By Larry Fine
RANCHO MIRAGE, California (Reuters) - While the ANA Inspiring Women in Sports Conference was underway this week, a plane flew over Mission Hills towing a banner reading: "USGA & LPGA: DUMP TRUMP".
The banner, sponsored by women's advocacy group UltraViolet, referred to July's U.S. Women's Open championship scheduled to be played at the U.S. president's Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, New Jersey.
Many people have called for the championship to be moved in light of Donald Trump’s controversial remarks about women during his presidential campaign.
But the game is still on for Bedminster and LPGA Commissioner Mike Whan said most of the tour's players prefer not to mix politics with sport.
"It’s obviously gotten the attention of a lot of people and I think I probably get about 50 calls a day from both sides of the coin," LPGA chief Whan told Reuters ahead of the ANA Inspiration tournament, where players during a practice round on Tuesday could hardly avoid seeing the anti-Trump banner flying overheard.
"The one comment I’ve gotten consistently from players is ‘don’t let politics get in the way of our opportunities,'" Whan said.
"Whether they like Trump, dislike Trump, who they voted for, who they didn’t vote for, what they realize is making it to a U.S. Women’s Open is the ultimate, ultimate privilege and reward."
The Women's Open is run by the U.S. Golf Association, not the LPGA, though most of the competitors will be LPGA members.
UltraViolet said more than 100,000 people have signed a petition calling on the U.S. Golf Association and LPGA Tour to move the event, which it says would provide Trump millions of dollars in revenue, free advertising and branding.
Lizette Salas, the daughter of Mexican immigrants, many of whom have been stung by Trump comments about those who have crossed the U.S. border illegally, said she looked forward to competing.
"I’ve gotten requests to boycott it and to not play in it because of what he has said," Salas told Reuters. "For me, it’s a golf tournament, regardless of who’s name it is, or who is hosting it.
"It’s our national championship and I wouldn’t miss it. It's a golf tournament, not a political debate. I’m just going to go out there and do my thing and hopefully win it. That is my dream and I know it is a dream for others."
The PGA Tour moved a big event, the WGC-Cadillac Championship, from Trump National Doral in Florida to Mexico City, this year, though the tour claimed the switch was not motivated by political considerations.
There has been some opposition to Trump from LPGA players, with England's Jodi Ewart Shadoff against the site of the Women's Open.
“On principle, I feel it’s just not right,” Ewart Shadoff said before Trump was sworn in.
LPGA Commissioner Whan said politics should take a back seat.
"I certainly will not let either my political views or anyone else’s get in the way of the best opportunity for women in this game," he said.
(Editing by Andrew Both)