Saudi-Backed Golf League Coming to Portland Golf Club in July for Tour Tournament

The league’s backer is the financial arm of Saudi Arabia—a country accused of numerous human rights abuses.

pumpkin Pumpkin Ridge Golf Club. (greenjacket88 / Flickr)

A golf course just outside Portland is one of four U.S. tournament locations for a new, upstart golf league backed by Saudi Arabia.

LIV Golf, the new league backed by Saudi Arabia’s financial arm and led by former top golfer Greg Norman, will launch its inaugural tour in London in June.

Portland will be the second stop. The tournament will be held at the privately owned Pumpkin Ridge Golf Club in North Plains, just north of Hillsboro, from July 1 to 3.

But the tour does not enter Portland this summer unencumbered by controversy. LIV’s largest financial backer, the Public Investment Fund, is essentially Saudi Arabia’s investment arm. It’s one of the largest wealth funds in the world and invests heavily in sports. It’s been heavily scrutinized for lack of transparency of its investments, and the Saudi Arabian government has long faced numerous accusations of human rights abuses—as well as allegations that it’s used investment in major sports as a way to distract from those abuses.

Pumpkin Ridge is owned by a Fort Worth, Texas, company called Escalante Golf, which owns 20 golf facilities across the United States. Escalante also owns the golf club hosting the fourth event on the tour in Boston.

Ryan McDonald, Escalante’s director of organizational development, would not answer directly when WW asked if LIV’s controversial financial backing by Saudi Arabia was considered by Escalante when deciding to host the event.

“We look at it no different than any other professional event we’ve hosted. We’re focused on providing a great venue for professional golf, it’s 100% on the property, the tournament conditioning, and our team there,” McDonald says. “I’m not able to talk about those discussions and how they were made.”

McDonald would not discuss how much the company was being paid to host the event at Pumpkin Ridge.

Escalante was founded in 1991 by three men who met in college when they were fraternity brothers. Escalante purchased Pumpkin Ridge in 2015.

LIV’s tour will offer $255 million in prize money and will be a 54-hole competition.

Norman has clashed with the PGA Tour over his pet project, enticing players to participate in his league and leaving PGA leadership irate. The PGA has fought back, warning its players it would sever ties with them if they were to play in Norman’s league.

The other domestic locations, in addition to Boston, are Chicago and the Trump National Golf Club Bedminster in New Jersey.

Willamette Week’s reporting has concrete impacts that change laws, force action from civic leaders, and drive compromised politicians from public office. Support WW's journalism today.