Donald Trump

Building buildings isn't enough. Now you're building golf courses.

Trump International, right in the middle of Palm Beach County. A terrific piece of land, 18 great holes. We're very proud of it.

You opened it last November, and it's already a hot property.

Absolutely. Jim Fazio designed it, Bruce Zabriski, a great player, is our pro, and we've got members paying $300,000 to join. In fact, pros like Greg Norman and Ray Floyd play here all the time.

And not many courses have their own bomb shelter.

True. The U.S. government used to store ammunition there during World War II. But we can't really use it as a halfway house, because it's on the second hole.

What's your handicap at Winged Foot?

I don't play enough to have one. I'm about a 5 or 6. I love to play, but I don't have enough time to practice. I hit five or six balls on the range, then I go. And I go quickly. Best score ever is 74, but not there.

Do you play for money?

Preferably. But just for the competition. The most ever, maybe $10,000. But that's ridiculous. Most of the time it's a $50 nassau.

You're all about the art of the deal. Do you do business on the course?

I'm not a cell-phone guy, but, yes, I do business.

What's more exciting, building a 90-story building or a golf course?

Let me answer that this way. There are people joining Trump International who wouldn't normally join with me in another venture, if you know what I mean. My rivals elsewhere tell me it's the best course in Florida.

Do you watch golf?

All the time. I'll leave my office in New York on a Thursday to go home and watch a major on cable TV. I went to Augusta National last year for the first time. Fantastic.

Would you trade all you've got and all you've done to be Jack Nicklaus?

He's the best ever, but no. I like my life as it is, and part of it is golf.

If you become President of the United States, will you still play?

Of course, and it will be good for golf. Look what Dwight Eisenhower did to raise the sport's visibility.

President Clinton has been known to exercise executive privilege by dropping a ball where and when he wants. Could you see doing that?

I could absolutely see that.

Would you give Clinton a membership?

Yes. The house he bought in New York is right near another course we're building, Trump National.

What's your biggest golf thrill?

I had a hole-in-one at the AT&T a few years ago at Spyglass Hill, No. 12, 186 yards, 5-iron. Brett Ogle won it, and said I got more publicity than he did. Payne Stewart told me on the tee, "Slow up your swing." I swing fast. Thousands of people there. Ball goes in the hole, and I turned to Payne: "You mean like that?"

How do golf and business differ?

I know my limitations in golf. Payne used to be able to hit a 1-iron so high that it would land so soft, like a wedge. Me, I don't even carry a 1-iron. In my work life, hopefully I can hit a high 1-iron.

Athletes and celebrities say they're petrified about pro-ams because of the crowds.

I'm right with them. I remember seeing Joe Montana at Pebble Beach the year I made the ace. He said nothing made him as nervous as playing in a tournament. First tee ball at those things is more daunting to me than any business deal.

Any other missions?

As long as you asked, I'd be very disappointed if, sometime soon, Trump International isn't ranked in the top 10 by Golf Digest.

Bob Verdi

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