On week­end va­ca­tion, Obama heads to Florida to golf with the guys

The Washington Post Sunday - - POLITICS & THE NATION - BY SCOTT WIL­SON

PALM CITY, FLA. — Pres­i­dent Obama got some tips Satur­day from Tiger Woods’s former swing coach dur­ing the first day of a guys’ week­end golf out­ing here on Florida’s At­lantic coast, which in­cluded three men who have contributed to the pres­i­dent’s past po­lit­i­cal cam­paigns.

Obama is stay­ing and play­ing at the Florid­ian Na­tional Golf Club, a pri­vate, gated com­pound owned by Hous­ton busi­ness­man Jim Crane. Crane also owns the Hous­ton Astros, and last March he hosted a fundraiser for the pres­i­dent in­side an up­scale an­nex of Minute Maid Park, where the Astros play their home games. Crane was part of Satur­day’s group.

Crane was named the best CEO golfer in Amer­ica by Golf Di­gest in 2006. He cur­rently holds a 2 hand­i­cap at a host of cour­ses that he’s a mem­ber of, in­clud­ing the Florid­ian.

Tony Chase, a Hous­ton lawyer who hosted a fundrais­ing din­ner for Obama that same March evening last year, also played with the pres­i­dent Satur­day. Chase and Obama are long­time friends, as well as fel­low grad­u­ates of Har­vard Law School.

The events Chase and Crane hosted that evening raised more than $2.5 mil­lion for Obama’s re­elec­tion cam­paign.

Also in the Satur­day group was Mil­ton Car­roll, an­other Hous­ton busi­ness­man who is chair­man of Cen­ter­Point En­ergy, a pub­li­cu­til­ity hold­ing com­pany. Car­roll, too, has given to Obama’s pres­i­den­tial cam­paigns, though not on the same scale.

Round­ing out the group were Eric Whi­taker, a Chicago doc­tor who is one of Obama’s old­est and clos­est friends, and de­part­ing U.S. Trade Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Ron Kirk.

Deputy White House press sec­re­tary Josh Earnest said Butch Har­mon, Woods’s swing coach dur­ing some of his early glory years, joined the group for sev­eral holes and pro­vided tips — not that it was clear any of them needed it. Woods and Har­mon parted ways in 2004 on not the best of terms.

Ac­cord­ing to the As­so­ci­ated Press, Obama ar­rived in Florida on Fri­day night af­ter a speech in Chicago and wasn’t ex­pected to be seen again in pub­lic — in­clud­ing by the mem­bers of the news me­dia trav­el­ing with him — un­til he re­turns to Washington on Mon­day.

“At this time, there are no pub­lic events sched­uled or plans for the pres­i­dent to leave the grounds of the golf club,” Earnest said Satur­day.

Mem­bers of the club and their guests have ac­cess to one of eight cot­tages, a 68-slip deep water ma­rina, the club’s 61-foot Vik­ing yacht, a 24-foot Hur­ri­cane Deck Boat and the club’s pri­vate heli- copter ser­vice, with two on-site he­li­pads along the St. Lu­cie River.

The White House ar­ranged for re­porters trav­el­ing with the pres­i­dent to stay at a ho­tel in Port St. Lu­cie, about a 25-minute drive away, AP re­ported.

Crane said he was at the club to wel­come Obama when he ar­rived Fri­day night.

“Looks like I might get to play with him a lit­tle bit to­mor­row, and we’re look­ing for­ward to that,” Crane said Satur­day as he ad­dressed the Astros be­fore a team work­out, ac­cord­ing to the Ma­jor League Base­ball Web site. “He came in late last night and was very cor­dial. His staff is great, and it’s very ex­cit­ing. I mean, when do you get the pres­i­dent stay­ing in your place?”

Crane said he re­ceived a call about a week ago ask­ing if the pres­i­dent could use the course. He said Obama then con­tacted him per­son­ally to thank him.

Obama’s stay at the Florid­ian isn’t his first get­away with­out his wife and daugh­ters.

In 2010, as his 49th birth­day ap­proached, Obama was home alone af­ter the first lady took Sasha with her on a trip to Spain and Malia was away at camp.

Rather than stay in the sprawl­ing White House by him­self, Obama fled, tak­ing the fam­ily dog, Bo, home to Chicago for a birth­day din­ner with friends, among them Oprah Win­frey, her pal Gayle King, Whi­taker and White House se­nior ad­viser Va­lerie Jar­rett, a fel­low Chicagoan.

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