Twenty years before 41-year-old Tom Strada found himself as a bond broker for Cantor Fitzgerald on the 104th floor of the north tower of the World Trade Center at 8:46 am on Sept. 11, 2001, he was a scratch golfer and assistant pro at Meadow Brook Country Club.
That’s where he puts his future wife, Terry, a waitress at the club. She describes their first meeting in the kitchen as love at first sight and speaks fondly about the two Long Island families’ connection to the game, both recreationally and as fans of stars Phil Mickelson, Greg Norman and others. But last week she spoke less fondly to Mickelson and other American players in a letter to them from the organization she chairs, 911familiesunited.org, for their involvement in the controversial Saudi-backed LIV Golf Series. She accused the group of “sportswashing” and betraying the United States.
Monday at the US Open, Mickelson was asked about the letter, which The Post was first to report on, and said, in part, that he had the “deepest of sympathy and empathy” for the Stradas and other 9/11 families.
A day later, in a phone interview with The Post, Terry Strada said that Mickelson’s words were “disappointing, hollow and insulting.” She was also taken aback by the manner in which Mickelson answered reporters’ questions during the sometimes testy 25-minute press conference.
“The way he hurried the reporter [asking if there was a question in there] was very rude,” Strada said. “I was shocked and disappointed that he was evading the question. He’s aware that he’s sportswashing, and he’s trying to evade that. But he’s involved in it.”
Sportswashing is the idea that LIV Golf is being used to distract from Saudi Arabia’s long list of human rights atrocities, which include the country’s mass execution of 81 men in March. There was also the 2018 murder of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi inside the Saudi consulate in Turkey, which crown prince Mohammed bin Salman ordered, according to intelligence services. And 15 of the 19 hijackers on Sept. 11 were from Saudi Arabia.
Bin Salman, meanwhile, controls the Public Investment Fund, which is bankrolling LIV Golf. Norman is serving as the league’s CEO and commissioner. Mickelson has admitted that the Saudis are engaged in sportswashing but said that LIV Golf appeals to him because of “an obvious, incredible financial commitment, for all the players involved, and everyone involved.”
Mickelson, along with Dustin Johnson and Bryson DeChambeau, reportedly signed nine-figure deals with the league.
“I cried [when I heard that they were starting this league],” said Strada, whose three children, Justin, 20, Kaitlyn, 24, and Tom, 27, all grew up playing golf. “We were big fans of Phil Mickelson, and Greg Norman, too. We always enjoyed [Mickelson’s] charisma and personality. We always rooted for him.”
In a statement Strada released on Monday, she said that Mickelson knows what he’s doing and that he and the other players participating in the Saudi-backed league should be “ashamed.”
“To see [them] involved with this is disappointing. It’s also insulting,” Strada reiterated to The Post. “Golf is a game of honor and respectability. Now they’re helping The Kingdom in whitewashing history.”