But sometimes he would not realize what was wrong, and Norman Palmer would help out. "Tuck your elbows in a bit, Mr. President," he would suggest. "That'll keep your shots from sliding off to the right."
Flubbing a shot bothers the President and elicits a deep groan. He would look moodily at the turf and hand the club back quietly to his caddie.
His next good shot, though, would change his mood markedly. He would toss the club to the caddie, his expression and manner that of a man who wouldn't wish to be anywhere else but on a golf course.
Despite the introspection the President gives his own game, he is also a team player. Beating his opponents was a primary concern and, though the stakes were low, at $1 Nassau (a three-way bet: $1 to the winner of each nine and $1 to the match winner), the competition was intense.
The President was the heavy winner. He and Palmer never let up, no matter how far ahead they were. On one occasion they were 8 up coming into the back 9. Robinson and Cushing, their opponents, suggested wryly that they let up a bit. "Well," said the President with a grin, "I've got to follow my motto: 'When you get 'em down, you've got to stomp on them,' " and with that he stepped up and hit a whistling drive down the fairway.
Palmer was the only player who was handicapped—adding four strokes to his game on both 9s. He kept the score card, which he destroyed after each match—the President felt that his score was a private matter. It was no secret, though, at Newport, that his game varied between the middle and high 80s and steadied out in the middle 80s when he became more familiar with the course.
The full absorption the President gave the game was remarked on by almost everyone who watched him play. He left the world of politics and international affairs behind at the War College. A mock ill temper would arise not on a political issue but at the sight of the 9th hole—which throughout his golfing vacation gave him the most trouble. He strongly recommended that it be thrown off the course. He also suggested that Hagerty's irons (which are the strength in the Press Secretary's game) be removed from the course. "It's unfair of Hagerty," said the President, "not to hit a decent shot with a wood when his score is as good as it is."
The President obviously enjoys his golf. He finds the game "haunting"—in that it is a personal struggle which one carries on to strive for a perfection which can never quite be reached. Some judge from the intensity with which the President goes at the game, that it provides too much of a challenge for him to enjoy it. But at the end of his day on the course at Newport, regardless of his score, it was with obvious reluctance that the President holed out his last putt and left the course for the cars waiting to take him down to the Fort Adams dock on Brenton's Cove.
With the Barbara Anne's course set for Coasters Island, the President would go below to shower and change. When he came on deck again, Brenton's Cove was far astern, the outlines of the cove itself lost against the background of the distant green bluffs. Off to port, nearer at hand, the yacht would pass another of Newport's famous landmarks—Gull Rock and its absurd little lighthouse with its Swiss chalet architecture.
But ahead—and he would see it as the boat swung in to dock—would be all the familiar trappings of his officialdom: the anthill activity of the War College, the to-and-fro of personnel, the marines at attention, the waiting officials, the banks of parked cars, radio masts, the boxlike buildings of the college itself and, glimpsed between them, the superstructures of anchored naval vessels, grim and gray.