Wednesday, January 26, 2011

JFK Swings Away


A rare photo of President Kennedy playing golf.
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Is that a thin Pierre Salinger in the background? Appears to be.

The Secret History of Golf – Presidential Golf

Conducting Surveillance on the Golf Course - The President Takes a Mulligan

From: The Kennedy Detail, Gerald Blaine, with Lisa McCubbin, (Gallery Books, 2010, p. 88-89)

Meanwhile, in Tampa, Agents Blaine and Yeager had split the duties of meeting with representatives from four different venues where President Kennedy would stop. Blaine drove the motorcade route suggested by police and made notes on what he saw as potential problem areas where they’d need extra security. He and Yeager had agreed to meet back at the hotel at 6:00 to regroup.

“Hey, Jer,” Arnie gave me the name of a good Cuban restaurant not too far from here. Are you up for some local culture?”

“Sure, that sounds super,” Blaine said. “I just realized I didn’t have lunch.”

The restaurant turned out to be a popular hangout that served truly authentic Cuban fare. When Blaine and Yeager walked in, they heard nothing but Spanish being spoken. As a scantily dressed young lady with jet-black hair, hoop earrings, and a short skirt led them to their table, Blaine and Yeager noticed the other patrons glancing at them as they walked by. The two tall, blond-headed men in their gray suits looked completely out of place in the laid-back restaurant, where every other man was wearing the traditional Cuban-style white short-sleeved shirt and the ladies were in strappy sundresses.

Blaine didn’t recognize anything on the menu, so Yeager ordered for them. Lechon asado, roast duckling pig, for himself and vaca frita, shredded skirt steak marinated in garlic and lime juice, for Blaine.

“And bring plenty of rice and beans,” Yeager added.

The service was quick, the food was delicious, and laughter and conversation filled the air. As the agents ate, they surveyed the lively clientele, but didn’t overhear or see anything remotely hostile.

“Hey, Jer,” Frank said. “I keep meaning to ask you – Win Lawson told me to be sure and have you tell me about your Easter golfing experience with the Boss. He wouldn’t tel me a thing, just kept laughing and said, ‘You gotta hear it from Blaine.’”

Jerry broke into a grin and shook his head. It was Win’s favorite story.

“Well, it was Easter weekend 1961 and we were down in Palm Beach. President Kennedy decided to go golfing with his father and a couple of friends. It was the first time he’d played since becoming president. And there was a big deal made of it because he wouldn’t allow the press to come along. During the campaign the Kennedy camp had routinely questioned the amount of golf Ike was playing when he should have been paying attention to more urgent issues, so President Kennedy didn’t want any publicity.

“So,” Jerry continued, “Win Lawson was with us on a three-week temporary assignment – before he became permanent – and since I was the senior agent, I had to instruct Win on how to conduct surveillance on the golf course. As we we’re walking down the fairway, I’m telling him, ‘You go out about two hundred to two hundred twenty-five yards, fade back into the rough, and keep an eye on the adjacent fairway to make sure there are no questionable people in the area.’

“Now, I had watched Ike play plenty of rounds of golf, and for some reason I guess I assumed that Kennedy would have the same tendency to hook left. So I told Win to take the left-hand side and I would cover the right.”

Yeager shook his head and chuckled.

“I had told Win to watch carefully when each of the golfers teed off, just in case you needed to take cover if the ball headed your way,” Blaine continued. “So, by protocol, the president teed off first. I watched him make contact with the ball and then I glanced over at Win to make sure he was in place, and I see him staring in my direction with his mouth wide open. The next thing I know, a golf ball in full flight hits me on the left side of my head. I immediately fell to my knees. The ground was spinning, but I was determined not to lose consciousness.”

Yeager was trying so hard not to laugh, but suddenly he couldn’t help himself. He could just picture it.

Jerry ignored Yeager’s laughter and continued. “So I feel the side of my head and there’s blood running down my face. By this time Win is standing over me asking if I’m okay. ‘What happened?’ I asked him.”

“He said it made a thwacking noise and bounced right straight in the air. The president took a mulligan.”

Blaine started laughing.” So I went to the hospital and had X-rays taken and everything was fine. Apparently my mother was right when she said I as thickheaded.”

“Oh my God, Jer. That’s a great story.”

“But wait,” Jerry said with a smile “There’s more. So, the press got hold of this and there were some reports in the newspaper. As it turned out, Kennedy was scheduled to make a speech in front of the American Newspaper Publishers Association a couple of weeks later. He opened the speech by saying something like ‘I realize that your staff and photographers may be complaining that they don’t enjoy the same green privileges at the local golf courses that they once did. It is true that my predecessor did not object as I do to pictures of one’s golfing skill in action. But neither, on the other hand, did he ever bean a Secret Service man.’”

Yeager was in hysterics. “Just like him. I’m sure they loved it.”

“Oh yea, and for weeks afterward, the president would seek me out on post at the White House. He’d have a senator friend or somebody with him and he’d come up to me and say, ‘Jerry, tell him how far out you were standing when I beaned you.’

“ ‘Mr. President,’ I’d say, “I was out three hundred yards and I assumed I was out of your range. You can really hit a golf ball.’ He loved it. I swear every time he saw me, he’d ask me the same question. ‘How far out were you standing when I beaned you?’”

Blaine and Yeager finished their meal, returned to the hotel, and made plans for the next day…. They also needed to get an update on Joseph Milteer – and the alleged plot to kill the President….

In Washington, Jerry Behn was sitting in his office when Win Lawson called from Dallas….

From The Kennedy Detail (p. 124-125)

At Hyannis Port.

One agent who served on a temporary assignment in the summer of 1963 was twenty-two-year old Raddord “Rad” Jones. Jones was the youngest man ever hired as an agent, but after finishing first in his class at Treasury Law Enforcement Training School and obtaining the top score in every shooting qualification course, his age seemed irrelevant. Still, he had to fulfill the character assessment. He was assigned menial duties and was left for long hours on boring posts, such as the one every agent disliked – staring out into the black Atlantic Ocean on a rainy night. Not once did Rad complain. You could tell he was thrilled to be given the opportunity of serving the President of the United States and had the attitude to go along with his intellect and shooting skills.

One Friday afternoon, Rad was at one of the oceanfront posts when President Kennedy and his Secret Service detail arrived for the weekend. The president liked to hit golf balls from the backyard of the home, and as soon as he’d gone in and changed into a short-sleeeved shirt and Bermuda shorts, he came walking out of the house with his seven iron. Trotting alongside the president was a small mongrel puppy that was just one of the many dogs the family had accumulated.

President Kennedy set the golf bal on the ground, and to Rad’s horror, the dog immediately grabbed the ball in his mouth and raced directly toward Rad. The dog dropped the ball at the agent’s feet and then sat at attention, wagging his tail.

The week prior, the agents had been playing with the dog, when they weren’t on duty and had taught him to retrieve a thrown ball. The president did not look happy as he strode toward Rad. The young agent was mortified and figured his dream of serving on the White House Detail had just ended.

Rad explained what had happened and apologized profusely. President Kennedy could see that the poor young agent was truly regretful – and of course, it had been an innocent gesture. He smiled and said, “Just ask the guys not to do this anymore.”

“Yes, sir, Mr. President. Don’t worry. It won’t happen again,” Rad promised. Rad made sure that a sign was put up in the command trailer and form then on, the poor puppy seemed to wander around aimlessly searching for balls that had all suddenly disappeared.

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