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The Bush Golf Dynasty

The two presidents, 41 and 43, weren't the first golfers in the White House -- or the first in their family

Goerge H.W. Bush, George W. Bush and Jeb Bush

THE THREE AMIGOS: How many families can count two Presidents of the United States and a governor in the same golf group? George H.W. Bush (top left), the 41st president; George W. Bush, the 43rd president; and Florida Gov. Jeb Bush after a round at Cape Arundel Golf Club in Maine in July 2001.

February 2009

If you're a friend or a relative of George Herbert Walker Bush, Prez 41, or George W. Bush, Prez 43, or any other Bushes, then you know an 18-hole round of golf shouldn't take more than three hours out of your day -- there are other important things to do. Like, oh, you know. Overthrow a tyrant. Imprison a terrorist. Expose a saboteur. And those are just the Democrats.

Funny, huh? No? Well, at least try to remember there's a war on, and loose libs sink ships. Just getting your attention, actually. I'll bet you'd be dozing off right now if this piece had started off discussing Nancy Pelosi's new book, How the Snob Sport of Golf Has Ruined America and Everybody in San Francisco Who Didn't Vote for Me.

This is about the Bush golf dynasty, is what it is, and the first thing you need to be reminded of is that the Bushes didn't introduce golf to the White House. A hacker named William Howard Taft, Prez 27, did that. Around 1909 or thereabouts.

Taft was the first president of the United States who was enthusiastic about the game, and he wasn't ashamed to admit it. Taft visited Augusta, Ga., before there was even a Masters or an Augusta National. Oops, too early, an aide told him.

Earlier, a White House resident named William McKinley, Prez 25, had expressed an interest in this new game that some Scot had brought to America, but his advisers convinced him that the public wouldn't like to see their leader frittering away his time on something called a golf course when there was an Industrial Revolution going on. McKinley, as we know, got assassinated anyhow.

Of course, Dwight D. Eisenhower gets credit for doing more for golf than any other White House resident, a mid- to high-handicapper though he was. It used to be fun back in the '50s for us sportswriter slugs to watch the White House press corps come filtering into our Quonset hut on the last two days of the Masters because Ike was coming to town when the tournament was over and Hogan or Snead had won again.

"Hey, look, there's Merriman Smith!"

"Who?"

"The guy who always gets to say, 'Thank you, Mr. President.' "

"What for?"

Ike aside, you have to say the Bushes have done their part for the game. As for these Bushes, by the way, they didn't even introduce golf to themselves. They had ancestors who took care of that. One of them was George Herbert Walker, Old 41's maternal grandfather -- his mama's daddy.

G.H. Walker, a single-digit handicapper, was president of the U. S. Golf Association in 1920, and that year he decided to donate a cup to an international competition for amateurs. Legend has it that G.H. didn't want the matches or the trophy named after him, but the blue coats and striped ties managed to twist his arm. Two years later, the first Walker Cup between the United States and Great Britain & Ireland was played at the National Golf Links of America on Long Island.

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