15 People Who Have Taken Heat For Playing Too Much Golf
May 21, 2014
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President Donald Trump
It didn't take long for President Trump to find out his golf activities are going to be monitored a lot more closely now that he's the leader of the free world. Despite often criticizing his predecessor for the amount of time he spent on the links, Trump reportedly played six times in his first month in office (In comparison, President Obama didn't play his first round until more than three months on the job). One of those six trips to the course -- a round with Rory McIlroy -- also forced the White House to issue a statement when it was discovered Trump had played 18 holes with the four-time major champ instead of the "few holes" reporters were originally told.
Photo By: Getty Images
President Barack Obama
You know that guy who has taken up golf relatively late in life and appears obsessed with it? Now imagine that guy becomes the leader of the free world. Perhaps no one's golf passion faced greater scrutiny than former President Obama, whose frequent outings constantly drew the ire of his Republican critics. They even inspired a web site, obamagolfcounter.com, which detailed each of the President's rounds and, to prove a point, provided the corresponding number of U.S. casualties in Afghanistan the day he played. For the record, Obama played 306 rounds during his eight years in office, or 38.25 rounds per year. It's a healthy amount, but it pales in comparison to the estimated 1,200 rounds played by Woodrow Wilson or the 800 played by Dwight Eisenhower during their respective terms.
Could Johnny Football have been Johnny Golf? The Heisman Trophy winning quarterback's father, Paul, was once a mini-tour pro, and he passed on the game to his son. An ESPN The Magazine profile on Manziel showed he's a fierce competitor on the course, where his bombastic nature can manifest itself in verbal rants and thrown clubs. Give him credit, though, for heading off potential issues with his new employer, the Cleveland Browns. Manziel was to play in a pair of HP Byron Nelson Pro-Ams after the NFL draft, but pulled out to attend to various Browns functions.
Being rich and out of touch has long been a criticism leveled against the former New York City mayor. That image wasn't helped in December 2013 when, after a Metro-North train derailed and killed four people in the Bronx, Bloomberg was delivered the news on the golf course but chose to continue playing anyway.
William Howard Taft
Taft was the first U.S. President to take up golf, but it didn't sit well with some who thought he should spend more time in the Oval Office and less on the golf course (sound familiar?). In a letter from Teddy Roosevelt, Taft was warned of the negative perception his playing golf was creating. "It would seem incredible that anyone would care one way or the other about your playing golf, but I have received hundreds of letters from the West protesting it. I myself play tennis, but that game is a little more familiar; besides, you never saw a photograph of me playing tennis, I am careful about that; photographs of me on horseback, yes; tennis, no. And golf is fatal."
Technically, Abramoff's personal golf habit wasn't the problem. But the game was at the heart of a scandal in which the super lobbyist showered gifts on Congressmen in return for favorable treatment and tax breaks for his clients. To wit, this line from a Time magazine story on Abramoff in 2006, "When it comes to the world of Washington lobbying, golf seems to bring out the worst in people." Most often cited among Abramoff's indiscretions was a five-day golf junket he sponsored for a group that included Republican Congressman Bob Ney. Abramoff went on to spend more than three years in prison.
The Dallas Cowboys quarterback famous for having won just one playoff game in his career had become infamous for his attempts to qualify for the U.S. Open, along with playing in PGA Tour pro-ams and other amateur golf tournaments. Whether the former had anything to do with the latter is speculation, but after Romo signed a six-year, $108 million contact extension with the Cowboys in 2013, his clubs suddenly spent a lot more time in his closet. Read between the lines when Dallas owner Jerry Jones talked about Tony having "more time on the job" in the off-season, and it appears somebody felt Romo needed to concentrate on one sport at a time.
With the Tea Party-fueled Republicans about to gain a majority in the house in the 2010 mid-term elections, a left-leaning group started running attack ads on soon-to-be Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-Ohio) for his apparent golf addiction. "For those who want an out-of-touch pro golfer for a Congressman, there's John Boehner," the ad said.
Scottsdale National members
A golf club would seemingly want members coming out and playing, no strings attached. Yet when Bob Parsons purchased the GC of Scottsdale in Arizona in 2013, renaming it Scottsdale National, he let it be known that racking up rounds without supporting the club in other financial ways wouldn't be tolerated. In a letter to the membership, Parsons instituted a "service fee" of $100 for every day members played. He also limited the number of rounds they could play a year without bringing a guest (and paying the accompany $200 green fee) to 30. For those who didn't like the changes, Parsons offered to refund their entire membership fee.
After being part of a group of Boston players drinking beer, eating fried chicken and playing video games in the clubhouse during Red Sox games in 2011, Beckett got into more trouble in 2012 when the star pitcher was scratched from a May 2 start with shoulder stiffness. That happens all the time these days with pitchers, so what was the big deal? The following day Beckett played in a golf outing, which upset fans when news of him being on the course got out. They were even more mad when he got knocked out early in his next start. Still, Beckett vehemently defended himself. "I spend my off days the way I want to spend them."
Mary Queen of Scotts
An avid golfer, Mary Queen of Scots decided to play a round of golf just a few days after her husband, then the King consort of Scotland, was murdered in 1567. Because she hadn't mourned in a more traditional way, her rivals saw this as evidence of her guilt, which led to her beheading later that year.
What might be giving the L.A. Lakers pause about hiring one of its former stars as its next head coach? Maybe because Scott has occasionally appeared to put golf over basketball. In a story about his tenure as coach of the New Orleans Hornets, Scott was said to be busy making tee times during a crucial stretch of the season, with a flight from L.A. to Phoenix pushed back to accommodate a round. As Yahoo columnist Adrian Wojnarowski wrote in 2009, "His players wanted a more sophisticated playbook, management wanted longer hours and more diligent preparation and, well, Byron Scott wanted to hit the links."
Golf specifically wasn't the reason Yanukovyc was ousted from office, but it represented part of a larger discussion about his abuses of power. When he was eventually forced to step down, protesters raided his country estate and found a $2,000, gold-colored driver emblazoned with his initials.
Taking a long weekend to get in golf is nothing new for C-suite types, but the Bear Stearns CEO's disappearing act became problematic in the summer of 2007. According to a Wall Street Journal story, Cayne frequently was out of the office on Fridays playing golf at his New Jersey club and out of contact as the company's hedge-fund business cratered. It wasn't just golf that distracted Cayne. The Journal reported he was out of pocket playing in a bridge tournament in July 2007 as Bear Stearns was preparing bankruptcy proceedings for two hedge funds. He reportedly was in another bridge event in March 2008 not long before the bank failed.
Have an official USGA handicap? Ever notice that when you look at your past scores, it doesn't show the date of those scores? Well, it wasn't always like that. The USGA changed that policy ahead of the 2008 golf season. Here's an excerpt: "The most significant revision clarifies the definition of 'peer review' to specify the information that must be provided in connection with a scoring record. As a result of these changes, peer review will become more sensitive to privacy-related concerns." Privacy-related concerns? We'll translate: Golfers didn't want nosy bosses knowing exactly when they were on the course.