Officials, local golfers concerned ahead of LIV Golf event in North Plains

Published: Jun. 28, 2022 at 5:20 PM PDT
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WASHINGTON COUNTY, Ore. (KPTV) – North Plains is only a town of about 3,000, but this weekend Pumpkin Ridge Golf Club is the site of an event tied to a heated geopolitical issue.

The LIV Golf League hasn’t just caused a riff in the pro golf world, its funding from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has some outraged the league is bringing this event to Pumpkin Ridge.

Alleged human rights abuses, the killing of Saudi journalist, Jamal Khashoggi, and the Saudi kingdom’s alleged involvement in aiding a Saudi suspect in the hit and run killing in 2016 of Fallon Smart in Portland, are all some of the reasons why some say they won’t support LIV Golf.

Andy McNiece has been a Pumpkin Ridge member for over a decade, and sits on the club’s members’ board. He says the club’s owners, Texas-based Escalante Golf, did not let members have much of a say in hosting the controversial golf league.

“It’s a moral issue, I don’t want to be involved with Saudi Arabia in this situation,” McNiece said. “I think it’s important to stand for what you believe.”

McNiece says there wasn’t much of a negotiation when Escalante Golf came to members with news of LIV Golf coming to Pumpkin Ridge. He says they money generated from the tournament will go to addressing differed maintenance that the club should have gotten done years ago.

“I was hopeful that when they came they would talk about the fact that this was a difficult decision, that they had to give it some serious consideration,” McNiece said. “They started talking about how much money they had gotten for doing this, and all the things they were going to do for the club because of it.”

For local officials in North Plains and Washington County, it’s a matter of bracing for crowds, protests, and massive delays on the roads.

“There’s only one way in and one way out of Pumpkin Ridge so no matter how you look at it, even 200 cars at one time can create quite the traffic jam,” said North Plains mayor, Teri Lenahan.

A spokesperson for the Washington County Sheriff’s Office says planning is underway for deputies to be patrolling county roads around the course to direct traffic, and additional planning with the Oregon Dept. of Transportation (ODOT). When asked about safety at the LIV Golf event, the Washington County Sheriff’s Office spokesperson sent the following statement to FOX 12:

A spokesperson for LIV Golf did not immediately return FOX 12′s request for comment. It is still unclear what a designated area for peaceful demonstrations may look like at the event.