Donald Trump wants to make one thing perfectly clear — he doesn’t cheat at golf.
The presumptive Republican presidential nominee also says he has never golfed with retired boxer Oscar De La Hoya, who earlier this week questioned Trump’s integrity on the golf course.
“Not only didn’t I cheat, I didn’t play with him,” Trump said. “I have never played a round of golf with this guy.”
Trump told The Associated Press on Thursday he respects the game too much to cheat and is good enough to have won a number of club championships. Trump, who owns 18 golf courses, says De La Hoya is lying about him because he wants to sell tickets to a fight he is promoting.
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Trump said his son Eric told him not to respond to De La Hoya’s charges that he cheated on two different holes two years ago at Trump National golf course in Los Angeles. But he says he had to say something to defend himself because golf is a game built on integrity and honor.
“He’s absolutely lying,” Trump said. “Golf is an important thing and I felt I had to say something.”
Trump said De La Hoya called him on Wednesday, not to apologize about his comments but to offer him tickets to the fight he is promoting Saturday in Las Vegas between Amir Khan and Canelo Alvarez. Trump, who was at Gennady Golovkin’s fight at Madison Square Garden in October and is a big boxing fan, said he declined the tickets.
“I told him I have something else to do, as you can imagine,” Trump said in a phone interview.
De La Hoya, who is an avid golfer, claims Trump joined his group on the first tee at Trump National and promptly hit his first drive in the water, then hit two others before driving ahead and finding his ball in the middle of the fairway. On the next hole, he said Trump hit it in the bushes but the ball somehow ended up on the green close to the hole for a “gimme.”
“Yes, I caught him,” De La Hoya said. “It was unbelievable. But I guess it was his course, so it was his rules.”
But Trump put the longtime general manager at Trump National, Lili Amini, on the phone to say she had never seen her boss play with De La Hoya. He also said there is no water on the first hole at Trump National so he could not have hit the ball there.
Trump, a low handicapper who says he hasn’t played golf in two months because of the campaign, said De La Hoya did play Trump National in a celebrity match against comedian George Lopez in 2010 as part of the “Donald J. Trump’s Fabulous World of Golf” show.
“He played terribly,” Trump said. “I walked with them but didn’t play. I’m a much better golfer than him.”
Trump said the last time he played golf it was with Lexi Thompson, a player on the LPGA tour. The campaign has taken a toll on his golf game, he said, though he noted that President Barack Obama has gotten in hundreds of rounds of golf since being elected.
Asked if he would play with De La Hoya, Trump said:
“I don’t like to play with men that wear stockings around their face.”
The quip was a reference to photos that circulated several years ago showing De La Hoya wearing fishnet hosiery and heels while cavorting with a model. De La Hoya later underwent drug and alcohol rehabilitation twice.