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PLAYING THROUGH

Life's Fairway Widens for Whitman

Christine Todd Whitman talks with her son, Taylor, during their round at her home course, Somerset Hills Country Club in Bernardsville, N.J.
Christine Todd Whitman talks with her son, Taylor, during their round at her home course, Somerset Hills Country Club in Bernardsville, N.J. (By Christopher Barth -- Associated Press)

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By Michael Arkush
Special to The Washington Post
Thursday, August 25, 2005

Reaching the turn, the former governor of New Jersey is not pleased with the state of her game.

"I have standards for performance, and I'm clearly not getting anywhere near them today," Christine Todd Whitman explained after shooting a front-nine 53. ". . . I can play better than this."

She proceeds to prove her case. On the back nine of her home course, Somerset Hills Country Club, designed by highly respected architect AW Tillinghast, Whitman follows with a that's-more-like-it 46, capped by a par at the last. She two-putts from about 30 feet after a solid 5-iron approach from about 150 yards.

Whitman, 58, has opinions about more than her golf -- her party, for instance.

"The Republican Party has never been this narrow, litmus-test type party," claimed Whitman, who plays to a 14.8 handicap index. "We can disagree on an issue like choice or stem cell research and not be an enemy or a bad person. We need to get away from this approach that we see more and more today, that you can't be a good Republican if you don't believe certain things in a certain way."

In her book, "It's My Party Too," which came out earlier this year, she was critical of the Bush administration for how it disengaged from the Kyoto accord on global warming. At the same time, Whitman, who served as administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency until June 2003, praised President Bush for his efforts in other environmental areas.

Would she be interested in seeking the White House for herself?

"Oh, absolutely not," she said. "If you want to be president, you've got to want it more than life itself, and you got to start now. Every once in awhile, I think it would be neat to be president, but you got to get there."

While she has "not a clue" whom her own party will nominate in 2008, Whitman believes the Democrats will select Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.).

Asked if she misses being the governor of New Jersey -- she was elected two times, leaving in the last year of her second term to run the EPA -- Whitman says she doesn't miss it.

"You see things happening and it drives you nuts sometimes. You want to jump in, but no, it's time for new blood, for new people. I had a great run at it."

Whitman remains extremely busy. She has a strategic planning business, with offices in Washington and New Jersey, started a political action committee, belongs to several boards and delivers about seven speeches per month. She also has led delegations to monitor elections in Cambodia and the Middle East.

"My goal for next year," said Whitman, who became a grandmother of twin boys four months ago, "is to have at least one week a month where I spend every night in my own bed."

Less travel might mean more golf for Whitman, who grew up in a family that adored the game. Her father, Webster B. Todd, was a five-time club champion (1935, 1941, 1946, 1956, 1957) at Somerset Hills. Yet, as a teenager, Whitman preferred riding horses. It wasn't until her late twenties that she started to get serious about the game. In 1971 and 1980, she and her mother, Eleanor, won the club's mother-daughter tournament.

Arriving at the tee at the eighth hole, a 186-yard par-3, she brings up a shot she hit on this hole on April 18, 2004. Using a driver, she couldn't see where her tee shot ended up.

"I looked all over the green, around the green," she recalled, before she found the ball -- in the cup! It was her first ace.

"I wasn't playing good enough to be worthy of a hole-in-one," she said.

Whitman bogeys the hole this time, and follows with a double bogey at the ninth.

No matter. The back nine is coming up.


© 2005 The Washington Post Company

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