LIV Golf heads to Oregon, where local officials aren’t happy | News Today

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Saudi-backed LIV Golf receives a cold reception in Oregon, its first stop in the United States.

This coming week, the series, which pays huge signing fees for players like Phil Mickelson and Dustin Johnson, descends on Pumpkin Ridge Golf Club in the tiny North Plains, nestled in the hills west of Portland.

But the mayor of North Plains, along with officials from surrounding towns, wrote to the club’s owner, Escalante Golf, with concern. Oregon Senator Ron Wyden has spoken out against the tournament, and some expensive club members are also uncomfortable with the situation.

Opponents point to human rights violations in Saudi Arabia, including the murder of American journalist Jamal Khashoggi. But in Oregon, there is also anger over the hit-and-run death of 15-year-old Fallon Smart in 2016.

Saudi student Abdulrahman Sameer Noorah was facing a first-degree murder trial when he removed a tracking device and disappeared. US authorities believe the Saudi government helped obtain a fake passport and provided a private jet for the return trip to Saudi Arabia. The case was featured in “60 Minutes”.

“It’s wrong to be silent when Saudi Arabia is trying to clean bloodstained hands, in the fight for justice for Oregonians – Fallon Smart was killed very close to our home in Southeast Portland, and the person charged with the crime, a hit-and-run dead, was, based on all the evidence, driven out of the country by the Saudis before appearing for trial,” Wyden said in an interview with the Associated Press.

There are also fears the event could lead to protests in North Plains, a city of just 3,400 people. Tickets for the event prohibit fans from displaying political signs.

“We oppose this event because it is sponsored by a repressive government whose human rights violations are documented. We refuse to support these abuses by complicitly allowing the Saudi-backed organization to play in our backyards,” reads a letter signed by North Plains Mayor Teri Lenahan and 10 other town mayors. surrounding.

Wyden accuses the Saudi government of sportswashing.

“This is just one page in the playbook of autocrats covering up injustices by abusing athletics in hopes of normalizing their abuses,” he said.

The event also put the members of Pumpkin Ridge in a tough spot. Some decided to leave the club during the tournament, but it is unknown how many left.

“A lot of members are kind of stuck between a rock and a hard place right now where politically they don’t agree with this at all,” said Kevin Palmer of Beaverton. and if I leave, I don’t get any of that money back.

Greg Norman is CEO of LIV Golf Investments and the face of a tour that aims to rival the PGA Tour. Portland’s 48-man field will compete for $20 million in prize money for individual play and $5 million in team play, with 12 teams. Teams will be announced Tuesday after a draft.

Johnson, who had been world No. 1 longer than any player since Tiger Woods, and six-time major champion Mickelson were among the first big names to join them. The Portland champ has since added Bryson DeChambeau, Brooks Koepka and Patrick Reed, all major champions but none among the current top 20 players in the world rankings.

The PGA Tour suspended all members who participated in the first LIV event because they did not have conflicting versions of events. Those in Portland will also be suspended when they do.

The tour generally awards three such outings per year, for overseas tournaments only. It does not allow its members to participate in tournaments held in North America.

The Portland event takes place the same week as the John Deere Classic in Illinois.

“The PGA Tour, an American institution, cannot compete with a foreign monarchy spending billions of dollars trying to buy the game of golf,” commissioner Jay Monahan said last week. “We welcome good and healthy competition. Saudi Golf League LIV is not that. It’s an irrational threat, not concerned with the return on investment or the true growth of the game.”

The LIV Tour consists of eight events this year, five in the United States. After stopping in Portland, the tour moves to Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster.

Texas-based Escalante Golf, owner of Pumpkin Ridge and another LIV Series course, did not respond to a request for comment.

“We believe we have a moral obligation to take a stand and speak out against this event in order to protect the people we serve,” the mayors wrote in their letter to the company. “While our local jurisdictions may not be able to prevent this event, we unite to express our concerns about the potential unwanted risks, visitors and damage this event could have on our communities.


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