The coastal golf resort that used to be known simply as Turnberry is now “Trump Turnberry,” and I am waiting for the man who put his name on it.
I’m looking out from the hotel at a stunning view of the golf course as it undulates into the sea when an American voice asks whether I am enjoying my stay.
I say it’s lovely, and he says he’s Eric Trump, Donald’s son. Once he identified himself, I could see the similarity, but he’s perhaps a more formal, contained version of his father.
Eric is keen to tell me the hotel is being entirely renovated. He points to some rotten wood paneling in the corner of the room and says: “That’s not very Trump.”
The arrival of The Donald
What is very Trump is his father’s arrival.
The Trump chopper comes in to land right outside the entrance to the hotel. “Trump” is emblazoned in red across the tail.
The man himself is swamped by camera crews almost as soon as he steps off, and it suddenly feels like another campaign stop for the man leading the large Republican field of presidential hopefuls in polls.
Scottish reporters bombard him with questions about illegal Mexican immigrants – Trump has claimed “rapists” and “killers” are migrating over the United States’ southern border. He takes the questioning in his stride. It’s a case of “give me what you’ve got.”
He is asked what section of America he represents.
“A big section,” he says, citing his lead in the polls.
The reporters press on: Not many of the immigrant population though?
In fact, he argues, one poll showed he was No. 1 with Hispanics. (I should add that wasn’t a national poll.)
When he’s done, Trump turns around and enters his hotel where he’s swamped by an entourage instead including security, siblings and senior staff.
He picks out employees with whom he wants to talk business. He asks whether the helicopter landing looked “smooth.”
Trump owns the room
There’s no doubt the man has charm and charisma. He owns the room when he comes in. He picks people out, and they are flattered. Yes, that might be because he’s the boss, but he has respect as a fly-in business leader.
His guests on the golf course, meanwhile, are enjoying the British Women’s Open. They tended to respect him as a businessman, but were damning of his political views.
“He’s doing a good job of the course, but to me the man himself is a bit of a joke,” says one man. Another said: “His recent comments about Mexicans and things seem very silly comments to me however he has a history of fantastic things for golf … as a person, no thanks but I can’t fault his business.” A female tournament watcher said: “He’s not very people friendly. He’s a very selfish self-centered man with his own opinions about how he wants to do things.”
We were invited to a news conference that was restricted to “the subjects of golf, Turnberry and the tournament.”
That was never going to fly.
As we waited, a British journalist behind me was asking “How does he come in?!” as if there might be fireworks might be an option. Trump’s reputation certainly precedes him.
A volley of camera shutters herald the arrival of the man himself into the room, and he headed to the podium to talk Turnberry, and confirming he will answer some “unrelated questions.”
He invites the golf course architect to speak first about his work and Trump walks to the back of the room to listen.
The problem is that the cameras follow Trump. Rather awkwardly, the architect delivers his presentation to the back of photographers’ heads.
When he architect is done, Trump returns to the podium and takes questions, which range wildly from immigration to Vladimir Putin, China, Scottish separatism and even big game hunting.
He gives everything a positive spin, usually referring to his positive polling.
Golf reporters sat back as American politics take center stage in this Scottish coastal resort.
There’s little new in what Trump says, but he does answer the questions directly – apart from one unsuspecting reporter who got tangled in his words. Trump refused to answer on the grounds that the reporter couldn’t ask the question.
Call it The Trump Show or a media feeding frenzy, but The Donald knows how to court attention.
In politics, that can be divisive but, as a business leader, he’s a uniting figure, at least in this corner of Scotland.