President Obama begins vacation on Martha's Vineyard with round of golf
BY DAVID SALTONSTALL
DAILY NEWS SENIOR CORRESPONDENT
Monday, August 24th 2009, 6:40 PM
OAK BLUFFS, Mass. - President Obama has been known to talk some trash on the basketball court, but on the golf course he leaves pride behind.
"I just want to say ahead of time that I am terrible," the First Duffer told a crowd of onlookers Monday as he began his vacation on celebrity-studded Martha's Vineyard with a round of golf. "Thank you."
With that, Obama stepped up to the first tee at the Farm Neck Golf Club, took two casual practice swings, then clubbed his drive a solid 200 yards or more - and into the woods left of the fairway.
The crowd cheered anyway, and Obama - dressed in a black golf shirt, brown pants, a beige cap and two-tone golf shoes - acknowledged his gallery with a small bow.
"Look at that - no mulligan," one woman exclaimed after Obama - said to be a stickler for the rules - declined to take a do-over.
Obama golfs regularly, but almost never in front of an audience. Experts on hand for Monday's rare peek at his form declared themselves impressed - to a point.
"He has a naturally athletic golf swing, very well-coordinated," said Farm Neck golf pro Michael Zoll, a PGA member who watched Obama warm up. "He does what few golfers do, and that is he trusts his wrists at the top of his backswing. And he generates a lot of club head speed not by trying to muscle the ball, but as a result of the natural timing he has."
On the other hand . . .
"He did push the ball to the left," noted Zoll, "and that came from his picking his club up, as opposed to swinging his arms more freely. . . . That kept the club face slightly open at impact."
Left unknown was the President's final score Monday in a round that included included UBS CEO Robert Wolf, Chicago pal Eric Whitaker and White House aide Marvin Nicholson. Once the foursome left the first tee, Secret Service agents kept the public and the press away.
Obama's sporting day also included a round of tennis with First Lady Michelle Obama at the family's rented 28-acre compound.
The President has no calls or meetings on his schedule at the moment, presidential spokesman Bill Burton said, but he is staying up-to-date with developments on the economy, health care and foreign policy.
Burton hit back at Republican critics who said Obama should forgo his week-long vacation when many Americans are struggling economically.
"As I recall, the previous President took quite a bit of vacation time himself, and I don't think anyone bemoaned that," Burton told reporters, referring to George W. Bush's month-long summer getaways. "I think it's important for the President, as with anybody, to take a little time, spend time with his family, and recharge his batteries."
Obama's plan for the week is not to have one, Burton said. "You know, he's on vacation, so everything is a little bit loose," Burton said. "You know, you wake up, you have some breakfast, you work out and then you decide, oh, what do I feel like doing today? He's doing that just like anybody else."