- - Tuesday, October 10, 2017

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Kim Jong-il, the late supreme leader of North Korea, was one heckuva golfer. He only played once, in 1994, and he reportedly shot a 38-under-par round on the country’s only golf course, including 11 holes-in-one (although some reports say he only had five). That’s right: Par was 72; he shot a 34. His worst score all round long was a birdie.

The supreme leader then promptly retired from the sport (who wouldn’t?).

Now, you can take that tale to the bank. The news was reported by North Korea’s state-run media, and “fake news” hadn’t even been invented yet. Forget that most golf courses only have four par 3’s — holes on which you can actually make a hole-in-one. It’s in the paper, so it’s gotta’ be true.

From the reaction on Twitter, President Trump shooting 73 — at age 71 — is just as unbelievable. But Sen. Lindsey Graham, a longtime buddy of Sen. John McCain and, like the war hero, not exactly a big Trump fan, says that’s exactly what happened.

“Really enjoyed a round of golf with President @realDonaldTrump today,” the South Carolina Republican posted Monday on Twitter. “President Trump shot a 73 in windy and wet conditions!”

Mike Warren, the senior writer at The Weekly Standard, checked it out. “Graham spokesman tells me this is not a joke and that Trump really did shoot a 73,” he tweeted.

Mr. Trump and Mr. Graham played on the Columbus Day holiday at Trump National Golf Club, the president’s club in Northern Virginia. From the tips (the back tees) the course measures 7,693 yards. From some more-forward tees, where most average golfers would play from, the course is still lengthy at 6,494. The senior tees would be even shorter.

In the senior PGA tournament held there this summer, Bernhard Langer shot 68 the final day to win by one stroke. Some really famous golfers didn’t fare so well: Hale Irwin, about Trump’s age at 72 and the oldest ever to win the U.S. Open (at 45), shot 76-82 to miss the cut. Tom Kite went 75-80. Corey Pavin shot a 69 on Day One, but then hacked it around the next day for an 82. And Tom Watson, winner of eight major championships, could only manage 76-74.

But Mr. Trump shot a 73 — one over par. Is he really that good? “The president’s official handicap is 2.8, although he hasn’t posted a score since June 2016,” Golf.com reports. “Of the 20 scores listed under his most recent scores, just one is better than a 73. (That was a 70 he reported shooting in August 2013.)”

He lapped Mr. Graham, who’s just 62 years old. “How bad did he beat me?” Mr. Graham wrote in another tweet. “I did better in the presidential race than today on the golf course! Great fun. Great host.”

Monday was rainy and windy and exceedingly humid. Shooting a 73 that day would take some serious skill — even from more forward tees (you still gotta hit fairways and greens and make some putts).

Some on Twitter found the tale as hard to believe as Kim shooting a 34.

“Oh come on. No way Trump shoots a 73. I am sure POTUS is a fine golfer, but there is no way this happened,” wrote John Bresnahan, the capital bureau chief for Politico, a left-leaning website.

David Frum, a former speechwriter for President George W. Bush, perhaps the best golfer ever to inhabit the White House, snarked: “Did he cheat?”

Richard Haass, president of the Council of Foreign Relations, tweeted: “Lindsey: how many mulligans? how large was the circle of friendship on putts? what tees? strains credulity to believe this was a real 73.”

There were a slew of political musings as well, with posters slamming Trump for playing golf after hurricanes and with California burning.

Only Mr. Trump and Mr. Graham (and maybe a few Secret Service agents) know if the president really shot a 73.

But I’ll add one personal note: My dad beat me like a drum into his seventies. I’d hit my drive 290 yards into the trees; he’d poke his 3-wood out there 215. I’d take a drop, miss the green, chip on then three-putt for 7; he’d knock one up close to the green (sometimes with his trusty 7-wood), chip to three feet and tap in for par. All. Day. Long.

So a 71-year-old lifelong golfer can absolutely shoot 73. And if anyone could do it, it’d be Donald Trump.

Joseph Curl has covered politics for 25 years, including 12 years as White House correspondent at The Washington Times. He can be reached at josephcurl@gmail.com and on Twitter at @josephcurl.

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