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JT Allen

POTUS: The Golfer

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Obama, who took up golf in his mid-30s as a relaxing alternative to basketball, did not find much time to play during the campaign. But now that his game is out of the closet, it is clear that he duffs in much the same way that he tries to govern. "You can really tell a person's personality by the way he plays golf," says Wellington Wilson, a longtime golf buddy. "He just goes with the flow. Not too high. Not too low."

 

Whereas Clinton was known to shout, curse and rehit balls until he liked his shot, Obama never cuts a corner in golf, say his companions. No mulligans. No five-foot gimme putts on the green. "I've never seen him get to the point where he just picks up," says Marvin Nicholson, the White House trip director and a regular partner. "I've seen him write a 10 down. I've seen him write an 11 down."

 

But that doesn't mean the President always behaves like a gentleman. As in basketball, Obama is a trash-talk enthusiast who tries to get into the heads of his opponents and sucker them into taking more difficult shots. "He is very strategic about his use of it," says Eugene Kang, the 25-year-old White House special-projects coordinator, who played with the President at Andrews Air Force Base in late June. "It's always fun to make the putt and give him a nice little look at the end."

 

The jawing can get especially fierce when the opponent is press secretary Robert Gibbs, with whom Obama shares some golfing characteristics. "His game is severely handicapped, as is mine," Gibbs says. (Estimates of the POTUS handicap, for which there is no official documentation, vary from 16 to 24.)

 

Most of the President's longtime golfing buddies say the First Game is improving.

After a brief flirtation with a new Nike driver, Obama has returned to his Titleist and is still struggling to master his new hybrid woods. He putts solidly and is working on his bunker shots, once an Achilles' heel.

 

The President keeps the game in perspective. Most days Obama does not win or lose more than a few dollars. The Father's Day outing ended with Biden and Obama each collecting $2, though Biden paid for the hot dogs after the front nine. Wilson, who has been playing with Obama since 1999, keeps all his Obama winnings in an envelope, which he has promised as a college fund for Sasha and Malia. As of early July, the envelope contained $2.25

 

Excerpted from Time

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Guest Titleist 2

Where are all of the public driving ranges? I live near NIH; there used to be one at the White Flint Metro stop. In Gaithersburg 10+ years ago, there was one on Great Seneca, and another one where Chriswell Chevrolet is now. I am going to try the Falls Road range accross from Bulis next to the Normandy Farm Inn restaurant in Potomac MD. Where else is there?

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