Golf lobby bringing Jack Nicklaus to Capitol Hill to convince politicians it’s not just an elitist hobby


File: President Obama and House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, are on the first hole as they play golf at Andrews Air Force Base, Md., Saturday, June 18, 2011. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

It’s the 7th annual National Golf Day on Capitol Hill next week, so if you can’t find your local member of Congress, likely he or she is celebrating on the nearest green, or practicing swings inside the Cannon Office Building.

Golf is a nonpartisan escape, a pastime for politicians like President Obama and House Speaker John Boehner. But even with that advantage, one few other groups could claim, the golf industry lobby is still working to convince its Hill fans that the sport deserves economic breaks.

So on May 21, the golf lobby is bringing out golf legend Jack Nicklaus (we hear Boehner keeps a book about the fellow Buckeye golf great on his desk) to speak at its Congressional Tee Time breakfast. Then lawmakers and staffers can learn golf tips from a PGA teacher at an all-day exhibit on Capitol Hill.

The sponsors, WE ARE GOLF, lobbies Congress on taxes, the environment and disaster funding eligibility – it spent $40,000 last quarter doing so. One might remember golf clubs had been blocked from receiving disaster funding tax relief, particularly after Hurricane Katrina. The snub spurred the golf industry activism.

“When passing legislation, we want Congress to appropriately recognize the size and scope of the golf industry so we are treated similarly to other businesses,” said Rhett Evans, WE ARE GOLF Coalition Chairman.

The golf lobby is sensitive to the perception that the sport is just a plutocrat’s hobby. It’s an image that hurts golf’s efforts to get tax breaks. In 2012, WE ARE GOLF sent letters to politicians asking them to stop mocking Obama or Boehner (depending on party) for time spent on the tee.

The golf advocates have some set talking points about the sport’s economic impact, citing it at nearly $70 billion a year, to make the case that golf provides more than just a break for elites – even if it is politicians’ sport of choice.

Colby Itkowitz is a national reporter for In The Loop.
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Colby Itkowitz · May 12