High profile but out of sight: Obama's golf outing with Tiger Woods
Pool photo of the gate at the Floridian, where Obama playead golf with Woods. Reporters were not allowed beyond the gate of the private club. (Photo courtesy of Brian Haefeli)
February 17th, 2013
08:17 PM ET
1 year ago

High profile but out of sight: Obama's golf outing with Tiger Woods

Palm City, Florida (CNN) – President Barack Obama's round of golf with Tiger Woods was one of the most talked about moments of the weekend, but not one of the most seen. Despite its high interest and high profile, the game was off-limits to White House reporters and photographers.

And that drew a complaint from the White House Correspondents’ Association, expressing news organizations' "extreme frustration" with the lack of access, and promising a continuing fight for more transparency.

It all started as the president enjoyed the Presidents’ Day holiday weekend with friends at a private and very exclusive resort on Florida's Treasure Coast. After arriving at the Floridian golf club late Friday night, Obama remained inside the gates the entire weekend.

Saturday's schedule out of the public eye included golf lessons from former Woods' coach Butch Harmon, and golf with several friends and Democratic Party donors. Among those who played with the president: Trade Representative Ron Kirk, longtime Chicago friend Eric Whitaker, owner of the resort and the Houston Astros Jim Crane, Houston lawyer Tony Chase, and Houston businessman Milton Carroll.

Reporters waited nearby, but did not expect to see anything.

But the low-key nature of the presidential downtime changed, at least in terms of public interest, with word of Woods joining the Sunday game. Reporters had been asking the White House since Saturday about the possibility. But they first learned Woods was there from Golf Digest senior writer Tim Rosaforte, who said on Twitter he was at the club's pro shop. It was then more than two hours before the White House confirmed the report.

The pool of reporters assigned to follow the president Sunday then asked for an opportunity to see the president and Woods on the course, but they were denied access.

When presidents go to golf courses during other vacations, photographers often try to capture some of the moments from spots visible to public property.

In Palm City, the resort is completely fenced in, surrounded by water on two sides and large trees and thick brush on the others. Except for gates entrances with small, nondescript signs, the property is completely obscured to the two-lane road nearby. Moving to the site after learning that Woods had joined the president, the official pool of reporters was kept in a van outside the gates. Journalists who attempted to see any activity on the grounds on their own were unsuccessful.

The president of the White House Correspondents’ Association, Ed Henry, issued a statement Sunday evening, saying, "I can say a broad cross section of our members from print, radio, online and TV have today expressed extreme frustration to me about having absolutely no access to the President of the United States this entire weekend. There is a very simple but important principle we will continue to fight for today and in the days ahead: transparency."

White House Deputy Press Secretary Josh Earnest responded to the statement, saying, "The press access granted by the White House today is entirely consistent with the press access offered for previous presidential golf outings. It's also consistent with the press access promised to the White House Press Corps prior to arrival in Florida on Friday evening."

However, when Obama went golfing with former President Bill Clinton at Andrews Air Force Base in September 2011, the pool was able to shoot photos. Pool photographers also snapped shots of Obama hitting the links with House Speaker John Boehner in June 2011. The White House released its own photo of the bipartisan pair, as well.

Earnest on Thursday was asked by reporters about the image of the president's weekend at the exclusive resort. He said, "the President of the United States is the President of the United States 24 hours a day, and will fulfill his responsibilities as President even while he's getting some well-deserved downtime with some friends this weekend. I don't think the American people will begrudge him that."

The downtime may have remained virtually unnoticed to most of the American people before the Woods' appearance. Even after, it remained unseen.


Filed under: Florida • President Obama • Tiger Woods
soundoff (27 Responses)
  1. Name lynn

    Tiger vs obama what a day out for two mens, obama mom white, his dad black. Tiger woods mom light skined, his dad brown skin, yet tiger woods says he black. obama playing golf with a mix up man.

    February 18, 2013 07:22 am at 7:22 am |
  2. svseashells

    Reporters – GET A LIFE! What will you demand next? Pictures at the family dinner, evenings spent with the kids, family gatherings? Access to his bathroom time? All in the name of "transparency"? Even as President, he does deserve a certain amount of privacy when doing non-Presidential activities. Back off and report some real news.

    February 18, 2013 07:28 am at 7:28 am |
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