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Some students of the presidency say that we can learn the most about the men who've occupied the Oval Office by studying their ideology. Others say political savvy or family background or regional influences are paramount. But Don Van Natta argues for another standard—by ...
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Some students of the presidency say that we can learn the most about the men who've occupied the Oval Office by studying their ideology. Others say political savvy or family background or regional influences are paramount. But Don Van Natta argues for another standard—by observing the way they play golf.
Fourteen of the last seventeen presidents have been golfers, and Van Natta explores two questions: Why is the game of golf so attractive to the men who occupy the Oval Office? And what do their golf games reveal about their characters? Some presidents relied on golf to escape the burdens of office, while others brought those burdens with them. And few have been able to resist the perks of high office, bending the rules and freely taking mulligans. Is it really surprising to learn that the section called "Hail to the Cheats" features the golfing escapades of Bill Clinton, Richard Nixon, Lyndon Johnson, and Warren Harding?
Not content to rely solely on the history books, Van Natta takes the reader on a round of golf he recently played with Bill Clinton and draws on extensive interviews with the golfing ex-presidents about what the game means to them. For history buffs and golf aficionados alike, First Off the Tee is a cheerful romp and a unique way to share the links with America's duffers-in-chief.
Author Biography: Don Van Natta, Jr., is a Washington correspondent for The New York Times. He was a reporter for The Miami Herald before joining the Times in 1995, and he has been a member of two Times reporting teams that were awarded the Pulitzer Prize. He is also a 100-plus golfer who once shot an ugly hole-in-one. He lives with his wife and two daughters in Alexandria, Virginia.
Even as golf surged in popularity through the latter half of the twentieth century, the presidents recognized potential political peril on the golf course, and it was not necessarily lurking in the bunkers or the rough. Sometimes, the potential political costs were envisioned as the ball soared straight at the pin.
John F. Kennedy was one who cringed at his own beautiful shot. Despite a bad back, Kennedy possessed a graceful, effortless swing, which allowed him to easily rank as the best player among the fourteen Presidential golfers. But he was obsessively secretive about his love of the game, just as he was obsessively secretive about the other extracurricular activities that he participated in during his 1,000 days in the White House. And some members of the press, many of whom adored Kennedy, enabled the president to keep his passion for women-and, to a lesser extent, golf-hidden from the public.
As he ran for President in 1960, Kennedy was acutely aware that some Americans had become disenchanted with President Dwight D. Eisenhower's methodical devotion to golf. Kennedy was almost maniacal about his refusal to allow photographers to snap his picture while holding a driver or a putter.
Just a few days before the Democratic convention in which he would accept the party's nomination for President, Kennedy teed off on the par 3, 15th oceanfront hole at the breathtaking Cypress Point Course on California's Monterey peninsula. Kennedy's ball landed on the green and rolled straight toward the hole. It looked almost certain that the ball would glide into the cup.
"I was yelling, 'Go in! Go in!' " recalled Paul B. Fay, Jr., who later served as the undersecretary of the Navy in the Kennedy administration. But Jack Kennedy looked stricken with terror. The ball stopped just six inches short of the hole.
Kennedy exhaled, and told Fay: "You're yelling for that damn ball to go in the hole and I'm watching a promising political career coming to an end. If that ball had gone into that hole, in less than an hour the word would be out to the nation that another golfer was trying to get into the White House."
Excerpted from First Off the Tee by Van Natta, Don, Jr. Copyright © 2004 by Van Natta, Don, Jr.. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Posted June 30, 2004
THIS IS A VERY FUN AND EXCITING BOOK FOR THE GOLFER AND NON GOLFER ALIKE AS WELL AS THE PERSON WHO HAS AN INTREST IN POLITICS AND HISTORY. THE WRITER OF THIS BOOK HAS COVERED ALL OF THE PRESIDENTS AND THERE GOLFING HABBITS AND HOW IT HAS PLAYED OUT IN NATIONAL AFFAIRS AND HOW IT HAS HELPED THEM OR HURT THEM IN THERE CAMPAIGNS FOR PUBLIC OFFICE YOU WILL HAVE TO READ THE BOOK TO FIND OUT. THIS BOOK IS JUST TO EXCITING TO PUT DOWN.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted August 25, 2003
Excellent job combining two of my favorite topics -- golf and presidential history. The stories of our country's leaders and how they approached the game also shed light onto their true personalities. Nice, breezy read for the golf and/or history buff.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.