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Obama plays another round of golf with Hawaii friends

By Associated Press

POSTED:
LAST UPDATED: 08:16 a.m. HST, Feb 17, 2014


RANCHO MIRAGE, Calif. >> President Barack Obama is wrapping up a three-day holiday weekend in Southern California with another game of golf.

Obama was scheduled to return to Washington late Monday.

The White House says Obama was playing on the nine-hole course at the sprawling Sunnylands estate in Rancho Mirage. Childhood Hawaii friends Bobby Titcomb, Greg Orme and Michael Ramos rounded out the foursome.

It was the 163rd golf outing of his presidency, according to CBS News White House reporter Mark Knoller, a respected keeper of presidential statistics.

The group has teed off every day of the long weekend.

On Sunday Obama and his buddies played on a private California course owned by supporter Larry Ellison, the billionaire co-founder of the Oracle software company and the owner of the island of Lanai.

Ellison ranks third on Forbes' annual list of the 400 richest Americans, with an estimated $41 billion fortune.

His 249-acre desert property in Rancho Mirage came with a 19-hole private golf course. The extra hole is available for playoffs.

Obama played all 19 holes.

The president stayed behind in California after holding talks at Sunnylands with Jordan's King Abdullah II on Friday night.

Obama has spent two long weekends at Sunnylands since June, mixing diplomatic duties with the pursuit of a favorite pastime: golf.

By comparison, he visited the real Camp David, the official mountaintop presidential retreat in Maryland, three times last year. He most recently took family and friends to the secluded compound in August to celebrate his 52nd birthday but has yet to visit this year.

Obama is the eighth American president since the mid-1960s to enjoy the 200-acre Sunnylands property, which includes philanthropists Walter and Leonore Annenberg's 25,000-square-foot home, a nine-hole golf course, tennis court, 11 lakes, a swimming pool and a mausoleum where the Annenbergs are interred. The property also has many walking paths, reflecting pools and multiple varieties of wildlife and arid-landscape plants.

Obama welcomed China's new president, Xi Jinping, here last June for a two-day summit that was partly designed to help them start to build a personal relationship even as they hashed out thorny issues between their countries.

Besides his charitable giving, Walter Annenberg was a diplomat who entertained royalty, presidents and celebrities at Sunnylands. The Annenbergs willed the property to a family trust in hopes that U.S. presidents and other high-level U.S. government officials would use it for retreats that further international diplomacy, said Janice Lyle, director of the Sunnylands Center & Gardens.

Lyle said the center was thrilled by Obama's visits.

"People are just taken by this beauty, and it allows them to relax and to interact in more meaningful ways than they might somewhere else," she said.

In the 1980s, Ronald Reagan and his wife, Nancy, celebrated every New Year's holiday during his two-terms in office at Sunnylands. Reagan and Walter Annenberg, who also lived in the Philadelphia area, had a decadeslong friendship that started before Reagan gave up acting for politics.

In 1990, George H.W. Bush and his wife, Barbara, held a state dinner at Sunnylands for Japanese Prime Minister Toshiki Kaifu.

Gerald and Betty Ford also visited. They had a home in Rancho Mirage, where the Betty Ford Center is also located.

Dwight D. Eisenhower was a former president when he came in 1966. He also had a home in the area.

President Richard Nixon drafted his final State of the Union address while at the property in January 1974. He visited in August of that year he had resigned the presidency in disgrace. Bill Clinton and George W. Bush also have passed through Sunnylands.

After his meetings with Xi and Abdullah, Obama chose to spend the weekend on the property instead of immediately returning to Washington. Both times, a trio of childhood friends from his native Hawaii flew in to tee off with him on the estate's nine-hole golf course despite the desert heat.






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