POSTED: 7:09 a.m. HST, Dec 21, 2013
LAST UPDATED: 1:24 a.m. HST, Dec 22, 2013
President Barack Obama went golfing on his first day of vacation.
Obama, typically an early riser, got a late start, staying at the home until early Saturday afternoon, when he headed to the golf course at a nearby Marine Corps base. Joining Obama for the round of golf were Sam Kass, the White House chef; Marvin Nicholson, Obama's trip director and a frequent golf partner; and childhood friend Bobby Titcomb, the White House said.
The presidential motorcade left his Kailua vacation home and arrived at Marine Corps Base Hawaii at about 1:10 p.m.
Obama, in white golf shirt, hat and sunglasses, was all smiles as he drove past reporters accompanying him to the Kaneohe Klipper golf course. He finished his game at about 6 p.m. and spent the rest of the evening at their Kailua vacation compound.
The first family arrived at Joint Base Pearl Harbor Hickam at about 11:30 p.m. Friday to begin their sixth consecutive Christmas vacation in Honolulu.
Every year, Obama and his family prepare to return to his birth state. And every year -- until now -- congressional squabbling has forced the Obamas to delay their trip.
A few weeks of low-key rest and relaxation would be a welcome change of pace for Obama, who reflected on a high-stakes year of brinkmanship and health care woes as he packed his bags for Hawaii.
"The year is always a good time to reflect and see what can you do better next year," Obama said Friday. "I'm sure that I will have even better ideas after a couple days of sleep and sun."
Last year, Obama had to temporarily abandon his vacation to fly home amid a congressional standoff over the so-called fiscal cliff. The year before, a showdown over payroll tax cuts forced him to delay the start of his Hawaii hiatus. In 2010, it was congressional wrangling over repeal of the ban on gays in the military and other issues that delayed the trip. And in 2009, Senate deliberations over Obama's signature health care law meant that Honolulu had to wait another few days.
Conditions seem ripe this year for a few weeks of interrupted family time. Obama did spend part of this morning conferring with top national security aides about the situation in South Sudan, where U.S. military aircraft evacuating Americans from the violence-plagued African nation came under gunfire and had to divert to Uganda. The White House said four U.S. troops were injured in that incident.
Throughout his vacation Obama will continue to get regular briefings from advisers traveling with him, White House officials said. Obama and his supporters were hoping those routine updates wouldn't interfere with regular rounds of golf and family outings for shave ice, the Hawaii version of a snow cone.
"I don't want any interruptions. He deserves a vacation," Brian Pritchett, an assistant principal visiting from Mt. Vernon, N.Y., said as he sipped a rum-infused drink dubbed the "Obama Mama" at a Honolulu hotel. "He puts in too many hours to not have his vacation with his family. I know that's what I would do."
The Obamas are expected to spend the next 17 days at a luxury beachside rental in the same Kailua neighborhood in which they've wiled away their previous Hawaii vacations.
Obama left the White House with his wife, daughters and mother-in-law Marian Robinson to board Marine One for the helicopter flight to Andrews Air Force Base at about 6:45 p.m. Washington time.
First dogs Bo and Sunny are also with the family.
The president arrived in the islands with an acknowledged desire to rejuvenate himself following a tumultuous year that saw his political successes -- including his staredown victory over Republicans in the government shutdown battle and the diplomatic breakthrough that yielded agreement by Iran to freeze its nuclear-enrichment program for six months -- overshadowed by the Obamacare website snafu, revelations about the National Security Agency's questionable spying practices, and an inability to garner bipartisan Congressional support for gun control measures and other priority legislation.
Hours before Obama and family boarded Air Force 1 for Honolulu, the president held his final press conference of the year and, citing recent economic growth and falling unemployment numbers, expressed optimism that "2014 can be a breakthrough year for America."
The president doesn't have any public events scheduled during his time back in the islands.
In previous years, the president has played golf, visited Hanauma Bay, gone out to dinner with friends and ventured into Kailua town for shave ice.
The president may also watch Oregon State play at the Diamond Head Classic at the Stan Sheriff Center. His brother-in-law Craig Robinson is the coach at Oregon State.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.