walk the course to get a feel for the topography.

As the leaders were starting to tee off, patrons who had set up their chairs around the first tee early and then went out on the course were starting to comeback to watch Norman and others at the top of the leaderboard play the first hole.

Trump and his friends spotted three chairs near the ropes and sat down. Shortly three people headed for the chairs then turned to me and asked if I knew the people in the three chairs.

I told them who they were. Rather than upset anyone, they let the Trump threesome use the chairs until after Norman hit his tee shot and headed down the first fairway.

Norman spotted Trump, pointed to him and waved to him to follow along. And off they went.

Maybe some day those three people can say the President of the United States sat in my chair.

My second meeting with Trump was at the Boca Raton Hotel and Club in Florida, just a few miles down the road from Mar-a-Lago, his private hideaway.

He was playing golf with Greg Norman and Nick Faldo on the hotel course. They. were getting ready for one of those taped, made-for-TV events the next day.

My wife and I were attending a newspaper meeting and we had just walked over to the golf clubhouse to look around.

Trump and the other two were coming to the ninth green. We waited until they finished the hole, and then we went over and said hello.

Trump told Faldo and Norman he would hit a tee shot on the 10th but then he had to go to Mar-a-Lago to a reception he was having for the newspaper women.

And his political foes say he doesn’t like women?

Before he left he went in the golf shop to pay his caddy. There was much conversation about finding his caddy because he had a $100 bill for him. Trump is a self-funding man.

He’s also a pretty good player. He’s won an occasional club championship at one of the 17 or so clubs and resorts he now owns.

As an invited lunch guest at Mar-a-Lago, my wife said he was there to greet each guest and made sure each one would get a personal keepsake.

Trump might show up for the Masters, but it’s not likely since the security issues would be difficult.

Joel Walker, former owner of the Troy Daily News, is covering his 35th Masters.


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