From Publishers Weekly
Presidents who cheat at golf? What's next? A Washington correspondent for the New York Times, Van Natta has the inside scoop on presidential golfers both then and now: who has game, who doesn't and who should lay down his clubs in deference to those who appreciate fair play. From the best (John Kennedy and Franklin D. Roosevelt) to the worst (Calvin Coolidge and Ronald Reagan), to the cheaters (Bill Clinton and Lyndon Johnson), Van Natta shares insights about our nation's leaders and their passion for the game. Lyndon Johnson used golf to intimidate political opponents. Woodrow Wilson played every day, often during political crises. JFK feared the implications of public knowledge of his prowess. The public had not appreciated Eisenhnower's obsession, since golf was still seen as a "rich man's game," and not an appropriate activity for the "champion of the people." Van Natta's research is impressive and his writing style is engaging, but the text feels a bit like a one-trick pony. Filled with anecdotal bits and pieces, there is more of interest here to historians than to serious golfers.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.
Surprisingly, it was Woodrow Wilson, not Eisenhower, who played the most rounds of golf as president. Wilson was also the worst at the sport, although LBJ rivaled him for ineptitude. Whether for love of the game, or as a distraction from the pressures of office, all presidents since Taft (excepting Hoover, Truman, and Carter) have snuck off to the links of an afternoon. New York Times
reporter Van Natta plays the humor angle to the hilt in handicapping the presidents, sorting them by skill and mendacity. In terms of the latter, Bill Clinton's claim of breaking 80 got Van Atta's attention, and playing a round with Bubba after his term, the writer discovered Clinton's method--liberal use of the "Billigan." The mere fact of indulging in a sport with lingering elitist connotations has political implications for presidential golf nuts, whose flouting of electoral good sense in pursuit of an uncontrollable tiny sphere adds up to a humanizing carnival of anecdotes, history, and character. Expect duffers to be reserving their time for Van Natta's comical chronicle. Gilbert TaylorCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved