The Saudi-backed LIV Golf tour has just eight events worldwide in its first season, with one of its stops in the small Massachusetts town of Bolton.
Fencing could be seen going up Tuesday around The International, a private country club.
“A big-time, worldwide event coming to a very small town,” said Bolton Town Administrator Don Lowe.
The International is hosting the event as Bolton prepares to be at the center of one of the biggest sports stories of the year.
“I certainly understand concerns that some people have that might prefer it not be here,” said Lowe.
The LIV tour has come under fire because it’s backed by the government of Saudi Arabia.
“The Saudi Arabian government is trying to make itself look better by becoming associated with sports, something that people like, in order to detract, to take away attention, from things like its human rights record,” said Paul Musgrave, a professor of political science at UMass Amherst.
The town has taken no position on the event, but it is focused on safety given that protests have taken place at other LIV events.
LIV has not made any donation to the town, but it is paying standard fees for police details and permits.
“The town is not making money on it,” said Lowe. “And I’d like to make that very clear because there’s been some chatter on social media about it.”
“I’m really excited,” said Bruce Slater, who owns Slater’s Wood-Fired Pizza in town.
Slater says the thousands of people who will be pouring into town should be a big boost for business.
“I think it’ll be more pizza,” said Slater. “I think everybody will just flourish.”
Bolton resident Joe Myerson says The International is helping to legitimize the Saudi regime.
“Saudi Arabia is a very dangerous and dirty place, as far as human rights are concerned,” said Myerson. “I don’t like to see it here in Bolton.”
Leadership at the club and at LIV declined to answer any questions on camera or about the controversy.
“We’re excited to be bringing big-time golf to our region,” The International said in a statement. “We’ve been tracking the fan experiences at each of LIV Golf’s previous tournaments and the feedback has been overwhelmingly positive.”
The tour rolls into town Labor Day weekend.