The President and the Speaker should do more than merely play the game — they should change it

The President and the Speaker should do more than merely play the game — they should change it

President Obama and John Boehner played their round at a military base outside the nation's capital.
Charles Dharapak/AP

I’m still waiting for the President’s call, so I don’t have much additional information on last Saturday’s Barack Obama-John Boehner Golf Summit at Andrews Air Force Base. But the reported result sounds a little suspicious, doesn’t it? The two powerful guys (sorry, Joe Biden, but Speaker of the House trumps Veep and “Ohio governor John Kasich” doesn’t move the dial at all) manage to eke out a victory on the 18th hole? We’ve seen that before. It’s called CEO golf.

The real question, though, is whether Battle Ob-Bo can provide a spark to a golf industry that has sunk as far as Obama’s poll numbers and also has a major public relations problem.

According to industry statistics from 2010, 50 million adults in the U.S. believe that the game is not “accessible to everyone” and “might even describe it as elitist and/or discriminatory.” I can tell you with absolute assurance that none of those 50 million were with me last week when, at a course in southern New Jersey, a drunk foursome slurping wine coolers tumbled out of a jitney from Atlantic City.

But the stats on participation (the number of golfers dropped by about a million in 2010), and new course openings (lowest number in a quarter century) are bleak, owing both to the recession and the idea that the game is for the rich and famous. Both Obama and Boehner should be invested in improving those numbers for the sake of the economy, and that “elitist” tag should get their blood boiling; in Washington it’s better to be an avowed Marxist than an elitist.

They should consider a golf summit at which Mr. President and Mr. Speaker play with two normal schlubs. Turn it into a contest. Regular Americans submit ideas on saving Social Security, immigration reform and what to do in Libya, along with their handicap, and each month two get picked. The foursome plays some regular-guy course, and when the round is over Obama and Boehner are compelled to go through their card.

Obama: On number 1, let’s see, I dead yanked my drive into the woods. . . .

Boehner: Thought you were going to need the Forest Service to find that one. . . .

Obama: Yeah? You had so many snowmen I had the National Weather Service on high alert.

They slap each other on the back, and next thing you know golf is nonelitist and an electrician from Dubuque has offered a reasonable compromise on the debt ceiling. One proviso: no jitneys from Atlantic City.

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