On a windy winter day in 2013 at one of Florida’s top golf courses, President Obama and Tiger Woods played a friendly round together for the first time.
Some 44 months later, the president’s trip to Port St. Lucie, Florida, has been revealed: $3.6 million.
That’s how much the General Accountability Office, Congress’s bipartisan watchdog agency, figured it cost for Air Force One to ferry Obama to Florida along with supporting aircraft and U.S. Coast Guard boats, plus lodging, meals, commercial airfare and rental cars for Pentagon and Homeland Security Department personnel who accompanied him.
“The military aides, White House staffers and Secret Service agents who traveled with him are a reminder that he’s never far from the responsibilities of the job,” White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest told the New York Times then.
The GAO report was requested by Sen. John Barrasso, a Wyoming Republican.
The president said to Tiger, ‘The last tournament you played was fun to watch. It's good to see you play well again.’
Butch Harmon, Woods’ former golf coach
Obama flew to Florida from his hometown of Chicago, where he had delivered a speech on the economy.
Obama’s game with Woods was part of a President’s Day weekend he spent on Florida’s Treasure Coast. He stayed at the Floridian, an exclusive yacht and golf club purchased in 2010 and then renovated by Houston businessman Jim Crane, who also owns the Houston Astros.
As First Lady Michelle Obama and their daughters skied in Colorado, Crane joined Obama for the golf weekend, along with several major Texas donors to the president’s campaigns: former U.S. Trade Representative and Dallas Mayor Ron Kirk; Tony Chase, former deputy chairman of the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas; and Milton Carroll, chairman of CenterPoint Energy.
Woods’ former coach, Butch Harmon, golfed with the group on Saturday, and Obama joined Woods for a round on Sunday.
“Just to see the interaction between the two on the range was pretty neat,” Harmon told Golf Digest. “The president said to Tiger, ‘The last tournament you played was fun to watch. It’s good to see you play well again.’ You could tell he meant it. It wasn’t just a throw-it-out compliment.”
Dwight Eisenhower was the most avid golfer to occupy the White House, playing more than 800 rounds while president; Obama has played about 300 rounds.
Their game was off-limits to White House reporters traveling with the president, but longtime golf journalist Tim Rosaforte tweeted: “Historic day of golf. Their first round.”
Woods had attended Obama’s first inauguration in January 2009 and visited the White House three months later.
The White House Press Association protested that its members were shut out from covering the historic outing while a golf reporter was included.
Obama’s predecessors, from Bill Clinton and George W. Bush to Gerald Ford and Richard Nixon, often allowed brief media coverage at the start or end of their golf games, but the current president prefers privacy when he hits the links.
A notable exception occurred in 2011 when Obama had a highly publicized game with then-House Speaker John Boehner, joined by Clinton.