WASHINGTON TODAY: It’s Golf on the Go in George Bush’s Foursome
KENNEBUNKPORT, Maine (AP) _ Golfing with George Bush is no leisurely affair. It’s golf on the go, from the first tee to the 18th green, a frenetic form of recreation that the local club pro jokingly refers to as ″cart polo.″
The president, who jets off tonight for the NATO summit in London, golfed four days out of the past five as part of a recreational regimen to ″get in shape″ for the diplomatic marathon ahead.
He also logged ample time on the tennis court outside his oceanfront home and took his speedboat Fidelity out for daily spins on the Atlantic.
But golf has played an expanded role in Bush’s sporting life ever since Ken Raynor handed the president a long-handled putter called a Pole-Kat last summer.
″It’s been a savior for him,″ said Raynor, the 38-year-old pro at the Cape Arundel Golf Club.
The Pole-Kat allows a golfer to stand upright behind the ball, instead of beside it, and stroke it with the single motion of one guiding arm. For Bush, as for some senior pro golfers, it has proven a cure for the ″yips″ - a tendency to hit putts jerkily.
Before ″he got that big Pole-Kat putter, golf was not fun for him,″ said Willard S. ″Spike″ Heminway, 57, a textile executive from Greenwich, Conn., and frequent Bush golf and tennis partner.
Raynor estimated Bush’s current handicap on the par-69 Cape Arundel course is between 12 and 15 shots, meaning he would customarily shoot 81 to 84.
A year ago, ″he was picking the ball up more often,″ the pro said.
It’s hard to say exactly what Bush’s golf score is, for he seldom finishes out every hole. He favors playing with partners by ″best ball″ rules in which only the lowest score in the twosome is carded.
Cape Arundel is no Augusta National or Burning Tree; it is a rustic, 6,000- yard ″links″ course with only one par 5, 13 par 4s and four par 3s.
But it has its hills and knolls, and the Kennebunk River meanders through it, posing a variety of challenges.
A normal round of golf at Cape Arundel lasts 3 hours and 20 minutes, Raynor says. Bush seldom takes more than 2 hours and 20 minutes.
″We joke that it’s cart polo or aerobic golf,″ the pro said.
Heminway said Bush is ″fun to play with″ and ″very competitive.″
″It’s really wonderful that he can just shut out all the other pressures and just think about golf. It’s a great therapeutic thing for him,″ said Heminway.
Bush started a round Sunday grousing that he was in a foul mood - and finished boasting it was ″the second happiest day of my life″ after a birdie on the 13th hole.
Bush competes earnestly for the small sums - $1 a hole and the like - he usually wagers.
When he headed out Monday with an entourage including Treasury Secretary Nicholas Brady and Vice President Dan Quayle - both amateur golfers of no mean repute - Bush hit one of his longest drives off the first tee at Cape Arundel.
″No mulligans today. We’re in a hurry,″ he quipped, abandoning his customary practice of allowing repeat drives.
Quayle, in fact, took a mulligan off the first tee, double-bogeyed the ninth green and landed in a sand trap on the 18th - the three holes the media witnessed.
Bush rose to the defense of his vice president the next morning, saying that off camera, Quayle got ″six birdies. That’s pretty good golf.″
Despite Quayle’s insistence that Bush won, Brady and Bush nephew Joe Ellis actually carried the day. Bush excused Quayle’s white lie, saying, ″He was just being pleasant.″
It was Quayle’s first golf outing with Bush.
National security adviser Brent Scowcroft, on the other hand, gets called out on numerous Bush golf outings, rain or shine. Sometimes in nasty weather Scowcroft looks more like a hostage than a willing participant.
White House chief of staff John Sununu, another visitor to Walker’s Point, was asked how he escaped golf duty.
″I’m waiting for the big game so I can take some big money off him,″ said Sununu.
EDITOR’S NOTE - Christopher Connell covers the White House for The Associated Press.