Obama heads to Florida for weekend with the boys

Published on NewsOK Modified: February 16, 2013 at 5:16 pm •  Published: February 16, 2013
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PALM CITY, Fla. (AP) — 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.

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