WASHINGTON – A round of golf with the president of the United States is a rare treat, to be sure. So hitting a hole in one while in a foursome with the commander in chief quickly became the stuff of legend on Capitol Hill after word that Sen. Saxby Chambliss had done just that.
“This one’s pretty special,” the Georgia Republican told reporters after returning to the Senate for a late vote. It was his second hole in one.
Chambliss was part of a bipartisan outing with President Obama on Monday that included Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee, a fellow Republican, and Mark Udall of Colorado, a Democrat. It was the latest example of Obama’s “charm offensive” with lawmakers as he works to advance a second-term agenda that includes tax reform and an immigration overhaul, among other concerns.
“Corker wants to check Ripley’s to see whether anybody’s ever had a hole in one with a sitting president. My guess is, as much as Eisenhower played Augusta, somebody probably had one with him,” he added, referring to that golf enthusiast's visits to the Masters course.
None of the parties would offer much in the way of details about what was discussed on the South Course at Andrews Air Force Base – other than Chambliss’ rare feat. On the par-three 11th hole, Chambliss approached with a five-iron instead of the six-iron he meant to take out of the bag.
“It’s a long ways back to the golf cart and I didn’t want to go back. And so I said, ‘Well, I’ll just choke up on this one,’” Chambliss said.
He struck the ball well, and it sailed just out of sight.
“The ball actually flew the route I wanted it to,” Chambliss said.
Udall at first told the group that the ball may well have gone straight into the hole, or perhaps just past the green. Members of the Secret Service who were ahead of the presidential party said they thought it was in.
“But we didn’t know until we got up there,” Chambliss said. “I went up and looked in the hole when we got to the green, and then everybody went crazy.”
In an act of deference, Obama reached in himself to retrieve the ball, which Corker said was captured by a photographer. The foursome took a group shot, and later each signed the 11th-hole flag.
“It is going to be framed with the ball. If my children want it one of these days, they’ll get it. Otherwise it’ll probably be in the nursing home with the wife and me,” said Chambliss, who is retiring at the end of his current term.
The group had to cut the round short after 15 holes because the senators had a vote scheduled; otherwise, Chambliss said, he would have bought a round of drinks in celebration.
There was enough time, he let on, to talk briefly about some of the major issues – Syria, cyber security and the budget.
“But not in great detail. This was a day to get away from the office,” he said. “It was just like playing with my usual Saturday morning foursome. There was a lot of jawing back and forth on short putts.”
There was a minor wager on the game between the two Democrats and the two Republicans – but Chambliss said they didn’t follow through because the round was cut short. Chambliss did seek some concessions from Obama after his performance on 11.
“I told him since I’d made a hole in one, he ought to give us everything we want on entitlement reform,” he said.
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