Fore! Obama takes 'schmooze offensive' to the fairway

Mon May 6, 2013 7:04pm EDT
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By Roberta Rampton

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama hit the golf course on Monday with two Republican senators and a Democrat, part of an effort to advance his second-term agenda by having better relationships with Congress.

Obama, an avid golfer with a respectable 17 handicap, rarely takes politics to the greens, preferring instead to golf with friends and staffers far out of the sight of the reporters who travel with him.

But he has been trying harder in his second term with a schmooze offensive, reaching out to members of Congress whom he has blamed for thwarting proposals he believes would improve the economy.

"Most of the talk centered on the round of golf and not the latest round of legislative negotiations in Congress," a White House official said.

Playing the south course at the Andrews military base in suburban Washington, Obama paired up with Democrat Mark Udall of Colorado, the top-ranked golfer in Congress as measured by Golf Digest in 2011. The magazine estimated Udall's handicap at 2.

But the match was won by the Republicans. Saxby Chambliss of Georgia shot a hole-in-one on the par 3 11th hole. Chambliss, whose handicap is 7.4, was joined by Bob Corker, the top Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, who has a 2.1 handicap.

"With the major fiscal issues our country is facing, not to mention foreign relations issues around the world, anytime you can get the president's ear for a few hours, I think that's a good thing," said Corker, in a statement provided by his staff.

Obama has waged bitter fights with Congress over how best to tame the deficit and on proposed new gun control laws after December's school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut.   Continued...

Senator Bob Corker (R-TN) lines up his putt as he plays golf with U.S. President Barack Obama (R) at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland May 6, 2013. Senators Saxby Chambliss (R-GA) and Mark Udall (D-COL) also played in the foursome. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque