Updated Monday, February 18, 2013 at 01:20 PM
PALM CITY, Fla. — It was not his motivation, certainly, but President Obama is honoring his modern predecessors on this Presidents Day weekend by doing what many of them liked to do on breaks: chill out in Florida with the guys — including, in his case, one of golf’s most famous guys, Tiger Woods.
And chilling the president is. Northerners who begrudge Obama’s golf getaway to South Florida might take solace in knowing that Sunday started with temperatures in the low 40s, with winds making it feel like the 30s and whipping up the waves along the shore. On Saturday, the president’s first full day here, the temperature reached the 60s, still lower than usual and chilled further by the gusts.
Obama is playing a lot of golf, the unofficial game of presidents. But aside from that fact, the few reporters who followed him south were able to learn more from watching the Golf Channel, which had access to the playing grounds, than from the White House and did not expect to see Obama over the holiday weekend. On Saturday and Sunday, the deputy press secretary, Joshua Earnest, issued statements that Obama would not be leaving the golf club.
His wife and daughters were away skiing — not a sport favored by the Hawaii-born president.
After flying into West Palm Beach’s airport aboard Air Force One on Friday night — having picked up a longtime friend, Dr. Eric Whitaker, in Chicago during Friday’s visit there to speak about his anti-poverty initiatives — Obama has been cloistered at the Floridian Yacht and Golf Club here. The resort is on the state’s Treasure Coast, home to many of its wealthiest residents.
It is also an area that other presidents have frequented. John Kennedy often visited his family mansion in Palm Beach. Bill Clinton, on one of his golf and fundraising trips as president, had emergency surgery after a late-night fall at the nearby estate of the golf champion Greg Norman.
With Obama, besides Whitaker, were Marvin Nicholson, the president’s travel director, who once dreamed of being a professional caddie, and four Texans: Ron Kirk, a former Dallas mayor who soon will step down as Obama’s trade representative; Tony Chase, a Houston lawyer who left the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas in 2008 to raise money for Obama’s campaign; Milton Carroll of Houston, the chairman of CenterPoint Energy and another Obama donor; and James Crane, a contributor and the owner of the freight company EGL, the Houston Astros baseball team and the resort where the stag party is staying. (Crane once topped Golf Digest’s ranking of chief- executive golfers).
On Saturday, the group was joined by top golfing coaches affiliated with the resort: Butch Harmon and his son Claude Harmon III, who according to his website offers to mere mortals a six-hour “total game evaluation” for $1,500 or two-hour group instruction for $225 a player.
But the highlight for Obama had to be Sunday, when he was joined for a foursome by a former student of Butch Harmon’s: Woods, once the top-ranked golfer in the world.
Obama played 18 holes Saturday, broke for lunch and then went straight to a driving range for practice with the Harmons, Rosaforte said. Nine more holes followed, with the team of Obama and Butch Harmon winning and “taking a couple bucks off” the others, Rosaforte added.
Then Obama headed to the Harmons’ Learning Center “and beat balls for almost an hour.”
Tiger Woods joins President Obama for golf.