Some crank once said, "If it were up to me, no man guilty of golf would ever hold public office."
Turning a deaf ear, as politicians are wont to do, 15 of the last 18 presidents have been guilty of golf, including the current Golfer In Chief, Barack Obama, who is visiting the city this week for some sort of ceremony.
We don't know how well Obama plays because he prefers it that way. It's bad enough that presidents are criticized for playing when they should be finding jobs. Heaven forbid that he shoot something low. Then critics could say, "See? I told you. The man's playing too much while the world is going down the toilet."
It is safe to say that Obama is better at the game than was Ulysses S. Grant, thought to be the first president to try golf. On a visit to Scotland, birthplace of the game, Grant decided to see what the game was all about. He swung six times, whiffed the ball six times and quit. What he said was not recorded.
Probably the best player ever to hold the office was Franklin D. Roosevelt. Before he was struck by polio, he played consistently in the 70s.
John F. Kennedy was also a skillful player but he kept his golf under wraps as best he could, sometimes playing only the middle holes to avoid media cameras, because he didn't want to be projected as an aristrocrat.
Bill Clinton, also in town this week, had a reputation for do-overs called mulligans. People who played with him said if he didn't like a shot, he might just play it over. When he was done, his score usually looked pretty good.
There is a story about Lyndon Johnson and creative score keeping that may or may not be true, which is sort of standard in matters involving pols, isn't it? It's said he scored an 8 on a hole but claimed it was a 5. When challenged by his playing companions, he said, "I am the president of the United States and I can have a mulligan anywhere I want to. I tell you to put a 5 on the scorecard."
The golfingest of all presidents was Dwight Eisenhower. He played over 800 rounds while in office and was a member of Augusta National, where he once unsuccessfully urged club officials to cut down a tree into which he consistently drove his ball.
How much does Obama play? About 100 rounds since he has been in office, according to some observers.
He told one interviewer, "It's a game I keep on thinking I should be good at and somehow the ball goes this way and that and never goes straight."
Explaining to another interviewer what pleasure he gets out of playing golf, he said, "It feels as if ... you're out of the container."