First Off the Tee: Presidential Hackers, Duffers, and Cheaters, from Taft to Bush

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PublicAffairs, 2003 - Political Science - 357 pages
4 Reviews
Golf is the favorite sport of America's presidents, and an award-winning New York Times reporter tells great stories that show why it's so much more than a game for them. Some students of the presidency say that we can learn the most about the men who've occupied the Oval Office by studying their ideology. Others say political savvy or family background or regional influences are paramount. But Don Van Natta argues for another standard--by observing the way they play golf. Fourteen of the last seventeen presidents have been golfers, and Van Natta explores two questions: Why is the game of golf so attractive to the men who occupy the Oval Office? And what do their golf games reveal about their characters? Some presidents relied on golf to escape the burdens of office, while others brought those burdens with them. And few have been able to resist the perks of high office, bending the rules and freely taking mulligans. Is it really surprising to learn that the section called "Hail to the Cheats" features the golfing escapades of Bill Clinton, Richard Nixon, Lyndon Johnson, and Warren Harding? Not content to rely solely on the history books, Van Natta takes the reader on a round of golf he recently played with Bill Clinton and draws on extensive interviews with the golfing ex-presidents about what the game means to them. For history buffs and golf aficionados alike, First off the Tee is a cheerful romp and a unique way to share the links with America's duffers-in-chief. Even as golf surged in popularity through the latter half of the twentieth century, the presidents recognized potential political peril on the golf course, and it was not necessarily lurking in the bunkers or the rough.Sometimes, the potential political costs were envisioned as the ball soared straight at the pin. John F. Kennedy was one who cringed at his own beautiful shot. Despite a bad back, Kennedy possessed a graceful, effortless swing, which allowed him to easily rank as the best player among the fourteen Presidential golfers. But he was obsessively secretive about his love of the game, just as he was obsessively secretive about the other extracurricular activities that he participated in during his 1,000 days in the White House. And some members of the press, many of whom adored Kennedy, enabled the president to keep his passion for women--and, to a lesser extent, golf--hidden from the public. As he ran for President in 1960. Kennedy was acutely aware that some Americans had become disenchanted with President Dwight D. Eisenhower's methodical devotion to golf. Kennedy was almost maniacal about his refusal to allow photographers to snap his picture while holding a driver or a putter. Just a few days before the Democratic convention in which he would accept the party's nomination for President, Kennedy teed off on the par 3, 15th oceanfront hole at the breathtaking Cypress Point Course on California's Monterey peninsula. Kennedy's ball landed on the green and rolled straight toward the hole. It looked almost certain that the ball would glide into the cup. "I was yelling, 'Go in! Go in!'" recalled Paul B. Fay, Jr., who later served as the undersecretary of the Navy in the Kennedy administration. But Jack Kennedy looked stricken with terror. The ball stopped just six inches short of the hole. Kennedy exhaled, and told Fay: "You're yelling for that damn ball to go in the hole and I'm watching apromising political career coming to an end. If that ball had gone into that hole, in less than an hour the word would be out to the nation that another golfer was trying to get into the White House."
  

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Review: First Off the Tee: Presidential Hackers, Duffers, and Cheaters, from Taft to Bush

User Review  - Justin - Goodreads

A fine combination of two important interests of mine, golf and the presidency. It's a quick and fun read. Read full review

Review: First Off the Tee: Presidential Hackers, Duffers, and Cheaters, from Taft to Bush

User Review  - Carolyn Bay - Goodreads

Entertaining and pretty informative. I caught one error. He said that Ronald Reagan went to Eureka College in Peoria, Illinois. Eureka College is in Eureka, Illinois near Peoria, but across a river and into the next county. Read full review

Contents

Bill GeorgeJerry and Bob I
1
A Private Passion
29
Dont Ask What I Shot
55
Worst Off the Tee
113
Hail to the Cheats
177
41 and 43
279
The Allure of the Game
309
About the Author
357
Copyright

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About the author (2003)

Jeff Gerth has been a New York Times reporter for more than a quarter century. He was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in 1999 as a member of the Times team that disclosed the corporate sale of American technology to China. Gerth was also the first reporter to break the Whitewater story. Don Van Natta is an investigative correspondent for the New York Times. He has been a member of three Pulitzer Prize-winning teams, and he is the author of the New York Times bestselling First off the Tee: Presidential Hackers, Duffers and Cheaters from Taft to Bush.

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