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