Obama is eager member of golfing presidents’ club
American presidents love golf – 15 of the last 18 have played –
and Barack Obama is an eager member of that club.
He’s played golf on four of six days since arriving on the
Massachusetts island of Martha’s Vineyard last Saturday. The White
House never releases his scores and generally does not allow news
coverage of his games – although it did allow the press to watch
him briefly once this week.
Tiger Woods played with Obama in Florida last February and said
at the time that the left-handed president hits the ball well.
”If he ever spent – after these four years – spent more time
playing the game of golf, I’m sure he could get to where he’s a
pretty good stick,” Woods said. ”He’s got an amazing touch. He
can certainly chip and putt.”
Obama’s interest in golf dates back to his high school years
when he started playing in Hawaii. Later, golf was a pastime during
the eight, sometimes frustrating, years he spent as an Illinois
Democrats were the minority party when Obama took his Illinois
Senate seat in January 1997. Majority Republicans hardly ever
sought them out and paid scant attention to their priorities. So
when he had free time, Obama often joined fellow senators and
lobbyist friends on golf courses in the state capital of
”When you’re in the minority you have a lot of time on your
hands because nobody is seeking you out for advice or votes,” said
state Sen. Terry Link, who took his seat the same year as Obama.
”So what we did is we decided to start playing golf when the
weather broke and we were still down” in Springfield. They tried
to play a couple of times a week, he said.
”We played and worked on his game and eventually he got a
little bit better,” Link said. ”I guess he plays a lot more than
he used to or I think he’d like to play a lot more than he
Phil Manning, a lobbyist Obama played with, said ”it was a
healthy outlet” for blowing off steam.
Competitive at athletics, Obama paid for private instruction to
help his game, Link said.
Obama was elected to the U.S. Senate in 2004 and moved to
Washington. By 2007, he was a candidate for president, winning the
race in 2008 and re-election last year.
Being in the White House seems to have deepened Obama’s love of
He’s has played 137 rounds of golf as president in the past four
and a half years, including at Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland,
the Army’s Fort Belvoir in Virginia, during family vacations to
Hawaii and Martha’s Vineyard, and elsewhere, according to
meticulous records kept by CBS News White House correspondent Mark
Many of the presidents who played golf wrestled with the image
of themselves playing in front of cameras, according to Don Van
Natta’s 2003 book, ”First off the Tee: Presidential Hackers,
Duffers and Cheaters from Taft to Bush.”
George W. Bush quit playing golf in the fall of 2003, after 2
1/2 years in office, saying it was inappropriate for the commander
in chief to be seen playing while Americans were fighting and dying
in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Golf suffers from its reputation as a sport for the elite – the
same perception the Columbia and Harvard-educated Obama has pushed
back against throughout his political career.
It’s partly for these reasons that White House officials, even
former members who’ve played with Obama, decline to discuss his
Obama has said the hours he spends walking from hole to hole or
driving the golf cart, as he did this week, are special for someone
who is always surrounded by a tight knot of armed security
personnel and military aides who drive or fly him practically
everywhere he goes.
”It is the only time that, for six hours, first of all, that
I’m outside, and second of all, you almost feel normal in the sense
that you’re not in the bubble,” he told CBS News shortly after
taking office in 2009. ”There are a whole bunch of Secret Service
guys, but they’re sort of in the woods. And when you’re up there in
the tee box and you’re hacking away and hitting some terrible shot
and your friends are laughing at you, you know, it feels as though,
you know, you’re out of the container.”
On Golf Digest’s June 2011 list of the top 150 Washington
golfers, Obama was tied for 108th place with Republican Rep. Mo
Brooks, R-Ala., behind House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, and Vice
President Joe Biden. He was eighth, behind Bill Clinton, George W.
Bush and George H.W. Bush, on the magazine’s January 2009 ranking
of the 15 presidents who played golf.
Associated Press writer John O’Connor in Springfield, Ill., and
Associated Press researchers Monika Mathur and Susan James
contributed to this report.
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