The first golfing president
President Taft - on the Tee
The first president of the U.S. to openly admit playing
golf, from the great state of Ohio, was President William Howard Taft, the 27th
President of the United States.
We say the first to admit because it is suspected that
President Theodore Roosevelt may have also played golf, but like other
politicians of the day, decided to keep his golfing private, as at the time, it
was considered a game for the rich only. Golf became
an obsession with with President Taft who although played to a 20 handicap, was
known to regularly shoot below 90.
||President Taft, unlike Teddy Roosevelt, not only instructed
his campaign people not to keep it private, but actually participated in
golfing exhibitions. He played rounds with both good and bad, covered by the
press, including American Golfer. He even partnered with Mr. Alan Lard in a match
Golfer editor and former U.S. amateur champion Walter Travis teamed with Vice
President James S. Sherman.
In another high profile match President Taft
partnered with Mr. Walter Travis against Presidential aide Captain Archie
Butt and Brigadier General Clarence R Edwards.
He also openly celebrated the completion of
the Connecticut Avenue bridge which allowed for a quick and direct route to the
Chevy Chase Country Club from the White House for afternoon rounds of golf.
Taft once played in a public round of golf at the Kebo Valley Golf Club in Bar
Harbor, Maine, where he may have even established a course record of sorts
at the 17th hole known as the Elbow hole, by taking a smooth 27 on the hole.
of you, let alone how many presidents, would have the gumption to do that,
period, let alone in the public eye ?
"President Taft may not be the greatest President of the United States has ever had, he may not
become a third termer or even a second termer, but nothing can rob him of the
distinction of being the first President of the Untied States who played
golf" Mr. Henry Leach London Evening News November 1912
After President Taft completed
his term of office, he served as honorary chairman of the 1913 U.S. Open played at
Brookline Country Club, and not only witnessed parts of Francis Ouimet's stunning
Open victory, but was instrumental in it being used to further catapult the
great game of golf into the American public consciousness.
The American Golfer
President Taft says: "My advice to the
middle-aged and older men, who have never played golf, is to take it up. It will
be a rest and recreation from business cares, out of which they will get an
immense amount of pleasure, and at the same time increase their physical vigor
and capacity for work, as well as improve their health. This applies
particularly to the government clerks, and I sincerely hope that the proposed
public golf course will soon be opened, and that men and women of sedentary
habits here will be enabled to get this splendid form of exercise."
President Taft playing a friendly 4-ball match in
Manchester Vermont. Note the "tee box" in the back ground.
|The American Golfer
On PUBLIC GOLF
Ex-President Taft has gone on record strongly in favor of golf, his favorite
recreation, when he embodied his views in a recent letter to the Chamber of
Commerce approving the establishment of a public golf links in the parks of
Washington, D. C. "You know my tendency to golf, my sympathy with anybody
who wants to play it, and my desire to spread a love for the game whenever I
can. Golf is a splendid recreation which can be enjoyed with profit by the young
and the old. It is in the interest of good health and good manners. It promotes
self-restraint, and, as one of its devotees has well said, affords a chance to
play the man and act the gentleman. It is the game of all classes, not a mere
plaything for faddists, nor, as many suppose, a game for the rich man only.
FAVORS FREER USE OF PARKS. "I favor a freer use of public parks by the
people than we have had in the past. They should be available for tennis,
baseball, skating, golf, and like games, under reasonable restrictions. Golf is
the least injurious of outdoor games to the landscape features of our public
parks. "I think all our parks should be opened for golf unless there is
some specific objection in public needs. The use to which they are put should
not be confined to driveways, which are a boon to those who own carriages and
motors, but should include healthgiving games for the enjoyment of those who
cannot afford to develop country clubs."
||The next President to help
raise the golfing consciousness of the American public was President
Warren Harding with his presenting the US Open trophy to 1921 US Open
champion Jim Barnes at Columbia Country Club, Chevy Chase, Maryland.
Other presidents who have had
open love affairs with the great game of golf include, Franklin Delano Roosevelt,
a superb golfer was Club champion at Campobello Golf Club, Campobello
Island New Brunswick before being stricken with polio.
President Dwight D. Eisenhower, namesake of the famous Eisenhower Tree at the
Augusta National Golf Club went so far as to have a putting green installed at
the White House; John F.
Kennedy, known more for his sailing was a low handicap golfer who
many say played with a relaxed and confident manner matched only by the best in
the game; President Gerald Ford was an avid golfer, in the President Taft vein,
often seen playing in such public venues as the Bing Crosby Pebble Beach Pro-AM,
and the Bob Hope Desert Classic.
Both Presidents Bush as well as President Clinton also
supported respectable golfing handicaps in the teens.
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