The 111thU.S. Open — represented by, of all things, the dome of the U.S. Capitol — just might be the first in the history of the event to be upstaged by a local weekend foursome. On Saturday morning, someone will rise as the leader of the Open at its midpoint and try to endure all the pressure that’s ahead. And at the same time, President Obama and House Speaker John Boehner will tee it up as well.
Obama and Boehner will be joined by Vice President Biden and Gov. John Kasich — like Boehner, from Ohio, and like Boehner, a Republican. Forget venerable Congressional Country Club, the Bethesda club that serves as the backdrop for the second major championship of the year. Forget the Open, just the fourth ever in the Washington area. Two Democrats, two Republicans, one bipartisan game. That is golf in Washington.
The Post Sports Live crew heads to the Congressional Country Club in Bethesda, Md. to preview the U.S. Open.
Explore the changes made at Congressional Country Club for the 2011 U.S. Open.
“Let me tell you: if you have a passion for golf, it’s amazing how that bridges a lot of divides,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham (R.-S.C). “If you can make a six-footer to help me beat my buddies, I’m going to have a different view of your politics at the end of the day.”
In Washington more than anywhere else, politics and golf have long been intertwined. Presidents have played it, some with a passion. Lobbyists have used it to cozy up to members of Congress. Members of Congress have used it to learn each other’s foibles. And all say the same thing: If the people who run things in Washington just played a little more golf together, wouldn’t the world be a better place? (Seriously. People really believe that.)
“Because politicians on both sides of the aisle, lots of them used to play golf socially together, it made the politics of Washington less contentious, because they were friends playing a game that requires you to maintain certain values,” said Deane Beman, a native Washingtonian, two-time U.S. Amateur champ and the commissioner of the PGA Tour from 1974 to 94. “The issues got contentious. But I don’t think the personal animosity that you see, the personal attacks that you see, were there. I believe golf had quite a role back then, because they left it behind and went to the golf course.”
Sand game says a lot
Franklin D. Roosevelt once won a bet that he could drive a golf ball 300 yards – in part because he waited until winter, then drove it on a frozen pond. Woodrow Wilson played with colored golf balls — some accounts say red, others black — in the winter, better for the Secret Service to track them down in the snow. Dwight D. Eisenhower played more than 100 rounds a year during his eight-year tenure as president. George H.W. Bush once played 18 holes in 1 hour 25 minutes. John F. Kennedy mowed a pasture at his Virginia estate into something of a makeshift golf course, with four par 9s.
There are, it seems, stories about nearly every president since the early 1900s and the game of golf. The most recent: On the morning of May 1, President Obama went to the golf course at Andrews Air Force Base, just outside the District. It was a bit chilly, with some drizzle, and Obama — who frequently plays 18 holes on Sunday mornings — quit at the turn. He wore his golf shoes as he walked across the White House lawn to the Oval Office — and to a tense meeting with officials from his administration, his national security team and the defense department. Two days earlier, Obama had approved an operation that would end in the death of Osama bin Laden.