Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 16 April 2014

Republican rival wins the golf war

Barack Obama, far right, with from left to right, Saxby Chambliss, Mark Udall, and Bob Corker (AP/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

Republican senator Saxby Chambliss took up a rare congressional invitation to play golf with President Barack Obama - and had the US leader bunkered.

Mr Chambliss sunk a hole-in-one on the par-three 11th hole and the ace shot helped lead him and Republican teammate Senator Bob Corker of Tennessee to victory over the Democratic duo of Mr Obama and Colorado senator Mark Udall.

The golf outing was meant to strengthen ties between the President and congress.

Mr Chambliss told reporters upon his triumphant return to Capitol Hill that "everyone went crazy" when he made the shot and there were high-fives all around. The President retrieved Mr Chambliss' ball from the hole, while Mr Corker took a picture.

"I told him since I made the hole-in-one, he ought to give us everything we want on entitlement reform," Mr Chambliss said - Washington speak for legislation to change benefits like Social Security and Medicare.

Mr Obama took the senators to a favourite course at Maryland's Andrews Air Force Base, where he frequently plays at weekends with aides and friends. He once took along House of Representatives speaker John Boehner and has also included Rep Jim Clyburn, but this was his first outing with any politician in his second term of office.

The afternoon game added a recreational twist to Mr Obama's months-long effort to strengthen ties with politicians, hoping some quality face time now can lay the groundwork for compromise on pressing issues down the road.

The foursome played under overcast skies that seemed to threaten rain that never came. Their game was cut short on the 15th hole so the senators could get back for a vote to allow states to tax internet sales.

The White House noted that the President was the weakest golfer in the group, with the highest handicap, and paired with fellow Democrat Mr Udall, who has the lowest handicap. All three of the senators were ranked among the top 40 on Golf Digest's 2011 list of Washington's Top 150 Golfers.

Mr Chambliss, who says he golfs 30 to 40 times a year, said he made another hole-in-one more than 20 years ago, but "this one's pretty special". He said he used a five-iron and choked up on his club but could not tell if he sunk it. Once he confirmed it was in the hole, there were high-fives all around, he said. The players all signed the flag for him.

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