Hole-in-one as Obama golfs with 3 senators

So much for overshadowing your rivals, Mr. President.

Republican Sen. Saxby Chambliss didn’t seem fazed by a rare
congressional invitation to golf with President Barack Obama
Monday, sinking a hole-in-one on the par-three 11th hole. The ace
shot helped lead Chambliss and GOP teammate Sen. Bob Corker or
Tennessee to victory over the Democratic duo of Obama and Colorado
Sen. Mark Udall on an outing meant to strengthen ties between the
president and Congress.

Chambliss told reporters upon his triumphant return to Capitol
Hill that ”everyone went crazy” when he made the shot and there
were high-fives all around. The president retrieved the Chambliss’
ball from the hole, while Corker took a picture.

”I told him since I made the hole-in-one, he ought to give us
everything we want on entitlement reform,” Chambliss said with a
smile. That’s Washington speak for legislation to change benefits
like Social Security and Medicare.

Obama took the senators to a favorite course at Maryland’s
Andrews Air Force Base, where he frequently plays on weekends with
aides and friends. He once took along House Speaker John Boehner,
R-Ohio, and has also included Rep. Jim Clyburn, D-S.C., but this
was his first outing with any lawmaker in his second term.

The afternoon game added a recreational twist to Obama’s
months-long effort to strengthen ties with lawmakers, hoping some
quality face time now can lay the groundwork for compromise on
pressing issues down the road.

The foursome played under overcast skies that seemed to threaten
rain that never came. Their game was cut short on the 15th hole so
the senators could get back for a vote to allow states to tax
Internet sales. The casually-dressed lawmakers had to rush in and
shout their votes from the Senate’s cloakroom since they did not
have time to put on ties that are required in the chamber.

Corker said they agreed not to say much about what happened on
the course, other than Chambliss’ ace shot. ”We talked a little
business but mostly enjoyed just being out there,” Corker
said.

The White House noted that the president was the weakest golfer
in the group, with the highest handicap, and paired with fellow
Democrat Udall, who had to the lowest handicap. All three of the
senators were ranked among the top 40 on Golf Digest’s 2011 list of
”Washington’s Top 150 Golfers.”

Obama, wearing a windbreaker and cap, chatted casually with the
lawmakers in view of the reporters on the first green. The White
House said the talk centered on their game and not the latest
legislative negotiations.

The White House and Democrats are working to secure support for
an immigration overhaul – especially from Republicans. They’re
hoping that a strong bipartisan showing in the Senate will
strengthen the bill’s prospects for passing the
Republican-controlled House. Obama is also hoping to find common
ground with lawmakers that could lead to a broad budget deal.

Corker and Chambliss figure prominently on fiscal issues and
also are being eyed as possible supporters on an immigration bill.
Udall has a reputation for working across party lines and could be
a player in bipartisan negotiations.

In recent weeks Obama has entertained senators from both parties
at the White House, held dinners at a nearby hotel, traveled to
Capitol Hill to meet with lawmakers and made countless phone
calls.

”He’s willing to try anything,” said White House press
secretary Jay Carney. ”Whether it’s a conversation on the phone or
a meeting at the Oval Office, or dinner at a restaurant or dinner
at the residence, he’s going to have the same kinds of
conversations.”

Chambliss, who says he golfs 30 to 40 times a year, said he made
another hole-in-one more than 20 years ago, but ”this one’s pretty
special.” He said he used a 5-iron and choked up on his club but
couldn’t tell if he sunk it.

Once Chambliss confirmed it was in the hole, there were
high-fives all around, he said. The players all signed the flag for
him.

Chambliss, who plans to retire next year, said he will frame the
ball and the flag. ”If my children want it one of these days, they
can get it. Otherwise it will probably be in the nursing home with
my wife and me,” he said.

Associated Press writers Josh Lederman, Andrew Miga and Henry C.
Jackson contributed to this report.