What is it about presidents and golf?

August 30, 2009

OBAMA/President Barack Obama seems to have a new favorite past-time. The 48-year-old campaigned as a basketball player, but now his heart seems to belong to the links. He has squeezed at least four golf outings — three for 18 holes and one just nine — into his week-long vacation on the Massachusetts island Martha’s Vineyard, despite two days of rain and a trip over to Boston for the funeral of his friend and former colleague, the late Senator Edward Kennedy.******Lately Obama has also been golfing on most Sundays when he is in Washington, generally on courses at military bases near the city.******His foursomes are more likely to include long-time friends and aides than well-heeled contacts — this week he golfed with a top executive of the UBS investment bank, but he also played with a White House assistant chef and a press aide.******The habit has attracted a few jibes. Anti-war protester Cindy Sheehan used it to publicize a news conference she was planning on the island during Obama’s visit. “When President Obama was playing golf yesterday, four soldiers died in Afghanistan,” Sheehan said in a flyer distributed at the Martha’s Vineyard White House press center this week.******But for U.S. presidents, golfing is — er — par for the course. Fifteen of the past 18, including Obama, have golfed, according to Golf Digest magazine. Obama explained its appeal for him this summer in an interview with CBS News. Although he was unhappy with the state of his game (he took more than five hours to play 18 holes this week, and a woman who lived near one course described his ball hitting a tree), he said it gives him a chance to relax and spend time with friends, largely unobserved (the Secret Service is around, but often off in the woods, Obama said) and away from reporters and photographers.******”It is the only time that, for six hours, first of all, that I’m outside. And second of all, where you almost feel normal, in the sense that you’re not in a bubble,” he told CBS News.******OBAMA/Golf Digest ranked John F. Kennedy as the top presidential golfer, noting that his average score was 80, despite chronic back pain. Back in January, it put the athletic Obama 8th.******The presidents who didn’t golf? Golf Digest says they were Jimmy Carter , Harry Truman and Franklin Roosevelt. But Roosevelt would have been another golfing president if he had had his way. According to the Armchair Golf Blog, Roosevelt loved playing golf as a young man, but polio in 1923 forced him to give the game up.******Photo credits: Obama golfing on Martha’s Vineyard, Reuters/JASON REED

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