Galloway Gazette reporter Louise Kerr met Donald Trump when he arrived at Turnberry last week to unveil his plans for the hotel and golf courses.
The one thing that hits you between the eyebrows about billionaire property developer Donald Trump is how completely at ease he is with fame, fortune, controversy and cameras. Born to it.
Having purchased Turnberry Hotel and Golf Courses in April for an undisclosed sum, Mr Trump’s visited the west of Scotland to tell the world of his grandiose plans for the newly renamed ‘Trump Turnberry’.
The famously verbose New Yorker with a reported net worth of 7.3 billion and a keen eye for a money making opportunity, blew into the south Ayrshire coast with a following westerly tailwind of his customery hyperbole. In tow were second son Eric, third wife Melania and Martin Ebert, the golf course architect given the task of rearranging the crown jewels of the Ailsa course to tee up the Open in the 2020’s.
The three main players gazed down on the Scottish media, the grey suits from South Ayrshire Council and hacks for the glossy golf mags and tourist brochures at the Trump Organisation’s “first press conference” in the 1906 room of the iconic old Edwardian hotel. We all sat, pens poised, as the high noon showdown commenced with ‘The Donald’ - as first wife Ivana famously christened him - addressing us.
You realise that Mr Trump has long term plans for Trump Turnberry when he announced he was gong to spend “at least” £100 million on the “debt free” resort.
For the first wee while you are so distracted by the hairdo you don’t hear a word. How does it stay in place? Could that really be strawberry blonde highlights through it? And most confusing of all, given all that disposable income – why does his wife not insist he goes and gets a decent haircut – anything would look better that the tribute to shredded wheat?
But I digress.
Turnberry was, according to the new owner “unique” and “one of the great golf courses of the world” and you could see he was genuinely thrilled to be the custodian of this renowned golfers’ paradise. He has a deep affinity with Scotland as his mother was from Stornoway, and he agreed, when I briefly spoke to him, that his heart as much as his head influenced the purchase of Turnberry.
The buzz word in his speech was “family”, a term he made sure to extend to the mesmerised Turnberry staff who were all as chuffed to be in the same air space as ‘The Donald’ as a group of Favela street kids would be watching Neymar practice free kicks on Copacabana beach.
In the gloriously upbeat jargon of our American cousins, Trump Senior and Junior used phrases like “I can’t tell you how excited we are – we are going to create something amazing”; “we are having a blast”; and “it can be the finest resort of it’s kind in the world – there will be nothing like it”. Undoubtedly he has the financial clout and vision to make these outwardly trite remarks into glorious 3D reality.
Senior and Junior confessed they were up at the crack of dawn that morning to tootle round the courses in a golf buggy, rubbing their hands with glee at the prospect of putting the Trump stamp on what is undoubtedly one of the most stunningly situated golf venues in the world. ‘The Donald’ made a good point when the said it was the only course, perhaps along with Augusta, where the hotel actually enhances the golf course.
The plan is to revamp the entire hotel in around 16 months they change things on both courses after the women’s Open takes place next summer on the championship Ailsa course. The long term plan is to bring the Open back to Turnberry probably after 2020. The prospect of hosting the Open was a key factor in Trump buying the place he readily admitted, but any changes will only be made with the backing of the “highest of the higher ups” at the R&A.
Taking questions from the floor, the media savvy property mogul deftly handled questions about the referendum “it’s not my decision so I won’t take a stance”; windfarms ”they are ugly and kill thousands of birds and I hope you don’t want them here”; First Minister Alex Salmond “I like Alex. I just disagree with him over windfarms and I have to fight him on that”. Fair enough. Asked if he as bracing himself for controversy following the well documented problems at his Menie Golf Course in Aberdeenshire, Trump replied that he didn’t let the criticism that comes with controversy upset him so much these days. The older he gets the more he realised that “all the problems of the world” put his run-ins with crabbit Aberdonian small holders in perspective. “But I like to do good work”, he added, hinting that he didn’t welcome having to tinker with his masterplan when creating a “world class” golf resort. “I am an artist”, he confirmed.
Finally he swatted away a question about phallic-shaped shortbread and the perils of Facebook with the deftness of Seve landing a tricky bunker shot within a foot of the hole.
Having won over the hard nosed hacks of Caledonia, the high octane hairdo ran though his traditional repertoire of poses – the “You’re Fired!” to the left, the thumbs-up to the right – on the verdant stepped terrace outside the hotel before the new master of all he surveys hopped into the ostentatiously logo’d Trump helicopter, parked in front of soon-to-be similarily branded Trump Turnberry, smoother down his coiffure, straightened his tie and departed into the blue sky above with a satisfied smile, having trumped us all.