Sunday, September 07, 2014

Challenging the President ... but Only on the Golf Course

Marvin Nicholson has played golf 140 times with the president. Credit CJ Gunther/European Pressphoto Agency

WASHINGTON — At age 4, Marvin Nicholson hit his first golf ball on the nine-hole course his father had mowed into the front of the family’s farm in Ontario. By 7, he had won a Canada Dry Ginger Ale trophy for sinking a hole in one at the local public course. He caddied through college, carried Senator John Kerry’s clubs in Nantucket and then lugged so many of Mr. Kerry’s bags during the 2004 presidential campaign that he distributed business cards stamped with “Chief of Stuff.”

A decade later, Mr. Nicholson has reached back to his golfing roots to become President Obama’s secretary of swing. Mr. Nicholson, 42, has played golf with the president about 140 times, far more than anyone else in or out of government.

At a time in Mr. Obama’s presidency when political, national security and sartorial critics are chanting, “You’re doing it wrong,” Mr. Nicholson, whose official title is White House travel director, is a trusted source of good vibes. A nonjudgmental figure who will never question the president’s double-bogeys or his shifting red line in Syria, Mr. Nicholson, a geography major from the University of Western Ontario, rounds out the president’s foursomes and soothes his frayed feelings.

“Every president needs a space where he can be quiet and let loose and feel normal,” Mr. Obama said in a telephone interview on Saturday. “And when I’m with Marvin, we can talk the same way we would if we were just a couple of guys having a beer and whacking a ball around.”

(More here.)


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