WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama was proud and House Speaker John Boehner was exhilarated.
No, this wasn't a celebration of some big White House-Congress deal on the national debt. Just a couple of weekend golfers hitting the links on a sunny Saturday.
Obama brought Boehner, R-Ohio, to his home course for their much anticipated round, the first time the political rivals and avid golfers have played together.
The four-hour outing came amid heightened tensions between the White House and Capitol Hill over deficit reduction negotiations and U.S. military's involvement in Libya. But aides to both Obama and Boehner said their time on the course was more about stroking putts than striking deals.
The president and the speaker were joined by Vice President Joe Biden and Ohio's Republican Gov. John Kasich for a 9:30 a.m. tee time at the course at Joint Base Andrews where the president is a frequent weekend golfer.
The White House made a rare exception and allowed the press to watch Obama and his playing partners finish the first hole, a par five.
Biden was cool under pressure, sinking a 15-to-20 foot putt.
"Did you all catch that?" Obama shouted to reporters gathered near the green.
The president, dressed in dark pants, a white polo shirt and a baseball cap, putted for par, tapping him a short shot after missing a 12-footer.
Kasich, a former congressman, missed a long 30-footer, then tapped in for par. Boehner, one of the best golfers in Congress, gave a hearty "Oh yeah!" after draining a short putt.
Obama, who is not in Boehner's links league, patted the speaker on the back as they headed toward the second hole, the president driving their cart.
While Obama is an avid golfer, he rarely plays with anyone outside of his small cadre of close aides. His rounds run long, usually well over five hours, and those close to the president say he revels in the chance to get out of the spotlight.
Obama's penchant for privacy extends to his social life. He surrounds himself with a tight inner circle of family and friends, and rarely socializing with other politicians in Washington. In fact, Saturday's golf outing was one of the first time Obama and Boehner have gotten together for anything other than a policy meeting.
White House spokesman Jay Carney said earlier in the week that the outing was "meant to be an opportunity for the speaker and the president, as well as the vice president and Ohio governor, to have a conversation, to socialize in a way that so rarely happens in Washington."
While aides for both men tried to lower expectations that deal on the deficit — or anything else, for that matter — would be reached on the course. But it couldn't it couldn't hurt.
"It may move you a little bit closer toward the kind of compromise that we need to get the things done that the American people expect us to get done," Carney said. "If it takes a few hours out on the golf course to help that process, I think it's a worthwhile thing to do."
White House officials played coy about whether they would release the score. The group played the par-72 East Course, one of three 18-hole courses at Andrews.
Andrews' courses: http://www.aafbgc.com/AAFBGC.asp
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