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
9 years 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. Rob

    nero fiddling while Rome burns what a failure what a shame...

    February 17, 2013 08:31 pm at 8:31 pm |
  2. Independent thinker

    Maybe the golf game is "out of sight" because CNN, NBC and other so-called news stations......doesn't want to report and show the President as "insensitive". Guess he just doesn't realize the job is not 9-5 with Federal holidays off. Just let the government shut down..........I beginning to think that is really the best idea!

    February 17, 2013 08:54 pm at 8:54 pm |
  3. Nobama

    What? Obama passed up a chance to have his pix taken or be on camera? Unbelievable!

    February 17, 2013 09:22 pm at 9:22 pm |
  4. everybodyknowsthisisnowhere

    There is nothing to report so the "reporters" make something up. Sounds like journalism SOP. They were all in one van together. What an opportinity for a meteor strike!

    February 17, 2013 09:29 pm at 9:29 pm |
  5. pixel8n

    "transparency" = "our right to put a camera in your bathroom"

    February 17, 2013 10:07 pm at 10:07 pm |
  6. otlset

    This way they can slam down, break, or throw their clubs freely.

    February 17, 2013 10:09 pm at 10:09 pm |
  7. Reggie from LA

    I don't think entertaining paparazzi was necessarily the implication of "transparency". Was any press invited? Is it assumed then, that they have automatic access to anyone anytime because of a press badge and a celebrity is doing something of interest? Tiger's caddy would have had to remind them not to "shutter" on the back swing. They need to get over themselves.

    February 17, 2013 10:17 pm at 10:17 pm |
  8. Donna

    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.

    Well, this is hilarious. The LSM complaining about lack of access and transparency to cover Obama and Wood's golf game. ANd not a peep from the LSM about Benghazi. Sorry, not hilarious, pathetic. Journalism and reporting is officially dead in this country. It has all been turned into People Magazine type coverage for their buddy Obama,

    February 17, 2013 10:21 pm at 10:21 pm |
  9. Evergreen

    Enjoy your President's Day, Mr. President.

    February 17, 2013 10:40 pm at 10:40 pm |
  10. Namesguess

    All this over a golf game We all need some time to relax...

    February 17, 2013 10:41 pm at 10:41 pm |
  11. Raymond

    I don't care for Obama but, really the media and press dont need to see him golfing, maybe he wants to be to have some time without a camera shoved down hsi thorat.

    February 17, 2013 11:30 pm at 11:30 pm |
  12. noella

    They're both amoral garbage. They suit one another perfectly.

    February 17, 2013 11:42 pm at 11:42 pm |
  13. lolzorz

    ok this isn't about transparency hes meeting with a sports star not a head of state. do you really think he and tiger woods are discussing pressing foreign or economic policy?

    February 18, 2013 12:04 am at 12:04 am |
  14. MarcNJ

    "We, the People" don't need to have photos of his movements 24/7.

    February 18, 2013 12:33 am at 12:33 am |
  15. Transparant Taz

    Well, at least he wasn't resting.

    APRIL 9, 2009 – "And we will not rest until we reach a day when not one single veteran falls into homelessness"

    MAY 11, 2009 – "I will not rest until the dream of health care reform is finally achieved in the United States of America"

    NOVEMBER 2, 2009 – "We will not rest until we are succeeding in generating the jobs that this economy needs"

    NOVEMBER 23, 2009 – "I will not rest until business are investing again, and businesses are hiring again"

    JANUARY 28, 2010 – "We will not rest until we build an economy that's ready for America's future"

    MARCH 5 2010 – "I’m not gonna rest & my administration is not gonna rest in our efforts to help people who are looking to find a job"

    MAY 26, 2010 – "We will not rest until this well is shut, the environment is repaired and the clean up is complete"

    JULY 8, 2010 – "My administration will not rest until every American who is able and ready and willing to work can find a job"

    February 18, 2013 12:41 am at 12:41 am |
  16. 7tumwater7

    just want to say how DISAPPOINTED i am to hear that the President would play golf with the likes of tiger woods. if i had to cast my vote again in november, i would abstain. shame on you, Obama, for spending time with such a reprehensible character who is such a terrible role model in every way, shape and form. hitting a golf ball well isn't an excuse for woods' past behavior. i hope michelle reads you the riot act when you return to the WH.

    February 18, 2013 01:13 am at 1:13 am |
  17. Party of Know

    The most important things our media has had to cover, or have chosen to cover, about our POTUS is......nothing. The only thing our young people know, and I'm not talking about children, I'm talking about so called young adults (children), is that we have a black president that spouts "Social Justice". Why is the MSM in bed with the destruction of the Best Country on the planet? What does "Social Justice" mean? Keeping the Poor poorer? I guess the Liberal agenda is doing a Great Job to indoctrinate our society to be completely useless. It's almost as if the Liberals think humans living off of everyone that works are better off. They want to ensure slavery will continue to exist. Absolutely disgusting.

    February 18, 2013 01:19 am at 1:19 am |
  18. Scott

    I think Obama got annoyed by the press and decided to ditch them. It is a bit juvenile. But he has to deal with idiots in Congress like Lindsay Graham blocking all his cabinet picks. Nothing gets done in Washington these days because Republicans are all afraid of the tea party folks. So why not go golfing and drink beer with Tiger. It sounds a lot more fun than babysitting losers like Graham.

    February 18, 2013 01:54 am at 1:54 am |
  19. Anonymous

    ....just what our country needs, another unproductive adventure from our out of touch president! ...I'm not impressed!

    February 18, 2013 02:02 am at 2:02 am |
  20. Getoverit

    Another golf outing? With Butch Harmon and Tiger Woods? This 1%er can never be President....

    February 18, 2013 02:04 am at 2:04 am |
  21. Binded by the republican lie

    OMG people...what part of "Private Club" don't you people get...They don't have to let you in if they don't want to!
    Privacy is privacy....put that in your journalistic rights and shove it!!

    February 18, 2013 02:19 am at 2:19 am |
  22. chicadow

    "transparency" in governmental matters doesn't need to include golf. Get over it, wannabe paparazzi.

    February 18, 2013 03:43 am at 3:43 am |
  23. Gnomepark

    Transparency???? Let the guy play a round of golf with one of the best without a camera stuck in his face.

    February 18, 2013 03:50 am at 3:50 am |
  24. Sari

    Transparency. For a golf game. Pick your battles for transparency, people; this isn't that important.

    February 18, 2013 06:18 am at 6:18 am |
  25. Michael

    You are the company you keep....on both side of this one. What a shame...

    February 18, 2013 07:08 am at 7:08 am |
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