Golf & PoliticsMay 8, 2011

Washington's Top 150 Golfers

Golf Digest Political Ranking

Golfers have to applaud—don't we?—when in contentious times the president, vice president and House speaker share a love for golf. President Barack Obama has been criticized (and defended) for playing more than 60 rounds of golf during the first half of his four-year term, yet VP Joe Biden and Speaker John Boehner probably play even more.

Obama (17-handicap) finds time for golf with friends while vacationing and with aides at the Army Navy Country Club courses in Arlington, Va. Boehner is more apt to be spotted with supporters of his Freedom Project PAC at venues such as Tiburón Golf Club in Naples, Fla., and Bighorn in Palm Desert, Calif., both of which attracted bipartisan groups of lobbyists earlier this year to play with Boehner (7.9 Index) and other participating members of Congress.

It was at Tiburón that T-Mobile VP Tony Russo (plus-2.3), our No. 1 in Golf Digest's third ranking of the best and most avid golfers in Washington, D.C., played in a foursome that included No. 4 Alex Urrea (0.7), who lobbies in Washington from his home in Pittsburgh, where he's a board member at The Club at Nevillewood. Urrea says he beat our returning No. 1 that day, but Russo recalls a less-competitive round in which he was testing drivers. "I wasn't thinking of it as a match," Russo says.

Regardless, we relied first on USGA Handicap Indexes but also on estimates from reliable sources to compile this ranking of Washington's elected officials, White House staffers and senior-level lobbyists.

Russo plays frequently with Biden (6.3) and says he has never seen his former boss hit the ball better than he has this year. Perhaps he's been practicing in his back yard.

Although it's too early to discuss a match between 2012 presidential opponents, Obama would have a hard time taking down former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, a self-professed 12, on the golf course. Although Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour doesn't play, his son Reeves, a lobbyist with BGR Group (1.1), is the top newcomer to our list. The younger Barbour made two holes-in-one in a round during a 2009 Ryder Cup-format match at Robert Trent Jones Golf Club, his Gainesville, Va., home course. Barbour is also leading boss Ed Rogers (4.6), group chairman of BGR Group, in their regular indoor chipping and putting competition that uses office furniture as targets.

Only because he was frustrated by 6½-hour rounds at public courses did Barbour join a club, a decision many on our list have not made, thus accounting for their estimated handicaps. A few play at RTJ Golf Club (Rogers among them) and some, like Russo, belong to Congressional Country Club in Bethesda, Md., or Boehner's D.C.-area course, Burning Tree. But most play at Columbia Country Club in Chevy Chase, Md., and the old Lowes Island, now Trump National Golf Club, Washington, D.C., in Sterling, Va., the choice of FBI Director Bob Mueller (13.6).

Top-ranked among elected officials--after considering reports from multiple sources and a shortage of posted rounds by him or his closest contenders--is Sen. Mark Udall (D-Colo.), a widely acknowledged 2-handicapper. (Udall was the leading proponent of the novel bipartisan seating arrangement at this year's State of the Union address.) He earns the honor over Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) and Rep. John Yarmuth (D-Ky.). Yarmuth, the former publisher of Kentucky Golfer, has a +0.4 Index but says he's closer to a 3. Corker, who told us in 2008 he'd have a hard time playing to his then-4.7 Index, has improved to a 2.1—as noteworthy as Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) improving from a 14 in 2008 to a 7.5.

Although the U.S. Congress' freshman class of 2010 includes a wave of doctors, there are few golfers among them. The notable exception is ophthalmologist and Tea Party favorite Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), who has an 11.6 Index at his hometown Bowling Green Country Club. Best of the newbies is Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.), a former federal prosecutor and circuit solicitor who previously played to a plus-1 but now says he's a 4.

As we've learned with many Golf Digest rankings, not all golfers are willing to share handicap information for public consumption. Even when golf is an admitted passion of the most visible politicians in Washington, some prefer to keep their games to themselves. — Lisa Furlong

Don't expect any of these Washington, D.C. elite to be playing in the 111th U.S. Open at Congressional Country Club, but there's no question most of them will be on a Beltway golf course once or twice in June. After a careful look into the skills of the top power brokers in D.C., here's our ranking of the best and most avid golfers among members of Congress, federal officials and White House staffers. We've also included dozens of senior-level lobbyists who play the game.

NOTES: Handicaps were determined in a number of ways: the U.S. Golf Association's Golf Handicap and Information network, state associations, the politicians, lobbyists, friends and playing partners. Handicaps without a decimal point are estimates.




1. Tony Russo

VP, Federal Legislative Affairs, T-Mobile

Handicap: +2.3

2. Bob Okun

VP, NBC Universal, Washington

Handicap: +0.2

3. Fred Eames

Partner, Hunton & Williams

Handicap: 0.2

4. Alex Urrea

President, CSA Strategies

Handicap: 0.7

5. Chris Lamond

Partner, Thorn Run Partners

Handicap: 1.0

6. Reeves Barbour

VP, BGR Group

Handicap: 1.1

7. Linda Divall

Pres./CEO, American Viewpoint

Handicap: 1.2

8. Michael Williams

Senior Director, Greenberg Traurig

Handicap: 1.6

9. Arthur Mason

Executive VP, Cassidy & Associates

Handicap: 1.7

10. David Katz

Special Asst., Dept. of Energy

Handicap: 1.8

11. Mark Udall

Rep.-Colo. (D)

Handicap: 2

12. Bob Corker

Sen.-Tennessee (R)

Handicap: 2.1

13. Chris Cox

Senior Principal, Navigators Global

Handicap: 2.8

14. John Yarmuth

Rep.-Kentucky (D)

Handicap: 3

15. Eric Rizzo

AVP, Govt. Affairs, Farmers Insurance

Handicap: 3.2

16. Don Nickles

Chairman/CEO, The Nickles Group

Handicap: 3.4

17. Geoff Gonella

Pres., Cornerstone Govt. Affairs

Handicap: 3.6

18. Dan Tate Sr.

Founder, Dan Tate LLC

Handicap: 3.8

19. Trey Gowdy

Rep.-South Carolina (R)

Handicap: 4

20. Joe Baca

Rep.-California (D)

Handicap: 4.2

T-21. Brent Blackwelder

President Emeritus, Friends of the Earth

Handicap: 4.6

T-21. Ed Rogers

Group Chairman, BGR Group

Handicap: 4.6

T-23. Robert Dibblee

SVP, Govt. Relations, Natl. Assn. Real Estate Investment Trusts

Handicap: 5.3

T-23. John Haddow

Partner, Upstream Consulting

Handicap: 5.3

T-23. John Sununu

Senior Policy Advisor, Akin Gump

Handicap: 5.3

26. Evan Tracey

COO/Founder, Campaign Media Analysis Group

Handicap: 5.4

27. Christopher Chapel

VP, Govt. Relations, Nextera Energy

Handicap: 5.5

28. Kent Wells

VP, Federal Relations, AT&T

Handicap: 6.1

29. Joe Biden

Vice President (D)

Handicap: 6.3

30. Bryan Anderson

VP, Governmental Affairs, Southern Company

Handicap: 6.7

31. Stewart Verdery

Partner/Founder, Monument Policy Group

Handicap: 6.8

T-32. Robert Fisher

VP, Fed. Govt. Relations, Verizon

Handicap: 7.0

T-32. Ben Finkenbinder

Assoc. Director of Press Advance

Handicap: 7

34. Jim McCool

Dir., Fed. Legislative Affairs, Southern Company

Handicap: 7.1

T-35. Gary Lytle

Co-Founder, Clark Lytle & Geduldig

Handicap: 7.2

T-35. Steve Watson

VP, Govt. & External Affairs, Loews Corp.

Handicap: 7.2

37. Saxby Chambliss

Sen.-Georgia (R)

Handicap: 7.4

38. Richard Burr

Sen.-North Carolina (R)

Handicap: 7.5

T-39. Trey Hardin

Sr. VP, Vox Global

Handicap: 7.6

T-39. Jim Langdon Jr.

Sr. Exec. Partner, Akin Gump

Handicap: 7.6

T-39. Dave McCurdy

Pres./CEO, American Gas Assn.

Handicap: 7.6

T-39. Jim Renacci

Rep.-Ohio (R)

Handicap: 7.6

T-43. John Boehner

Rep.-Ohio, Speaker of the House (R)

Handicap: 7.9

T-43. Jean Statler

Co-Founder, Statler Nagle LLC

Handicap: 7.9

T-45. Marvin Nicholson

White House Trip Dir.

Handicap: 8

T-45. Mike Simpson

Rep.-Idaho (R)

Handicap: 8

47. Mike Oxley

Of Counsel, Baker Hostetler

Handicap: 8.2

48. Joe Stanton

Senior VP, Govt. Affairs, Natl. Assn. of Home Builders

Handicap: 8.4

49. Scott Pastrick

Pres./CEO, Prime Policy Group

Handicap: 8.5

50. John Tanner

Vice Chairman, Prime Policy Group

Handicap: 8.7

51. Barry Hutchison

Barry Hutchison Assistant VP, Fed. Relations, AT&T

Handicap: 8.8

52. Dan Tate Jr.

Partner, Capitol Solutions

Handicap: 8.9

T-53. John Breaux Jr.

Sr. Public Policy Advisor, Breaux Lott Leadership Group

Handicap: 9.0

T-53. Rick Goddard

Director, Federal Government Affairs, The Beer Institute

Handicap: 9.0

55. Ron Johnson

Sen.-Wisconsin (R)

Handicap: 9.4

56. Erskine Bowles

Co-Chairman, Natl. Committee on Fiscal Responsibility & Reform

Handicap: 9.5

57. Albio Sires

Rep.-New Jersey (D)

Handicap: 9.6

T-58. Manny Ortiz

Director, Quinn Gillespie

Handicap: 10.0

T-58. Tom Rooney

Rep.-Florida (R)

Handicap: 10

60. Bob Brooks

VP, Alpine Group

Handicap: 10.4

61. Pat Williams

Founding Partner, Cormac Group

Handicap: 10.9

T-62. Jim Clyburn

Rep.-South Carolina (D)

Handicap: 11.3

T-62. Charlie Stamp

VP, Public Affairs Worldwide, Deere & Co. (John Deere)

Handicap: 11.3

64. Rand Paul

Sen.-Kentucky (R)

Handicap: 11.6

T-65. Tom Coburn

Sen.-Oklahoma (R)

Handicap: 11.7

T-65. Charlie Shipp

Partner, SC Partners

Handicap: 11.7

67. Edward Fritts

Founder, The Fritts Group

Handicap: 11.9

T-68. Sam Adcock

Senior VP, Govt. Relations, EADS North America

Handicap: 12.0

T-68. Jeff Duncan

Rep.-South Carolina (R)

Handicap: 12

T-68. Eni Faleomavaega

Del.-American Samoa (D)

Handicap: 12

T-68. Harry Katrichis

Of Counsel, The Advocacy Group

Handicap: 12

T-68. Ron Kind

Rep.-Wisconsin (D)

Handicap: 12

T-68. Rick Santorum

Chairman, America's Foundation PAC

Handicap: 12

74. Joel Jankowsky

Sr. Executive Partner, Akin Gump

Handicap: 12.1

75. John J. Castellan

President/CEO, PhRMA

Handicap: 12.7

76. Erik Winborn

President, Winborn Solutions

Handicap: 12.9

77. Duncan Hunter

Rep.-California (R)

Handicap: 13

78. Charlie Black

Chairman, Prime Policy Group

Handicap: 13.4

79. Robert Mueller

Director, FBI

Handicap: 13.6

T-80. Larry Gage

Partner, Ropes & Gray; Pres. Natl. Assn. of Public Hospitals & Health Systems

Handicap: 13.7

T-80. Bruce Gates

Sr. VP, External Affairs, Altria Client Services

Handicap: 13.7

T-80. Brian Henneberry

VP, Fed. Affairs, Koch Companies

Handicap: 13.7

83. Printz Bolin

AVP, External Affairs, Union Pacific

Handicap: 13.9

T-84. Lindsey Graham

Sen.-S. Carolina (R)

Handicap: 14

T-84. Reid Ribble

Rep.-Wisconsin (R)

Handicap: 14

86. Tony Kavanagh

SVP, Govt. Affairs, American Electric Power

Handicap: 14.3

87. Dan Burton

Rep.-Indiana (R)

Handicap: 14.5

T-88. Kevin Fay

Pres., Alcalde & Fay; Exec. Dir., Intl. Climate Change Partnership

Handicap: 14.7

T-88. Vic Fazio

Sr. Advisor, Akin Gump

Handicap: 14.7

T-90. Chris Cox

Exec. Dir., NRA Inst. For Legislative Action

Handicap: 14.9

T-90. William Daley

White House Chief of Staff

Handicap: 14.9

T-90. __ Johnny Isakson__

Sen.-Georgia (R)

Handicap: 14.9

T-93. Lou Barletta

Rep.-Pennsylvania (R)

Handicap: 15

T-93. Xavier Becerra

Rep.-California (D)

Handicap: 15

T-93. Mike Doyle

Rep.-Pennsylvania (D)

Handicap: 15

T-93. John Feehery

Pres., Quinn Gillespie Communications

Handicap: 15

T-93. John Hoeven

Sen.-North Dakota (R)

Handicap: 15

T-93. Cedric Richmond

Rep.-Louisiana (D)

Handicap: 15

99. Vernon Jordan

Senior Counsel, Akin Gump

Handicap: 15.3

T-100. Stephen Lynch

Rep.-Massachusetts (D)

Handicap: 16

T-100. Connie Mack

Rep.-Florida (R)

Handicap: 16

102. Pat Meehan

Rep.-Pennsylvania (R)

Handicap: 16.2

103. David Regan

VP, Legislative Affairs, NADA

Handicap: 16.4

104. Kenneth Cole

Senior VP, Govt. Relations, Pfizer

Handicap: 16.5

105. Frank Fahrenkopf Jr.

Pres./CEO, American Gaming Assn.

Handicap: 16.6

T-106. Shahira Knight

VP, Govt. Relations/Public Policy, Fidelity

Handicap: 16.7

T-106. Kathryn Rand

Senior Representative, Public/Govt. Affairs, Federal Express

Handicap: 16.7

T-108. Mo Brooks

Rep.-Alabama (R)

Handicap: 17

T-108. Barack Obama

President (D)

Handicap: 17

110. Nick Calio

President/CEO, Air Transport Assn.

Handicap: 17.1

111. Jeff Forbes

Founding Partner, Cauthen Forbes & Williams

Handicap: 17.2

T-112. James Coyne

Pres./CEO, National Air Transportation Assn.

Handicap: 17.8

T-112. John Raffaelli

Founding Partner, Capitol Counsel LLC

Handicap: 17.8

T-114. Sanford Bishop

Rep.-Georgia (D)

Handicap: 18

T-114. Doc Hastings

Rep.-Washington (R)

Handicap: 18

T-114. Bill Huizenga

Rep.-Michigan (R)

Handicap: 18

T-114. Ron Kirk

U.S. Trade Rep.

Handicap: 18

T-114. Kathleen Sebelius

Secretary, Dept. Of Health And Human Services

Handicap: 18

119. Chaka Fattah

Rep.-Pennsylvania (D)

Handicap: 19

120. Brenda Becker

SVP, Global Govt. Affairs, Boston Scientific

Handicap: 19.1

121. John Merrigan

Partner, Dla Piper

Handicap: 19.7

122. Jack Quinn

Co-Founder/Chairman, Quinn Gillespie

Handicap: 19.8

T-123. Melody Barnes

Director, Domestic Policy Council

Handicap: 20

T-123. Jason Chaffetz

Rep.-Utah (R)

Handicap: 20

T-123. Orrin Hatch

Sen.-Utah (R)

Handicap: 20

T-123. Marguerite W. Kondracke

Pres./CEO America's Promise Alliance

Handicap: 20

T-123. Tom Latham

Rep.-Iowa (R)

Handicap: 20

T-128. Luis Gutierrez

Rep.-Illinois (D)

Handicap: 22

T-128. Ray Lahood

Secretary, Dept. of Transportation

Handicap: 22

T-130. Thad Cochran

Sen.-Mississippi (R)

Handicap: 23

T-130. Tim Walberg

Rep.-Michigan (R)

Handicap: 23

132. Don Young

Rep.-Alaska (R)

Handicap: 24

133. Mary Bono Mack

Rep.-California (R)

Handicap: 24.8

T-134. Sam Geduldig

Partner, Clark Lytle & Geduldig

Handicap: 25

T-134. Howard (Buck) McKeon

Rep.-California (R)

Handicap: 25

T-134. Tom Nides

Deputy Secretary of State

Handicap: 25

T-134. Lynn Westmoreland

Rep.-Georgia (R)

Handicap: 25

138. Christine Ciccone

Sr. VP, External Relations, U.S. Enrichment Corp.

Handicap: 25.7

T-139. Frank Guinta

Rep.-New Hampshire (R)

Handicap: 26

T-139. Edolphus Towns

Rep.-New York (D)

Handicap: 26

141. Kathy Didawick

VP, Congressional Comm., Blue Cross/Blue Shield

Handicap: 26.6

142. Adam Kinzinger

Rep.-Illinois (R)

Handicap: 27

143. Sheila Tate

Vice Chairman, Powell Tate

Handicap: 27.4

144. Lisa Nelson

Head, Global Govt. Relations, Visa

Handicap: 28.5

T-145. Dan Boren

Rep.-Oklahoma (D)

Handicap: 30

T-145. Renee Ellmers

Rep.-North Carolina (R)

Handicap: 30

T-145. Phil Gingrey

Rep.-Georgia (R)

Handicap: 30

T-145. Anthony Kennedy

Justice, U.S. Supreme Court

Handicap: 30

T-145. Kenneth Kies

Managing Dir., Federal Policy Group

Handicap: 30.0

150. Dennis Cardoza

Rep.-California (D)

Handicap: 36