President Barack Obama spent last year’s Presidents Day weekend at the White House. This year, he lined up a trip with friends to an exclusive Florida golf course owned by a campaign supporter.
Obama golfed today with course owner Jim Crane, U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk, Chicago friend Eric Whitaker and businessmen Anthony Chase and Milton Carroll, according to White House spokesman Josh Earnest. Obama also played “a few holes” with Tiger Woods’ former coach Butch Harmon, who designed the club’s instructional facility, Earnest said.
Obama flew on Air Force One yesterday from an official event to promote his economic proposals in his adopted hometown of Chicago to West Palm Beach, Florida, for the weekend getaway at the Floridian in Palm City while his wife and daughters are on a ski vacation.
Accompanying Obama on Air Force One was Whitaker, a Chicago friend who played golf with the president during the first family’s August 2010 vacation on Martha’s Vineyard off the Massachusetts coast.
With no election campaign ahead of him, Obama, 51, is beginning to embrace some of the political freedom that comes along with the lame-duck status of a second-term presidency. The White House has kept details about the weekend to a minimum.
The Tom Fazio-designed private course and club is owned by Crane, owner of the Houston Astros baseball team.
Crane, 59, an avid golfer, and chairman and chief executive officer of Houston-based Crane Capital Group, has been an Obama campaign backer, according to donor records.
He and his wife, Franci, have donated $57,700 to Obama and to the Democratic National Committee since 2007, when Obama announced his candidacy for president, according to data compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics in Washington.
Crane and Chase, chairman and chief executive officer of ChaseSource LP, a staffing and management-services company, held back-to-back fundraising events for Obama in Houston one evening last March that were reported at the time to raise an expected $2.8 million for the president’s re-election campaign and the Democratic Party.
Chase resigned as the director and deputy chairman of the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas in 2008 to campaign for Obama. The U.S. central bank prohibits directors from participating in partisan politics.
Carroll is founder of Houston-based Instrument Products Inc. and chairman of Centerpoint Energy Inc., which provides electricity and natural gas to more than 5 million customers in six states.
Crane greeted the president personally on arrival last night, Crane said in remarks published on Major League Baseball’s website, MLB.com.
Crane bought the Floridian from Wayne Huizenga, chairman of Fort Lauderdale, Florida-based Huizenga Holdings, in 2010. Among its members at the time were conservative talk-radio host and Obama critic Rush Limbaugh. Limbaugh, on his show yesterday, mentioned the connection.
“I was a proud and honored member of the Floridian,” Limbaugh said, according to a transcript on his show’s website. “The president’s got himself a good, old-fashioned guys golf weekend.”
According to the website for the Floridian, members and guests also have the use of eight cottages; a deep-water marina; a 61-foot Viking Yacht; a private helicopter service; a spa and fitness center and a teaching facility.
Between 50 and 60 people can sleep at the club and it will be close to capacity tonight, according to the MLB website, citing Crane. The area where the president is staying will be private, the website said, citing Crane.