In the winter of 2009, Donald Trump did what Donald Trump does: He bought a prime piece of real estate, in this case the Lowes Island Club, with two 18-hole golf courses perched on the Virginia side of the Potomac River. Then, with one swift move, “I blew them up,” he said this week.
Now, Trump wants his renovated Washington-area project to host one of golf’s most significant events.
“This facility is probably set up incredibly for a major,” he said, looking out from the back deck of the clubhouse.
This week, Trump National Golf Club hosts the Junior PGA Championship, an annual tournament that attracts the best teenage talent — both boys and girls — from all over the globe. More importantly for Trump and Washington golf fans, though: It provides an entree with the PGA of America, which stages the PGA Championship — the fourth major tournament every year.
So could Trump really lure a major to his Loudoun County facility?
“I was absolutely blown away by the golf course and the property,” Peter Bevacqua, the CEO of the PGA of America, said Tuesday by phone. “To think that there’s a facility with over 800 acres in that setting, with those unobstructed views of the Potomac River, miles outside of Washington, D.C. . . . It has all the ingredients to be, certainly, a major championship facility.”
The PGA Championship, which will be held next week at Oak Hill Country Club in Rochester, N.Y., has sites through 2018. The Ryder Cup — the biennial team competition between the United States and Europe also staged by the PGA of America — has sites through 2020; the next domestic Ryder Cup to be awarded won’t be held until 2024.
Washington’s annual PGA Tour stop, the AT&T National, has a home at Congressional Country Club, where it was staged in 2007-09 and 2011-13 and will be again next year. Congressional’s membership will vote this fall on a three-year extension that would keep the tournament in Bethesda in 2015-17.
Officials from the Tiger Woods Foundation, which both stages and benefits from the AT&T National, have visited Trump National and other courses — including TPC Potomac at Avenel Farm, which sits across the street from Congressional — on scouting missions in case Congressional doesn’t invite the tournament back.
“We certainly would consider it for the future if they’re interested in having a discussion. The golf course conditioning and layout are great,” Greg McLaughlin, the CEO of the Tiger Woods Foundation who also serves as tournament director of the AT&T National, said Tuesday. “But right now, we’re really focused on continuing our discussions with Congressional Country Club. We really hope we can work something out there.”
That would leave Trump National, which was overhauled by renowned golf architect Tom Fazio, searching for a tournament. Such an event is clearly important for some in Trump’s camp.
“In a certain way, I think it’s pride,” said Eric Trump, Donald Trump’s son, who serves as the executive vice president for development and acquisitions of the Trump Organization. “I think it’s the fruition of all your work coming together, and showing everybody: To get these tournaments, you have to be the best.”
Donald Trump said his 860-acre facility could handle 150,000 fans, and there would be room to park “thousands of cars” — though access to the course, which sits off Algonkian Parkway in Sterling, could be difficult for that much traffic. The course has ample space for grandstands, concessions, merchandise and luxury tents, but there are some holes on which there would be long walks between one green and the next tee.
Still, Trump is undeterred.
“I think I’ll get many, many tournaments, because I have the best product,” Trump said. “Nobody has land like this.”
Trump owns 15 golf facilities worldwide, from Los Angeles to Florida to Scotland. He is currently overhauling the famed “Blue Monster” course at Florida’s Doral Golf Resort, which he bought last year. He hired architect Gil Hanse and his partner Jim Wagner — who have overseen restorations at places such as The Country Club in Brookline, Mass., and are building the Olympic course in Rio de Janeiro — to design and implement the changes at Doral.
“His reputation with most of his past golf developments has been sort of more ornamental — very beautiful presentation, but more over-the-top compared to what we would typically build,” Hanse said by phone. “But what we came to learn about him through this process is that he is equally passionate about golf as we are. He’s very knowledgeable about the game, and he’s learned a ton.”
Bevacqua said there is no existing timetable for naming the next venues for the PGA Championship. The PGA of America could also stage other high-profile events — such as its annual championship for club pros or the Senior PGA Championship for those over 50 — to further test the venue.
“We really will take a long, hard look at it this week and how the course plays,” Bevacqua said. “These kids are so good, we’ll get to know it, and we’ll really get a feel for the property.”
Trump played there with Bevacqua on Monday. And he does not hold back on his own assessment of his club.
“I pride myself on the quality of the property and the quality of the location,” Trump said. “Some of these courses — even if they’re good courses or great courses — when you’re building them in the middle of nowhere, it’s very hard to work for a tournament. Here, we have a great property and a great location. It’s special.”