I once played golf with the president at the Galveston Country Club. Not the president of the country club; the president of the United States. Almost.
In late 1990s, I was privileged to attend dignitary protection training conducted by the United States Secret Service, in Washington, D.C. That experience was surely a career highlight and worthy of being written about; but this is a golf column.
One day, woven into the fabric of challenges facing those who protect our presidents, was a discussion on the golfing habits of our president, George H.W. Bush. President Bush, we learned, was not necessarily a good golfer; but he was likely, they said, the fastest golfing president ever. “Aerobic golf”, they called it.
Security for his golf games included, among other things, having a foursome of agents play just ahead of the presidential group and another foursome just behind. Not uncommonly, they said, he would play through the forward group and be inside the clubhouse enjoying his post-round; on their arrival, he would laugh and ask what took them so long.
Whomever had dubbed the president a “wimp,” they said, was sadly mistaken (additional evidence includes skydiving on his 90th birthday).
Later, I received a call from the Houston office of the secret service. President Bush was planning a weekend stay on the island and wanted to go fishing. Could I be of assistance? The answer was a resounding “No.”
But I knew someone who could: Vic Maceo. Ask Vic to tell you about the morning he spent — his coffee being poured by President Bush — looking over maps and pointing out the best fishing spots. Ask him about Mrs. Bush and Millie. Watch as Vic is uplifted with the recollection of that morning, just as I was uplifted when he described to me the experience later that morning, after the weather cancelled the fishing.
The fishing trip took place another day, but I did not participate because, well, I don’t fish. Instead, I asked whether perhaps I might join the “Chief,” as my fishing troops had gotten to know him, for 18 — or even nine — holes of golf.
A few days following my request, my contact called to say President Bush wanted to know not how good a golfer I was, but how fast I could play. I assured him I could play very fast. That was the last I heard.
I did ultimately get onto a golf course with President Bush as well as Mrs. Bush. Bill Ross and I were walking observers at a Champions Tour event with the threesome of Ben Crenshaw, Peter Jacobson and Hal Sutton when, out of the trees came a golf cart with the president in the passenger seat and Arnold Palmer driving. Mrs. Bush was in a separate cart.
Both the King and the former president were gracious, shaking our hands and chatting when Bill Ross seemingly from nowhere produced a couple of magazines that had Mr. Palmer on the cover. Arnie signed the magazines and was about to return them to Bill when President “41” reached over, took them and the marker and autographed both!
George W. Bush plays golf; he also has become an accomplished artist. I’ve been known to dab oil onto canvas. Perhaps “43” will see this and invite me for golf and artistic pursuits. For many years I declared I thought having a beer with him would be enjoyable. Since he does not drink, I’ll have two.
Rest in peace, Mr. President. You were by all accounts a kind and gentle man, on and off the course.