Some of the best golfers in the world are competing in New Jersey this weekend, and they could be partly upstaged by a guy whose best finish was to win an age-group club title.
Then again, he is the president — and it's his club.
President Donald Trump's golf course is hosting this weekend's U.S. Women's Open. Trump was in France this week to celebrate Bastille Day and meet with French President Emmanuel Macron, and he tweeted Friday morning that he had left Paris and would be heading to New Jersey for the tournament.
The event was expected to draw protesters Friday who have criticized the U.S. Golf Association, which operates the tournament, for not moving it to a different venue after audio surfaced last year in which Trump made derogatory comments about women.
Trump has spent several weekends at the club since his election in November, but none during an event of this magnitude: 156 golfers and their entourages, and thousands of fans.
"If the president does choose to come to the championship, we are ready," said Matt Sawicki, USGA's director of championships.
While the connection between American presidents and major sporting events is well-established — the tradition of throwing out the first pitch on baseball's opening day dates back to the early 20th century, for example — this weekend poses a unique security challenge.
Trump's residence is on the golf course, which sits on more than 600 acres of rolling hills in central New Jersey farmland, where a steady stream of players and fans will be walking throughout the four days.
Maintaining boundaries between the president and the public is crucial, as is being able to adjust on the fly, according to Thom Bolsch, a retired Secret Service agent who served under Presidents George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush.
"Any movement that a protectee makes, the script is probably about 95 percent solid, where we know what he's doing and we've briefed the staff and the staff has briefed him," Bolsch told The Associated Press. "But they're human and a lot of times they see people they know, or they see a crowd. They're politicians and they need to go and kiss babies, and they're going to go do it."
At a visit last month, for instance, Trump surprised a couple celebrating their wedding at the club and posed for pictures with them. It's unknown whether he plans to mingle outside.
"If he's actually going to go to one of the tee boxes or greens, we would have actually swept the area and everyone that's around there would have been prescreened," Bolsch said. "Now if we screened the fourth hole and he wanted to walk to the fifth hole, we're probably going to do it.
"We're probably going to advise against it just by the sheer number of people. But if we didn't even know he was going to do it, then anyone wanting to do him harm also didn't know he was going to do it," Bolsch said.
"Our choice is to know in advance, to make sure we have assets in place from counter surveillance units to snipers, and everything we need is in place because we know where he's going," he said, adding that personnel can be shifted from other areas of a location if events dictate.
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