On Thursday morning, less than four miles from this scorched lawn in New Jersey, Henrik Stenson, Lee Westwood and other LIV defectors will face the cameras at Trump National Golf Club.
They will tackle difficult questions and address touchy subjects. Just as Terry Strada, Alison Crowther and Matthew Bocchi did on Tuesday.
One by one, they stood at a podium outside this public library to share their stories and state their case. Not even a crib sheet of pre-prepared answers could swat away testimony like this, surely?
‘How can I shame the shameless PGA defectors?’ asked Strada, national chair of 9/11 Families United. ‘Maybe by pointing out: when you agree to join LIV Golf, you are partaking in the (Saudi) Kingdom’s effort to cleanse their responsibility for their murder of Christine Lee Hanson, the youngest victim of September 11 who was just two years old, killed on United Flight 175 traveling to Disneyland with her parents.’
‘Just 50 miles from where they will tee off on Friday is a national museum on hallowed ground, ensuring visitors from around the world never forget, and a repository safeguarding charred remains of 40 per cent of the victims, who have never been identified or returned home for a proper burial – including my husband.’
LIV Golf touches down in Bedminster, New Jersey this week for a weekend at Trump National
Terry Strada, right, pictured with her husband Tom who was killed in the north tower on 9/11
Tom Strada, 41, worked on the 104th floor in the North Tower of the World Trade Center. His children of him were then seven, four and four days ‘old. On Tuesday, his widow returned to New Jersey to address this week’s Saudi-funded tournament.
Crowther coughed repeatedly as she remembered her son Welles. Not even a recent bout of Covid could keep her from detailing his final hours of him, when Welles saved as many as 18 lives in the burning South Tower.
All the time, she clutched his red bandana – ‘the only protection he had’ and the way the family recognized him. Bocchi, the eldest of four brothers who lost their father John, articulated some of the pain.
‘For us to sit here and accept that numerous well-known golfers can so easily accept blood money from the Saudi Royal Family is what hurts the most,’ he said.
They came to plead with Trump, LIV’s ‘woefully uninformed’ chief Greg Norman, and the golfers to think again.
Former President Donald Trump has heaped praise on LIV as it heads to Bedminster this week
Protesters say they want to make life ‘very uncomfortable’ for the golfers at Trump National
To hand out declassified FBI reports into Saudi links, denied by the Kingdom, to September 11, when al Qaeda terrorists killed almost 3,000 people. And to warn, as Bocchi said: ‘We are not going away.’
More protests are slated for Friday’s first round. These families accept they are unlikely to stop the tournament. Or, as Strada labels it, ‘a multi-billion dollar PR stunt.’ But that didn’t curb their ire towards Phil Mickleson, Trump, Joe Biden, and LIV.
‘We hope to make it very uncomfortable for them,’ she said. ‘To educate anyone else thinking about going over there.’
Will the likes of Cameron Smith hear their words?
Trump’s willingness to host the tournament here has caused a particular stir. ‘It’s a bit offensive,’ Bocchi said. After all, as Strada said, 750 of those killed came from New Jersey towns like this.
750 of those killed in the 9/11 terror attacks came from towns in New Jersey like Bedminster
Phil Mickelson (pictured), Dustin Johnson and Bryson DeChambeau are all taking part
‘Now, 20 years later, I am appalled to be standing here speaking about professional golfers’ offensive, disrespectful and hurtful participation in sportswashing,’ she added, accusing these ‘mouthpieces’ of ‘betrayal’ and doing Saudi Arabia’s ‘dirty work’. She might go on Friday; she will keep asking to meet the players.
‘My late husband was a scratch golfer, he thought about being a pro,’ Strada added. ‘He loved the game of golf… we were big fans of Phil Mickelson.’
Strada wrote to LIV’s left-handed poster boy. She wants to know: ‘What are all of their legacies going to be? That they took money from the Kingdom that murdered 3,000 people on American soil?’
Earlier this week, Trump gave his backing to LIV Golf and insisted it is ‘one of the best things to have happened in sports’ – despite a huge backlash from fans.
Speaking to the Wall Street Journal, he said: ‘I think LIV has been a great thing for Saudi Arabia, for the image of Saudi Arabia.
‘I think it’s going to be an incredible investment from that standpoint, and that’s more valuable than lots of other things because you can’t buy that—even with billions of dollars.
‘I do think that the publicity that they’ve gotten, more than anything, has been a great thing for them.
‘I think the publicity they’ve gotten is worth billions of dollars. It’s one of the hottest things to have happened in sports, and sports is a big part of life.’
The former President was also asked about the backlash from the relatives of those who died in the 9/11 terror attacks, and he insisted he knew nothing about it – despite protests and press conferences being held in the lead-up to the tournament.
‘I don’t know much about the 9/11 families, I don’t know what is the relationship to this, and their very strong feelings, and I can understand their feelings,’ he said. ‘I can’t really comment on that because I don’t know exactly what they’re saying, and what they’re saying who did what.’
Trump is a big golf fan himself, and is pictured playing at one of his courses in Scotland
The 2018 death of journalist and US citizen Khashoggi has also been a huge talking point, with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman allegedly complicit in his killing. LIV Golf is being financed by Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund, which is controlled by Bin Salman.
Again, for Trump though, that is not a concern.
‘I can say that from the standpoint of Khashoggi, that you have died down so much,’ the former President added. ‘It really seems to have totally died down. Nobody has asked me that question in months.’
This weekend’s tournament in Bedminster is set to be Henrik Stenson’s first since defecting to the LIV series, and will also feature the likes of Phil Mickelson, Dustin Johnson, Sergio Garcia and Brooks Koepka.