PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — A drive on Old Pumpkin Ridge Road looks different than it did a few months ago. The strawberry fields are bursting, pallets for picking line the fields, and new dirt roads and signs have been constructed for the LIV Golf tournament being held June 30-July 2.
The tournament comes with political and safety concerns. Washington County Commissioner Jerry Willey says he’s aware of both but concerns himself with what he can control when working with LIV organizers.
“They’ve been very forthright in what they’re doing and how the events going to roll out,” Willey said in an interview.
Willey looped in the Washington County Sheriff’s Office into the conversation and says they’ve been meeting every two weeks to speak about the safety aspect of the tournament.
Deputies and LIV’s hired security will be manning the roadways leading to the tournament. Officials are expecting there to be protesters.
“Our primary role as a sheriff’s office is to ensure public safety in Washington County. While we understand the LIV Golf Invitational is controversial, we still have an obligation to keep people safe. Planning is underway to support a safe event for the community near the event, and those in attendance,” a WCSO spokesperson wrote in a statement.
The sheriff’s office also says LIV organizers are planning an area for protestors to voice their first amendment rights. Questions to LIV about what the area looks like or how it will be handled were unanswered.
The protests and concerns stem from the funding for the tournament, coming from Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund. A $20 million payout for the winner dwarfs single-weekend winnings of a couple of million dollars from PGA Tournament events. Several high-profile golfers have moved to LIV Golf events, despite suspension threats from the PGA.
A letter from 11 mayors across Washington County detail the bulk of the concerns: human-rights abuses such as public execution and the murder of U.S. Journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
In Portland, a local case rings louder.
In 2016, 15-year-old Fallon Smart was hit and killed by a speeding driver. The driver was arrested and charged with manslaughter, but after meeting bail, the U.S. government believes the driver was taken back to Saudi Arabia to avoid justice.
“We all know who’s financing this tournament,” Willey said. “That’s outside of my purview. So, I pretty much stay focused on the things that I think need to happen and what I may have some say or control over and the rest of out of my reach.”
Willey continued to say he agrees with the concerns brought up in the letter, but his notion remains the same regarding his membership at Pumpkin Ridge. The Washington Post reported several members had left the club because of the tournament. Willey has been a member since the late 90s.
“When you belong to a club that is corporately owned, you take that into consideration when you join and that’s where I’ve been,” Willey said. “I think that’s where the other members that are going to stay the course. They may not agree with the Saudi-backed golf tournament that’s going to be there but they enjoy the club and they realize they don’t have say in those things.”
Willey isn’t sure of the impact on businesses, saying that will probably be known in the weeks following. With golfers, the groups and families they travel with, international press and spectators expected for the tournament, Willey does say hotels have been impacted.
When asked if the area should welcome the money from the tournament Willey said, “Again, that’s kind of individual corporate moral decision every business will make.”
Questions to LIV Golf or Pumpkin Ridge-owner Escanlate Golf were unanswered.