JUPITER, Fla. >> President Donald Trump has long boasted about his prowess on the golf course. Now he’s putting his game to work.
The president spent his Saturday morning golfing with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe as he hosts his first foreign leader at his winter estate in Palm Beach, Florida.
After a rocky diplomatic start that included contentious phone calls with the leaders of Mexico and Australia, the friendly weekend of meetings, dinners and golf suggests the new president is willing to invest time in developing close personal relationships with leaders he feels he can work with.
Trump and Abe left Mar-a-Lago early Saturday morning and headed north to one of Trump’s golf courses in Jupiter, Florida. Reporters weren’t able to catch a glimpse of the pair as they played on the 285-acre property. But Trump later posted a photo of them giving each other a high-five on the golf course and tweeted, “Having a great time hosting Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in the United States!”
The Trump National Golf Club website, in typical Trumpian language, claims the course “features the finest revetted bunkers in the United States, incredible water hazards, including a magnificent island green, and one of the most picturesque landscapes, all of which make for a truly memorable round.”
Abe had joked at a joint press conference at the White House on Friday that he was looking forward to playing golf with Trump, even though he’s not nearly as good with a club.
He said he planned to use the time to discuss the future of the world, the Pacific region and U.S.-Japanese relations.
As their husbands golfed, Melania Trump and Akie Abe toured the Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens in nearby Delray Beach. The women were also expected to have lunch together at Mar-a-Lago.
The two couples touched down in Florida on Friday afternoon and headed straight to Trump’s Mar-a-Lago Club, where they enjoyed a late dinner at its crowded patio restaurant. They were joined by Robert Kraft, the owner of the Super Bowl champion New England Patriots, and several interpreters. Paying members and club guests took in the scene and mingled with Trump and Abe into the night.
The president and Mrs. Trump are expected to host a more formal delegation dinner with the Abes on Saturday night.
Trump is also expected to tend to other business in Florida. He’s scheduled to speak by phone Saturday afternoon with Tunisian President Beji Caid Essebsi and Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos.
Trump and Abe appear to have hit it off early. Abe was the only world leader to meet with Trump before his inauguration, and Trump welcomed Abe to the White House with a hug.
As a candidate, Trump often railed against former President Barack Obama for his frequent golfing, claiming Obama played more often than players on the PGA Tour.
He said if he won he’d likely be too busy to golf and would only play with people he was looking to make deals with.
One of Trump’s first actions as president was to withdraw the U.S. from a 12-nation, trans-Pacific trade agreement that was negotiated by the Obama administration and strongly supported by Tokyo.
Abe has said that Japan may be open to a bilateral trade deal with the U.S., but reaching such a deal would be political difficult. Japan logged the second largest trade surplus with the U.S. last year.