GOLF

Mixed feelings in Boston over Saudi-backed golf tournament

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BOLTON, Mass. — A city divided.

That appears to be the case in Bolton, Massachusetts, a small town of about 5,600 and the site of the LIV Golf Boston event over Labor Day weekend at the International Golf Club which could draw crowds. dailies exceeding this number.

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Some townspeople are worried about potential traffic jams for the event, which runs Friday through Sunday and ends the day before Labor Day.

But the division is largely centered on LIV Golf, the entity that runs a new series that includes The International. LIV is financially supported by the Saudi government.

What bothers some locals is the country’s reported human rights abuses and the potential message it sends to outsiders that Bolton is somehow condoning those abuses.

“I was disappointed when I heard the tournament was coming here,” said Joe Myerson, a Bolton owner for nearly 40 years who has served on city councils and committees.

Bolton resident Joe Myerson. Photo by Henry Schwan/Telegram & Gazette

Some Bolton residents have raised a total of $1,100 to pay for opposition posts at the event, said Patrick Mahoney, who is part of a group that does not want the event to take place in town . Mahoney estimated the number of people who donated money at more than 20.

Protesters will have their say in a designated area near a car park which is normally used for the Bolton Fair, Bolton Town Administrator Don Lowe said.

This lot is the only permitted parking area for tournament visitors, and shuttle buses will run between the lot and The International.

Division at Bolton

Lowe acknowledged the city division, where he worked as a city administrator for the past 13 years.

“There are differing opinions,” he said. “Some strongly oppose it, and some locals see it as a benefit, that it will help businesses, given the economy.”

Don Lowe, Bolton Town Administrator. Photo by Henry Schwan/Telegram & Gazette

Bruce Slater, owner of Slater’s restaurant on Main Street, said he saw the tournament as an economic boost for businesses in Bolton and surrounding communities.

“This is a world class event which is good for the town,” said Slater, whose family roots in Bolton date back to the 1950s.

Asked about the event’s connection to Saudi Arabia, Slater said The International was a private company doing business with another country.

“There are other private companies doing business with other countries that are just as bad,” Slater said.

He continued: “There is a lot of hypocrisy in this country. This event will attract people. I hope it doesn’t shed a negative light on the city.

“I love this city and this tournament is a good thing.”

Several Main Street businesses declined to comment because they did not want to be caught in the middle of controversy.

Bruce Slater owns Slater’s on Main Street in Bolton. Photo by Rick Cinclair/Telegram & Gazette

Sue Loring, owner of the Quilted Crow, doesn’t think the tournament will bring much business to her fabric and quilt shop, but there could be some traffic delays outside her store on Main Street.

As for the tournament’s connection to Saudi Arabia, Loring said she didn’t know much about it, adding, “I don’t want to go there.”

In a statement prepared by The International, the club said it was delighted to bring golf “on a massive scale” to the area.

“LIV Golf wanted to come to our area in its first year and we are excited to bring high profile golf to our area. We’ve been tracking fan experiences at each of LIV Golf’s previous tournaments and the feedback has been overwhelmingly positive, consistently showing that fans were thrilled with the experience and eager to attend again in the future. Golf enthusiasts, sports enthusiasts and entire families are sure to have fun.

Escalante Golf, the Texas-based company that owns The International, did not respond to a Telegram and gazette request for comment.

division node

The heart of the division is the funder of LIV Golf, a rival league of the PGA Tour.

This backer is Mohammad bin Salman, the Saudi Crown Prince and Chairman of the Saudi Public Investment Fund. The fund would be the majority shareholder of LIV Golf Investments, the entity that organizes LIV tournaments.

Fence along the road and a guest entrance across from a parking lot at The International for the upcoming LIV Golf Boston Invitational.

Protests have marked LIV tournaments since the inaugural event held outside London in June.

Last month, 9/11 Families United protested at a LIV tournament at the Trump National Golf Course in New Jersey, where they expressed outrage over the Saudi-backed league and the country’s ties to the attacks of September 11.

The Saudi regime is also linked to violent crackdowns on dissidents, including the 2018 murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. A declassified US government document said bin Salman ordered the killing.

Earlier this month, a Saudi court sentenced a mother to 34 years in prison after she tweeted messages supporting women’s rights.

These developments relate to Mahoney, who also spoke of a “Tiger Squad” that hunts down opponents of bin Salman.

“I prefer the city to do business with those who are more committed to core American ideals, like freedom of speech,” Mahoney said. “The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, for us, we cannot forget the bad things it does.”

I can’t stop it

Mahoney and Myerson acknowledged there was nothing stopping The International and Escalante Golf from hosting the event as it is a private company.

However, they see it as a case of “sports washing” by bin Salman and the Saudi regime, a term to describe investment in sports properties that generate public enthusiasm in order to divert attention from human rights abuses. ‘man.

“[LIV] tries to polish the sinister image of bin Salman, showing him as a sporting benefactor,” Myerson said.

Public Safety and Security

Keeping residents safe during the three-day event is Lowe’s goal.

Local police, state police and fire department details will be on site, allowing for a maximum of 6,500 attendees per day. This includes golfers, volunteers and the media, according to Lowe.

LIV Golf will pay for these details plus a 10% administration fee.

Lowe made it clear that the city government of Bolton was not getting a penny from the tournament, to dispel any notion that the town was being bought by LIV.

Deal done

Some naysayers, including Mahoney, believe the event was a done deal before residents learned it was happening.

Lowe said he received a courtesy call in March from Steve Brennan, managing director of The International, three hours before a press release from LIV that the tournament was potentially going to Bolton.

Meetings involving the city, LIV and The International began in March, according to Lowe. The city select committee did not address the issue in open session until early June, and in another open session later that month, the council issued the special permit needed to move forward. the event.

All city-issued permits were issued through standard channels that all businesses and local residents must adhere to, Lowe said.

Payment of 1 million dollars?

There’s also talk of an LIV payment to local nonprofits, and Lowe said he’s heard the total payout could be up to $1 million.

Lancaster wants to get some of that money because the tournament parking lot is located in that town. This comes with spending on security to maintain traffic flow and public safety.

LIV Golf Bedminster

Phil Mickelson plays his shot from the first tee during the first round of a LIV golf tournament at Trump National Golf Club Bedminster. (Photo: Jonathan Jones-USA TODAY Sports)

Lancaster City Manager Kate Hodges said tournament director Mike Goggin told her last week that several Lancaster entities were going to be receiving cash donations.

“(Goggin) said he would send me a list of these entities, and I didn’t receive it,” Hodges said Thursday morning. “I’m holding my breath.”

A spokesperson for LIV said in an email that LIV Golf will soon announce details of its charitable support to the local community.

LIV to Give, the entity’s charitable arm, announced in June a $100 million commitment to support programs focused on education, environmental sustainability, golf development and community well-being.

As for how Lancaster feels about the tournament, Hodges pointed to two issues.

“First, there is the issue with the tournament sponsors and where they receive funding,” he said. “It’s personal for the people here.”

The other issue is the designated protest zone which is causing some nervousness in the city. But residents are feeling much better about it, Hodges said, as local police updated the Select Board this month on safety plans.

Lancaster Police meet weekly with State Police to ensure safety and traffic plans are in place. Bolton police also meet with state police weekly, Lowe said.

Some will attend, some won’t.

Lowe’s staff will attend the tournament because they have work to do. But Lowe won’t because he said it could be a distraction for his staff.

“I play no role there,” Lowe said.

Slater said he hopes he can find time in his busy schedule to watch some of the golfers in action.

If he can, he’ll bring his camera, as he’d like to take a picture of superstar Phil Mickelson, a former PGA Tour headliner who is now affiliated with the LIV series. Mickelson reportedly signed a $200 million deal to join LIV.

“If I can sneak in and take a picture of Phil Mickelson, then I’d be happy,” Slater said.

Happy isn’t a word to describe Myerson and Mahoney – they won’t set foot in The International.

“It is unfortunate that the city is being used to polish bin Salman’s murderous regime. Bolton can’t do anything about it. Except, don’t go there,” Myerson said.

“If other places are acting like we are acting, then (the Saudi government) will fail to rebrand itself,” Mahoney said of those in Bolton who oppose the tournament.

“We’re a small town and we don’t want that here.”

Contact Henry Schwan at henry.schwan@telegram.com. Follow him on Twitter @henrytelegram

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