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German golfer Bernhard Langer disputes President Trump’s story about unfounded voter fraud

Bernhard Langer, a two-time Masters champion, and the new president are not friends, according to the golfer’s daughter. (Phil Inglis/Getty Images)

The odd story of how a German professional golfer came to be mentioned by President Trump in a discussion of his desire for a “major investigation” into voter fraud turned a little more odd Thursday when the golfer denied the tale told by the president.

At issue is a Wednesday New York Times story about Trump’s remarks at a bipartisan luncheon held Monday. He repeated his claim, an unfounded assertion, that he would have won the popular vote were it not for 3 million to 5 million illegal ballots that he alleges were cast for Hillary Clinton.

When challenged on that assertion by a Democrat attending the luncheon, Trump relayed a story he said he was told by a friend, “the very famous golfer, Bernhard Langer.” The two-time Masters winner, now a fixture on the PGA’s Champions Tour, had a frustrating experience when trying to vote near his Florida home on Election Day, according to the president.

Voting rights advocates fear Trump’s unfounded fraud claims will lead to more restrictive laws

Langer was told while standing in line that he would not be able to vote, Trump said, but what Trump did not mention was that Langer is not a U.S. citizen. That was confirmed to the Times’s Glenn Thrush by the 59-year-old golfer’s daughter, Christina Langer, who graduated from Florida Atlantic last year after spending four years on the school’s golf team, and by Langer himself Thursday.

Citing staff members who also attended the luncheon, the Times reported that Trump said part of Langer’s frustration was that “ahead of and behind [him in line] were voters who did not look as if they should be allowed to vote.” Trump “threw out the names of Latin American countries that the voters might have come from,” according to the newspaper, which noted that a White House official “contradicted” that version of the depicted events.

In a statement via Golf Digest, Langer said the story had passed through several people.

“Unfortunately, the report in the New York Times and other news outlets was a mischarachterization by the media. The voting situation reported was not conveyed from me to President Trump but rather was told to me by a friend,” he said.

“I then relayed the story in conversation with another friend, who shared it with a person with ties to the White House. From there, this was misconstrued. I am not a citizen of the United States and cannot vote. It’s a privilege to live in the United States and I am blessed to call America my home. I will have no further comment at this time.”

Langer’s daughter had told the Times that her father is “not a friend of President Trump’s, and I don’t know why he would talk about him.” From the newspaper’s account:

A senior White House staff member, who was not at the Monday reception but has heard Mr. Trump tell the story, said Mr. Langer saw Mr. Trump in Florida during the Thanksgiving break and told him the story of a friend of Mr. Langer’s who had been blocked from voting. …
The story, the aide added, had made a big impression on Mr. Trump.

Trump is an avid golfer and golf fan who owns numerous courses, including several that have hosted high-level professional tournaments. However, the PGA has moved its World Golf Championship, long held at Trump National Doral in Florida, to Mexico City, with the tour’s commissioner, Tim Finchem, acknowledging last year that “politics may have contributed some.” Although there’s been talk of moving the U.S. Women’s Open from Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, N.J., it remains set to take place there next summer.

Langer, a native of Bavaria, has 103 professional wins, including his 1985 and 1993 Masters victories. He has 30 wins on the Champions Tour, including one at the just-completed Mitsubishi Electric Championship in Hawaii, and is the tour’s reigning player of the year.

In 2014, Langer told reporters at the Allianz Championship, “I am going to become an American citizen when I decide I want to or need to. I don’t feel the need at this point. I pay my taxes here like every citizen here does. I still have a German passport. Why should I trade in my German passport for an American one when I can vote in Germany? Right now, I’m not sure I want to vote the way it is going. . . . At this point I do not see any necessity to do it. It doesn’t mean I will not in the future. I have a green card, I pay my taxes. The only thing I cannot do is vote.”