- The Washington Times - Sunday, July 7, 2002

KENNEBUNKPORT, Maine Two U.S. presidents teed it up yesterday for a round of speed golf. Clocking in at half the normal playing time for 18 holes, they slowed down only because in the frank admission of the current president "I three-putted too many greens."
Sustaining his frenetic pace in play as in his presidency, George W. Bush hit the links just after sunrise with father George Herbert Walker Bush, the 41st president, brother-in-law Bobby Koch and Cape Arundel Golf Club pro Ken Raynor.
"That's the way we like it, up and early. Up and at 'em," the president told a gallery of reporters gathered around the first tee. They arrived so early, the course's sprinkler system was still on.
The foursome took so many mulligans and practice tee shots that bleary-eyed reporters couldn't keep track who played the "mulligans" extra tee shots usually reserved only for hackers.
"No laughing about the ladies' tee," said former President George Bush, 78, who played from the front tees and turned the 5,881-yard course into just 5,032 yards.
"Yes, Mr. President," said the former president's son, George W. Bush, after his father's first tee shot.
In his best, whispery golf-announcer voice, he followed with: "Nice, gentle applause rippling throughout the gallery."
As the other members of the foursome prepared to tee off, the elder Mr. Bush offered some advice for White House photographer Eric Draper, who had positioned himself about 20 feet in front of the first tee, right in firing range: "I've got words of wisdom for Eric. He ought to get out of there."
The younger Mr. Bush heartily agreed: "Get out of there, Eric," he yelled, drawing laughter.
With more than a half-dozen balls dotted about the fairway and rough, the foursome set off down the first hole. Said the younger Mr. Bush: "See you in a couple of hours like two." A normal round for a foursome takes about four hours.
The elder Mr. Bush known for his ability at speed golf during his presidency set a personal land speed record of playing with a foursome in less than one hour and 42 minutes.
Two hours and 18 minutes later, the group finished 18. "Why so long?" one reporter asked in jest. "Well," the current president deadpanned, "I think it's because I three-putted too many greens."
Just before that, as the foursome made its way up the 18th hole, the small pool of reporters along to capture the day's details gathered near the green. As the president's ball landed just a few yards from the pool at the edge of the rough, the reporters were ushered to safer quarters behind a tree.
The younger Mr. Bush approached the ball and said, "I apologize. Gosh. Miserable shot."
Said one reporter: "You didn't have any idea where we were, either, did you?"
The president responded: "It's clear I didn't have any idea where the ball was going."
Another reporter: "Mr. President, it's up by the tree, sir."
Mr. Bush: "Who kicked it under there?"
The president then chipped up to the front of the green and putted to within a foot for a tap-in bogey on the par-4 final hole.
At one point before the round, NBC reporter David Gregory asked about the president's golf hat.
Mr. Bush and Mr. Gregory clashed earlier this year at a news conference in France during the president's visit to Europe. At one point, Mr. Gregory asked Mr. Bush to explain why so many Europeans are opposed to the administration's foreign policy in the Middle East. Then turning to French President Jacques Chirac, Mr. Gregory added in French: "And, Mr. President, would you maybe comment on that?"
"Very good," Mr. Bush said sardonically. "The guy memorizes four words, and he plays like he's intercontinental."
"I can go on," Mr. Gregory offered.
"I'm impressed que bueno," said Mr. Bush, using the Spanish phrase for "how wonderful." He said with a straight face: "Now I'm literate in two languages."
In response to Mr. Gregory's question yesterday about his golf hat, Mr. Bush, a twinkle in his eye, said the hat said: "El Jefe. That's French," drawing laughter.
After the round, when Mr. Bush asked who kicked his ball under the tree, a reporter said: "David did." The president, apparently mulling over his joke during the round, said: "I was just kidding about the French thing," drawing more laughter.
The group then headed off for the Bush family compound, Walker's Point, a six-acre enclave on a peninsula that juts into the Atlantic Ocean. There, family and friends were to celebrate the younger Mr. Bush's 56th birthday.
Asked what he wanted, the president said: "I don't know yet; I haven't thought about it. First of all, I'm glad I'm glad my mother and wife remembered."


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