Presidential Golf

9–20–16, Adil

President Eisenhower had a rep for being aloof and elitist, detached from the American people. One of the main reasons? He played a lot of golf, and didn’t mind being photographed while he did.

John F. Kennedy, during Eisenhower’s two terms, took advantage of this rep and harped on the idea that Dwight was a “detached duffer in chief who who cared more about lowering his handicap than improving the lives of ordinary Americans.” [credit Time Magazine].

But, ironically, JFK was a sensational golfer himself. He just worked hard to ensure that Americans never found out, as of course he didn’t want to be seen as out of touch with ordinary Americans. If they saw his silky smooth swing, they’d probably remember he was the product of Choate and Harvard, an ambFassador’s son with a trust fund in his pocket.

One sunny July afternoon, JFK nearly let his secret out with a perfectly-swung five-iron. On the par-3 15th hole at Cypress Point Golf Club, he had a beautiful hit. It was going right towards the hole. His playing partner, Paul Fay, excitedly yelled “Go in! Go in!” but JFK reportedly looked on in terror, thinking that with a hole-in-one, his secret would be out and his promising political career over. Luckily for him, it stopped just about 6 inches outside the hole.

(I’m not 100% sure why he was so certain that his secret would get out, but I think just the hoopla of a hole-in-one would somehow get out?)

From Taft to George W, 14 presidents have played golf, but JFK was the best. He rarely played more than 6 or 8 holes, but if he did play a full 18, his average would have been about a hot 80.

Because rumors about extramarital affairs swirled around him from Senate to the White House, reporters thought he was sneaking away with sexy chicas when he was actually trotting around famous Maryland golf club like Chevy Chase or Burning Tree.

On April 5, 1961 (a few months after taking office), Americans got their first look at JFK on the links through a front-page picture in the NYT. He was pictured with his daddy-o and two bros-in-law; unlike his dad, though, he wasn’t holding a club. Maybe this was his way of still trying to not look *too* elitist. A few moments after that picture, though, he picked up a club and teed off — and nailed a Secret Service agent in the head. Atta boy.

By the summer of ’63, it was clear that Americans weren’t angry at him for golfing. He went more public with it. JFK hired the white house photographer to take pictures of his swing so that Arnold Palmer could take a look at his form and critique it. In fact, he even invited Palmer to come to the White House for a golf lesson in early December 1963, when Kennedy was to return from a quick trip to Dallas. Very sadly, he never got that lesson :(

But still, good for you for having fun, Johnny boy.

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