He Trumps His Love of Game


Donald Trump is not just a television star. He has a five handicap, he builds golf courses all over the place and names them after himself, he is a billionaire real-estate developer and he’s playing next month in a high-stakes celebrity tournament in South Lake Tahoe.

His is a lifestyle worthy of a “mogul” or a “magnate,” as Trump is often called, just as long as “hacker” isn’t thrown in there too.

That’s why Trump wishes he could spend more time practicing before the $500,000 American Century Championship tournament at Edgewood Tahoe Golf Course, where Trump can rub bank accounts with other suchmultimillionaires as Michael Jordan, John Elway, Peyton Manning, Mario Lemieux, Mark McGwire, David Carr, Kurt Russell and Dennis Quaid.


“We don’t want to look too stupid,” Trump said.

That should be no problem. Charles Barkley is playing, so that area is covered.

The celebrity event has raised $750,000 for charity the last two years and the winner takes home $100,000. While that’s certainly a tidy amount, it’s probably more like Trump change for the guy who says NBC has agreed to pay $6 million an episode for the next round of “The Apprentice.”

It was the No. 7 rated show on television, but if you’re not familiar with it, “The Apprentice” is not a show about golf or anything along the lines of some kid following in some wise pro’s footsteps. Besides, if it were, Trump’s trademark line would not be “You’re fired,” but “You’re away.”

The reason he’s going to play at South Lake Tahoe is no accident, because Trump said he’s very busy and doesn’t have much time to himself to enjoy it on the course. But this opportunity was something he couldn’t ignore.

“Because of the great success of ‘The Apprentice,’ NBC Entertainment happily asked me to play in the tournament,” he said, matter-of-factly.

Of course, the tournament will be on NBC.

Trump isn’t new to celebrity golf, if you call it that, because he has played in the AT&T; Pebble Beach National Pro-Am. He said he knows a lot of the pros and counts Phil Mickelson, Ernie Els, Tiger Woods and Nick Faldo among his favorites.

Trump and Faldo played together at Trump National Golf Club in Briarcliff Manor, N.Y., in Westchester County, where Trump tries to schedule himself at least once a week.


“I wish I could play more,” he said.

It’s a common problem, even for moguls and magnates.

Besides his course in Westchester County, Trump has Trump International Golf Club in West Palm Beach, Fla., and two new courses -- Trump National Bedminster in New Jersey and Trump National Los Angeles, which is actually Rancho Palos Verdes, and the site of the former Ocean Trails that suffered the misfortune of having its 18th hole slide down a cliff and into the ocean five years ago.

Trump, who bought the course in bankruptcy court for $27 million two years ago, said that when Trump National Los Angeles is ready for play, probably in September, it’s going to be a knockout.

“It’s better than Pebble Beach,” he said. “It’s got two miles of oceanfront, it’s a 300-acre site. When you’ve got two miles on the Pacific, it’s really hard to get excited about anything else. We’re so spoiled.”

The par-71 layout will be stretched to 7,200 yards and Trump said it has been designed for tournament play and a potential home for an LPGA event. Trump also has big plans for his New Jersey course, where he would like to persuade the USGA to stage the U.S. Open.

This is a long way from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, where Trump went to school and, when he wasn’t cooking up zillion-dollar deals in his head, learned to play golf on public courses in Philadelphia. He said he always enjoyed golf and that it evolved into his major sports interest because he couldn’t go on to play team sports.

His golf ventures are already huge successes, but Trump the entrepreneur probably would have triumphed if he had stayed in team sports. He could own a Major League Baseball team. He could fire the manager. He’s already got the lingo down.