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Three Former Pumpkin Ridge Golf Club Members Explain Why They Quit Over Saudi-Backed Tournament

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In March, a recently launched but already struggling golf league called LIV Golf announced its first tour. His second stop in the United States: Pumpkin Ridge Golf Club northwest of Portland. An elegant oasis nestled among towering fir trees, the North Plains Club features two 18-hole golf courses, one public and the other open to members only.

Pumpkin Ridge now has a few fewer of those members.

That’s because they oppose organizing a tour financially backed by Saudi Arabia’s investment arm. Saudi Arabia’s government has long faced accusations of human rights abuses, as well as accusations that it has used investment in major sports as a way to distract from those abuses.

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The LIV tour event at Pumpkin Ridge will take place June 30-July 2.

Pumpkin Ridge is locally managed but owned by Escalante Golf, a Texas-based company started by three college fraternity brothers.

Escalante did not respond to wwwRepeated requests for comments. Another silent voice: Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler. While the tournament isn’t in Portland proper, it’s likely to draw thousands of spectators to a city just miles away. In late April, 11 Washington County mayors signed a letter opposing the tournament there. Wheeler has not said anything and his office did not respond to wwwRequests for comments. Meanwhile, Pumpkin Ridge is watching the members leave. It’s not clear how many, but some former members estimate the number may be as high as 40.

In the last week, www spoke to five former members of Pumpkin Ridge. the five say www the first time they learned that the tournament was being organized in Pumpkin Ridge was on the news.

Four left the club in a month. www he asked three of them: Tom Etzel, CEO of an event management company; Eamon McErlean, a software company executive; and Roland Carfagno, owner of the Italian restaurant Justa Pasta, why they left.

Member responses have been lightly edited for brevity and clarity.

What was your reaction to the news?

Tom Etzel: I was surprised, surprised and disappointed.

I contacted Escalante, both with club management and corporate headquarters. I spoke to both the club and corporate headquarters. I was disappointed in his answers, and they seemed very calculated.

I left the club that same day. I’m one person, but I felt like it was important and obviously had conversations with other members who shared some of the same beliefs. I was hoping we could change their minds.

What’s wrong with LIV Golf playing at Pumpkin Ridge?

Eamon McErlean: I’m not thinking the PGA is perfect by any means. But what we do know about the Saudi Arabian wealth pool, when you start to peel back the layers a little bit and you look at some of the human rights crises that they’ve been associated with, it’s just not something that I’d like to be attached to in any way. no way. road.

I sent Escalante two, if not three, subsequent emails stating my frustration with three things: one, the decision itself. Two, how did you communicate? And three, how in recent months the level of service had deteriorated significantly. Some of the basics like literally no golf balls on the course, no towels available. There was a Saturday afternoon, a small battery shack in the middle of the round was not only closed, but it was under lock and key. These are all First World problems, I get it. But as a paying member, you expect a level of service.

I think it had something to do with the tournament that was coming up, I think so. Because I played once before I left, and you could see them repainting the whole clubhouse. It was just a complete face lift across the board.

Escalante executives came to Pumpkin Ridge to answer questions from members. How was that?

Roland Carfagno: Immediately there was a great uproar. Many members said, what is going on? Everyone I played with in Pumpkin is gone.

A couple of people from Escalante Golf came over to meet with the members, and it took me two minutes to realize that they didn’t really care what the members thought. They held an open house and were there for four hours. It was they who spoke first, and then we were allowed to ask questions. There were questions about whether they considered how members felt about it, concerns about how poor the service had been recently, questions about how they came to this decision.

The gist of his message was: this was too good an opportunity to pass up. We all assume there is a big check behind this. They did not reveal anything about the money. I personally know six members besides myself who left. But no one knows for sure.

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