CORRECTION (May 10, 4:06 p.m. ET): Vox appended the following correction to its post this afternoon: “In an earlier version of this article, the interviewee mischaracterized the age of Ted Virtue’s son who played golf with Trump. All of Virtue’s sons are at least in their 20s, not child-age. We sincerely regret the error.” I sincerely regret it, too.
It has long been known that Donald Trump cheats at golf. Not a little, either, but cheats with exactly the same degree of oafish balls-out shamelessness that he does everything else. Stories about this have circulated for a long time, to the point where they have taken on a sort of Mad Libs quality. Who can forget the time that Trump [threw/kicked/coaxed] a ball struck by [prominent sportscaster/longtime Days Of Our Lives cast member/thrice-divorced Florida chiropractor] into [a sand trap/a water hazard/a nearby alligator’s open mouth]? Try it yourself and enjoy a moment of outrage at Trump cheating egregiously so as to avoid losing a hole to David Charvet in match play.
There are enough of these stories out there that semi-retired journalist Rick Reilly was able to round them up into an entire book called Commander In Cheat. In promoting that book, Reilly has avowed that he remains a non-political person who was moved to write not by Trump’s broader grotesquerie but by the offenses that the president has visited upon the noble game of golf over his decades of relentless cheesy chiseling cheating. To the extent that receipts are necessary to prove something that everyone already knows to be true, Reilly seems to have them.
Many of the people that Reilly spoke to refused to attach their names to the stories they told, mostly because they understood that the current President of the United States is absolutely the sort of person who would pursue a scorched-earth campaign of retribution against anyone who insinuated that he was not, as he has often claimed, “the best golfer of all the rich people.” In an interview with Vox, Reilly tells a story about which the broad strokes have been known for some time—how Trump wheedled and bullied the financier and film producer Ted Virtue out of the club championship that Virtue had won at the Trump International Club in West Palm Beach.
To recap: Virtue won the title in actual club championship play, Trump said it didn’t count because Trump himself wasn’t on the scene at the time, Trump demanded that Virtue play him for the championship and then “won” what he later magnanimously agreed to term a co-championship. The full story is much more rewarding, at least in the sense that it involves the president baldly stealing from a child.
[Virtue] was playing with his kid, who I think is 10 or 11 years old. He [Trump] sees Ted on the 12th hole and decides to drive his cart over there. He tells Ted: Congrats on winning the club championship, but you didn’t really win it because I was out of town.
Ted tries to laugh it off, but Trump is dead serious. Trump says, “We’re going to play these last six holes for the championship.” And Ted’s like, “I’m playing with my son, but thanks anyway.” But Trump says, “No, your son can play too.” So they end up playing.
They get to a hole with a big pond on it. Both Ted and his son hit the ball on the green, and Trump hits his in the water. By the time they get to the hole, Trump is lining up the kid’s ball. Only now it’s his ball and the caddie has switched it. The kid’s like, “Daddy, that’s my ball.”
But Trump’s caddie goes, “No, this is the president’s ball; your ball went in the water.” Ted and his son look at each other confused, not sure if this is really happening. And Trump’s caddie says, “This is the president’s ball. I don’t know what to tell you.”
Trump makes that putt, wins one up, and declares himself the club champion.
And that’s the story of how, while serving as the 45th President of the United States, Donald Trump duffed an approach shot and then instructed his caddy to steal the ball of a child who had hit a superior shot, so that he could claim that he was the 2018 co-champion of a golf course that he owns in Florida. In your heart, you surely already knew all that. But also there it is.