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Yes, presidents play, for better or worse

Well, President Obama stepped in it, didn’t he? There was an earthquake going on and where was he? Playing golf is where. He was on vacation when he should have been in Washington putting a stop to all that shaking.

It’s things like that that moved the late journalist, essayist and acerbic critic H. L. Mencken to say, “If I had my way, any man guilty of golf would be barred from public office in the United States”

Mencken, of course, has not had his way. Presidents play golf. The list is long, going all the way back to William Howard Taft. At least he was the first to admit it. Some said Theodore Roosevelt slipped out for a quick 18 from time to time but instructed his staff to keep a lid on it.

Taft was not a good player, although he did break 90 from time to time. It really got away from him once while playing a public round in Bar Harbor, Maine. He took 27 strokes to negotiate the 17th hole. It was known as the Elbow Hole, possibly because it could cause you to bend your elbow after the round.

Obama was in the midst of a 10-day vacation when the quake rumbled along the east coast. A media rep was allowed to watch him play the first hole (before the quake) and her account was described by one online service as “merciless.” She mercilessly described how he missed his first putt, then missed his second and picked up. Wow.

Have some mercy, lady.

The rest of the round was mercifully closed to the media.

John F. Kennedy was probably the best golfer to reside in the White House, a high 80’s shooter.

Maybe the most avid was Dwight Eisenhower. He had a putting green built on the White House lawn.

Before, during and after his presidency, he played often at Augusta National Golf Club, site of the Masters. One of the club’s cottages is known as Mamie’s Cottage, named for his wife. A tree there is named for him because he regularly drove into it and asked the club to cut it down but was vetoed.

One of the caddies who toted Ike’s bag, Willie (Cemetery) Perteet, said, “Mr. Ike was a pretty good golfer. He wasn’t no Nicklaus, no blockbuster.”

Gerald Ford was a fair player and an avid one but he had a tendency to spray shots into the gallery. He hit so many people, Bob Hope said, “He made golf a contact sport.”

Franklin Roosevelt, both Bushes, Bill Clinton, Ronald Reagan, Warren Harding, Woodrow Wilson, Richard Nixon, Lyndon Johnson and Calvin Coolidge have also been guilty of golf.

Ne’er do wells, the lot of them.