Monday, February 21

Presidents Day Giveaway: Autographed Copy of ‘First Off the Tee’

IN HONOR OF PRESIDENTS DAY, I’m giving away an autographed hardcover edition of First Off the Tee: Presidential Hackers, Duffers, and Cheaters from Taft to Bush by Don Van Natta Jr. This lively and authoritative story of presidential golf was a New York Times bestseller and Sports Illustrated book of the year.

Due out in June, Don’s new book is Wonder Girl: The Magnificent Sporting Life of Babe Didrikson Zaharias. Zaharias was an athletic phenom and one of the 13 founders of the LPGA. More here

How to Enter Free Book Drawing
(The drawing is now closed. A winner has been selected. Keep reading ARMCHAIR GOLF for more chances to win cool prizes.)
To enter the drawing for First Off the Tee, send an email to that includes your name and mailing address. I’ll notify you if you’re the winner, and Don will autograph and mail your book. Good luck!

Following is an encore of the Presidents Golf Championship (my fictitious matchplay tournament) that appeared at ARMCHAIR GOLF BLOG in January 2009. Don was the guest analyst.


BY HOLING A 40-INCH PAR PUTT on the first hole of a sudden-death playoff, Dwight Eisenhower conquered his putting demons to upset top seed John F. Kennedy on Sunday in the Presidents Golf Championship (PGC) at Augusta National Golf Club. It was a redemptive stroke for Ike, who had three-putted the 18th hole to allow Kennedy to even the match and send it to extra holes.

“I thought I had lost it on the low side,” Eisenhower said of the match-clinching putt, “but it caught the edge and fell in, thankfully.”

JFK bunkered his approach on the 10th, the first playoff hole. The 35th president left his long bunker shot well short and his uphill 18-foot par putt stopped inches shy of the hole. Ike played his third shot from the depression in front of the sloping green, a nifty pitch and run that rolled to within throw-up range for the general, who backed away twice before nervously jabbing his Titleist into the cup.

How Ike Prevailed

Eisenhower was clearly the underdog, and many on hand were shocked that the match had gotten away from the youthful, athletic Kennedy, who had dominated his opponents in earlier matches.

Theories abounded. JFK was overconfident. He was tired. His chronically bad back ached from too much golf in recent days. Or, as one Kennedy aide suggested with a wink, JFK was distracted by the many attractive spectators in the large gallery.

Perhaps the most reasonable explanation for Eisenhower’s upset victory was that the old general knew the ground better than his opponent. A longtime member, Ike had recorded more than 100 rounds at Augusta National. The former Commander of Allied Forces knew his way around the former tree nursery. He also knew his own strengths and weaknesses, as well as those of his opponent, and he put that knowledge to work.

“In match play, I really felt like I had a chance against him,” Eisenhower said, “especially here.”

Angry Loser

Kennedy shrugged off the defeat. “That’s golf,” he said. “What can you expect? Ike had a good day. He knows where to hit it around this place.”

Onlookers knew better. Underneath his smooth veneer, JFK was furious that the rival he had labeled “duffer-in-chief” and once called “that old asshole” had bested him. Sometimes the wrong man wins, Kennedy thought, whether in politics or golf.

Ike thought the same thing, and was glad it didn’t happen on Sunday.


#2 Eisenhower defeats #1 Kennedy, 1-up (19 holes)


#1 Kennedy defeats #13 Nixon, 10 and 8
#2 Eisenhower defeats #3 Ford, 3 and 1

#1 Kennedy defeats #8 Obama, (match score not disclosed)
#13 Nixon defeats #5 George H.W. Bush, 1-up
#2 Eisenhower defeats #7 Clinton, 9 and 7
#3 Ford defeats #6 George W. Bush, 4 and 3

Opening Matches
#1 Kennedy defeats #16 Grant, 10 and 8
#8 Obama defeats #9 Reagan, 1-up
#5 George H.W. Bush defeats #12 Wilson, 4 and 2
#13 Nixon defeats #4 Roosevelt, 2 and 1
#6 George W. Bush defeats #11 Taft, 5 and 4
#3 Ford defeats #14 Johnson, 6 and 5
#7 Clinton defeats #10 Harding, 1-up
#2 Eisenhower defeats #15 Coolidge, 9 and 7

−The Armchair Golfer


Brian Kuehn said...

I missed this the first time around. Well done.

Did anyone check Mr. Nixon's math? Never mind, water under the gate, I always say (or is that bridge? I never can remember).

Si said...

Great post! It's fortunate Bush Sr and Jr were not drawn together as there might have been a few generous gimmes awarded.

I once interviewed former South African President F W de Klerk who said he had played in a foursome with George H.W. Bush, Bob Hawke of Australia and a President of Fiji (who played off six).

Despite my encouragement to do so, he wouldn't say who won.

The Armchair Golfer said...

Brian: Yes, scoring can be a problem with the presidents (especially Clinton), which is why there was an official scorekeeper.

Si: What an interesting foursome that would be!

tyler said...

Hi I actually have a shirt from that game signed by Bush senior and FW De Klerk.....any idea on value of the golf shirt worn by FW de Klerk

The Armchair Golfer said...

No idea, Tyler. But that's cool.