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Obama heads to Florida for weekend with the boys

By Darlene Superville

Associated Press

LAST UPDATED: 05:18 p.m. HST, Feb 16, 2013

PALM CITY, Fla. >> Faced with a long weekend in an empty White House, President Barack Obama figured he needed a getaway, too, so he put together a golf outing with some buddies.

Not at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland or at Fort Belvoir in Virginia, two Washington-area military posts where he's a regular on their courses.

Instead, he went south, to Florida, to spend the long President's Day weekend staying and playing at the Floridian, an exclusive and secluded yacht and golf club on the state's Treasure Coast. He arrived Friday night after a speech in Chicago and wasn't expected to be seen again in public — including by the members of the news media traveling with him — until he returns to Washington on Monday.

"At this time, there are no public events scheduled or plans for the president to leave the grounds of the golf club," White House spokesman Josh Earnest said Saturday.

Call it a weekend with the boys, presidential style.

Eyebrows might have been raised at the thought of the president, any president, high-tailing it out of Washington, without his family, for some "me time" hundreds of miles away from the Oval Office. First lady Michelle Obama and daughters Malia and Sasha are on an annual ski vacation out West.

As it turns out, it isn't at all uncommon for a president to go on vacation on his own.

And, Obama has gone off alone in the past.

During the weekend, the president, a sports enthusiast and avid golfer, planned to practice his putting technique on the club's private, 18-hole course, which opened in 1996, according to golfnow.com, and is owned by Jim Crane, a Houston businessman who also owns Major League Baseball's Astros.

Crane has made political contributions to Republican and Democratic candidates, including $35,800 last year to a joint fundraising committee for Obama and the Democratic Party, and $2,300 to Obama in 2007, according to Federal Election Commission records.

Members of the club and their guests have access to one of eight cottages, a 68-slip deep water marina, the club's 61-foot Viking yacht, a 24-foot Hurricane Deck Boat and the club's private helicopter service with two on-site helipads along the St. Lucie River.

The White House arranged for reporters traveling with the president to stay at a hotel in Port St. Lucie, about a 25-minute drive away.

Obama's longtime friend from Chicago, Eric Whitaker, joined him on the flight from Chicago to Florida. The two have played golf together in the past. Another regular member of Obama's golf foursomes is White House trip director Marvin Nicholson, who also traveled with the president on Friday.

Besides Whitaker and Crane, Obama played golf Saturday with Ron Kirk, the outgoing U.S. trade representative; Tony Chase, a Houston businessman and lawyer who threw a fundraiser for Obama last March; and Milton Carroll, chairman of Houston-based CenterPoint Energy. Carroll donated $2,300 to Obama's first presidential campaign, according to campaignmoney.com, which gathers information about financial contributions to federal political campaigns.

Earnest, the White House spokesman, said Obama also got some instruction and played a few holes with Butch Harmon, Tiger Woods' former swing coach. Harmon had told The Associated Press by text message earlier Saturday that he would be at the Floridian to play nine holes and practice with Obama.

Crane said earlier Saturday that he was scheduled to play a round of golf with Obama on Sunday, according to a report on the website for Major League Baseball. Crane said he was at the club to welcome Obama when he arrived Friday night.

"Looks like I might get to play with him a little bit tomorrow, and we're looking forward to that," Crane said Saturday as he addressed the Astros before a team workout, according to mlb.com. "He came in late last night and was very cordial. His staff is great and it's very exciting. I mean, when do you get the president staying in your place?"

Crane said he received a call about a week ago asking if the president could use the course. He said Obama then contacted him personally to thank him.

America's presidents have been taking solo vacations for decades, according to Larry Knutson, a former White House reporter for The Associated Press who wrote a book about presidents and their vacations.

Although Bess and Margaret Truman visited him there just a couple of times, President Harry Truman vacationed most often by himself in tropical Key West, Fla. Many aides, all men, accompanied him.

Truman enjoyed the male companionship and his wife may have stayed away out of a desire to not interrupt his cherished late afternoon and evening games of poker. Truman vacationed in Key West 11 times between November 1946 and March 1952; his wife and daughter joined him for the first time in November 1948, after his surprise victory in that year's election campaign.

President Franklin D. Roosevelt often visited his cottage at Warm Springs, Ga., alone; wife, Eleanor, didn't much care for the place or the Southern atmosphere. Roosevelt was at Warm Springs, on his own, when he died in April 1945.

He also often traveled solo to his home in Hyde Park, N.Y., during World War II. The first lady often did not accompany Roosevelt on his wartime visits to Shangri-La, which is now the Camp David presidential retreat in Maryland, or when he traveled on the presidential yacht or on Navy warships.

In 1997, President Bill Clinton was in Florida for fundraising and to play in a golf tournament when he stumbled on steps at the home of golf pro Greg Norman and needed surgery to repair a torn tendon in his right knee. He was treated at a hospital in West Palm Beach before being flown to Washington for the operation.

Obama's stay at the Floridian isn't his first get-away without his wife and daughters.

In 2010, as his 49th birthday approached, Obama was left home alone after the first lady took Sasha with her on a trip to Spain, and Malia was away at camp.

Rather than stay in the sprawling White House by himself, Obama fled, taking family dog Bo, home to Chicago for a birthday dinner with friends there that included Oprah Winfrey, her pal Gayle King, Whitaker and White House senior adviser Valerie Jarrett, a fellow Chicagoan.


AP Golf Writer Doug Ferguson and Associated Press writer Michele Salcedo in Washington contributed to this report.

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iwanaknow wrote:
Ah, the high life
on February 16,2013 | 01:48PM
Oahuan wrote:
Obama going tail hunting.
on February 16,2013 | 01:56PM
kvlogic wrote:
At least this time he's playing golf with people who have made something of themselves and not his high school buddy — the "commercial fisherman" — and a shady Kailua "restaurateur."
on February 16,2013 | 02:00PM
livinginhawaii wrote:
Agreed - don't forget Bobby Titcomb who was arrested for propositioning that prostitute in Kakaako 2 or 3 years ago.
on February 16,2013 | 02:48PM
kvlogic wrote:
that's the "commercial fisherman"
on February 16,2013 | 02:56PM
hanalei395 wrote:
Obama will probably stop by a shop that sells Snow Cones (crushed ice) and ask for shave ice. The vendor will think he said "shaved" ice.
on February 16,2013 | 03:18PM
hanalei395 wrote:
Top subject for Fox "News" bimbos for about a week.
on February 16,2013 | 02:03PM
thepartyfirst wrote:
Four Americans died in Benghazi and the POTHUS lied about it. Your state run media are the bimbos.
on February 16,2013 | 07:39PM
GWakai02 wrote:
Las Vegas, Hawaii, Chicago, Florida....sweet. Skeet shooting, body surfing, golfing, basketball, when does he have time to be president. Talk about LAME DUCK. Don't think I'll make it for four more years.
on February 16,2013 | 03:23PM
hanalei395 wrote:
Don't worry about it ... you will.
on February 16,2013 | 03:38PM
honopic wrote:
There are planes leaving for foreign countries every day. Take your pick.
on February 17,2013 | 07:48AM
aomohoa wrote:
You people are tacky and disrespectful. I ddn't even vote for the man and I wouldn't say such tasteless comments.
on February 16,2013 | 03:27PM
Bdpapa wrote:
Don't agree with you very often, but you are correct!
on February 16,2013 | 04:02PM
aomohoa wrote:
There's hope for both of us. LOL!
on February 16,2013 | 06:35PM
DAGR81 wrote:
When did Obama become exempt from earning our respect.
on February 16,2013 | 07:35PM
HD36 wrote:
Just because this president has increased the national debt more than all the other presidents combined gives you no right to criticize his spending habits. You, your kids, and your kid's kids will be paying this off. Most will kneel forever, while some will stand and fight.
on February 16,2013 | 06:56PM
Maneki_Neko wrote:
Give the guy a break. If I had a shot of getting away from Michelle, I'd be off to Florida, too. Party hearty, my man, party hearty.
on February 17,2013 | 09:15AM
loio wrote:
collectivist, race based, economically illiterate poser
on February 17,2013 | 03:57AM
Keonaona1212 wrote:
Forget about staying home and polishing up the budget; that would be the first since 2009. What difference does it make!
on February 17,2013 | 09:53AM
Maneki_Neko wrote:
With Tiger as tour guide, I'd go to Florida too. Even if the golf didn't work out, the social life would be great.
on February 17,2013 | 11:31AM
HD36 wrote:
Maybe he'll get a hole in one, or is it one in the hole?
on February 17,2013 | 07:08PM
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