January 15, 2010–With what goes on in the world on a daily basis–earthquakes, war, health care reform, etc.–we here at GolfLasVegasNow.com fully admit that this 'breaking golf news' falls way down the list of importance. But it was reported that when President Barack Obama hosted the U.S. Solheim Cup team in the White House–including Las Vegas golfer Natalie Gulbis–he revealed making a birdie on vacation in Hawaii. The political press reported the fact as if it was Obama's first-ever birdie. We inquired with White House insiders, and they agreed to speak, off the record, about this hot-button issue.
In essence, this insider, who returned an emailed request for comment with a prompt phone call, reported that while he couldn't confirm what exactly the president had stated or meant during the meet and greet, he would be very surprised to find out that Obama's birdie in Hawaii–after an approach with a 2-iron, no less–was his first-ever birdie. The First Golfer plays quite a bit, and is said to be a decent player. The insider also told us that with everything else on the president's plate it would be tough to get an official comment on the matter, but did chuckle at the 'intense' line of questioning. Obama's reported handicap–at least in a fairly recent poll of the Top 200 golfers in Washington–was said to be about a 16, making it probable that he has recorded birdies in the past.
This is how the Politico website reported the exchange with the group of golfers, coaches and LPGA Tour representatives who met with Obama in the White House. "And Obama revealed to the golfers a historic moment in his presidency: He made his first birdie on his recent vacation in Hawaii," the story, co-written by Kendra Marr and Matt Negrin, stated. "Paula Creamer, one of the golfers, said the team was shocked that he made the birdie with a two-iron — a club that most golfers don’t even use because it’s difficult to hit with, instead favoring clubs that are half wood and half iron."
For sure, there is some level of interpretation left to the words written. First birdie ever? First birdie after hitting an approach with a 2-iron? First birdie of his presidency? Whatever the truth might be, some took it to mean that it was the first birdie in Obama's life, with some posts around the internet questioning how it could be his first-ever birdie given his love of the sport. Following her visit, Gulbis emailed a quote to this writer about her visit with the president.
"We were invited by President Obama to come to the White House and spend some time with him," Gulbis wrote. "It was an honor to be recognized by our president and he was gracious to spend time with us. We spent the day touring the monuments and the White House, and met with President Obama at 4 pm. After taking pictures he chatted with us about his golf game and his recent trip to Hawaii where he made his first birdie with a 2 iron. We, of course, were surprised he still used a 2 iron. He asked us if we had any tips to get his girls involved in golf. We suggested he take them to watch us play. We also presented him with a left-handed putter and he immediately took the cover off and started working on his putting stroke in the oval office."
Obama has a history of playing golf in Las Vegas, a city with a reputation as one of the world's best golf destinations. This area is home to more than 50 golf courses, and during a campaign stop in Las Vegas, Obama and some aides found time to tee it up at Las Vegas golf course Bali Hai Golf Club, a tropical golf paradise located right on the Las Vegas Strip. Bali Hai is a Las Vegas resort golf course open to all Las Vegas golfers, and you can click to the official website to reserve your tee times on the same course where Obama once played. Walters Golf operates Bali Hai in addition to Las Vegas golf courses Royal Links Golf Club and Desert Pines Golf Club.
The following is how Golf Digest reported the Las Vegas golf outing: "Not long after Obama announced his run for president, on the steps of the Old State House in Springfield, he landed in Las Vegas late one weekday afternoon for a campaign stop the next morning. There were only two hours of light left. Obama and three aides raced over to the Bali Hai Golf Club, just off the strip and not far from Mandalay Bay, for a quick nine holes. Obama and Marvin Nicholson, a 10-handicapper, teamed up against Robert Gibbs, a single-digit handicapper who was the campaign's communications director, and Reggie Love, the candidate's close personal aide and a former Duke University basketball and football player who was a wild boomer with his big-headed driver. On the first tee, Love announced the stakes: $10 per hole. "Whoa," Obama said. "Reggie, you must be good." They were required to take carts, though Obama insists on walking when it's an option. Gibbs played the round of his life, one-putting nearly every green. By the end of the nine holes, they had been in Vegas less than three hours, and Obama and Nicholson had each lost $30."
Following the questioning about the birdie, it was revealed to the insider that President Obama was cordially invited to tee it up in Las Vegas on his next trip to the city. Reportedly, Obama is planning to visit in February, but the insider wasn't sure that Obama would have time on that trip to play, but was appreciative of the invitation. It looks like earthquakes, wars, and health care reform, etc. just might be more important during that trip. Priorities, Mr. President, priorities.–Brian Hurlburt