Obama in Palm City: President visits for weekend of golf


White House pool reports and The Associated Press contributed to this story.

President Barack Obama arrived in the Treasure Coast on Saturday for a golfing getaway, hitting the exclusive links at the Floridian National Golf Club with former Miami Heat star Alonzo Mourning and former NFL player and sportscaster Ahmad Rashad.

See photos of President's Obama's visit.

Obama, who is scheduled to head back to Washington late Sunday afternoon, has no public events on his schedule while he’s in Florida.

Air Force One landed at St. Lucie County International Airport in Fort Pierce shortly before noon — the second time a sitting president has landed at the tiny facility west of U.S. Route 1 and south of Indrio Road. Former President George W. Bush landed at the airport in a helicopter while surveying hurricane damage in 2004.

Obama in Palm City: He golfed with Tiger on last trip

Obama, wearing a blue shirt and no necktie with khakis and a blue blazer, was greeted on the tarmac by Fort Pierce Mayor Linda Hudson and U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy, D-Jupiter.

Murphy brought a small blue gift bag that carried a bottle of brownish water from the St. Lucie River.

Obama saw the bag and asked if the congressman had brought him a present, Murphy said.

“I said, ‘No, I don’t want you to have this. I just want to show you what we’re fighting for in the Everglades and this area and I want to thank you for the funding you put in the budget,’ ” Murphy said. Obama this year proposed spending $195 million on Everglades restoration, an increase of $58 million over Obama’s request the previous year.

Murphy recently announced he’s running for U.S. Senate in 2016 and could face Democratic primary opposition. Murphy did not appear in public with Obama in 2014, when Murphy ran for re-election in a Republican-leaning House district.

“I think last year was more about just timing and the schedules not working,” Murphy said. “Anytime the president, regardless of the party, comes to your district, it’s an honor.”

A motorcade ferried Obama the 25 miles from the airport to the Floridian, a club that straddles the border between Martin and St. Lucie counties along the St. Lucie River and is owned by Democratic donor and Houston Astros owner Jim Crane. Obama golfed with Crane and Tiger Woods there during a February 2013 weekend trip in which the president was also kept from the view of the public and the media.

On Saturday, the Obama-Mourning-Rashad foursome was filled out Cy Walker, a frequent golfing companion of the president who is a cousin of Obama senior adviser Valerie Jarrett.

The White House did not publicize the fact that Air Force One would be landing at St. Lucie International before Saturday. But a few people heard about the arrival and rushed to the airport to try to get a glimpse either of the president or his plane.

Betty Hicks of Port St. Lucie arrived too late to see Obama, but joined others in snapping pictures of Air Force One through a chain link fence several hundred yards away.

Hicks, who is black, recalled being a little girl in the 1950s and being compelled to give up her seat for a white passenger on a bus in Miami. The election of America’s first black president in 2008 was unforgettable moment, she said.

“Don’t make me tear up,” Hicks said. “I’m shaking just to see the plane.”

Rick Massey also came to the airport, though he said he’s no Obama fan.

“I don’t get it. I wish someone would tell me what he’s doing for our good and why he’s so damned scared of trying to protect America,” Massey said. Still, Massey said, when he was near the airport Saturday and heard Obama was landing, “I said, ‘Well, you know what? Let’s go and check out the plane.’ ”

Along the motorcade route just outside the airport, a sign outside A-1 Roof Trusses said “We Built This Place!”

Executive Vice President Mike Ruede said the sign was first displayed in 2012 in response to an Obama remark that went: “If you were successful, somebody along the line gave you some help. There was a great teacher somewhere in your life. Somebody helped to create this unbelievable American system that we have that allowed you to thrive. Somebody invested in roads and bridges. If you’ve got a business — you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen.”

Ruede said that when he heard Obama would be driving by, he took the sign out of storage and put it back up.

Closer to the Floridian, a large crowd of onlookers outside an Exxon Mobil station on Becker Road waved enthusiastically at the motorcade.

The Floridian is mainly in St. Lucie County, but two holes of its golf course are in Martin County. St. Lucie County Sheriff Ken Mascara said about 80 of his personnel are handling duties related to the president’s visit. Martin County Sheriff William Snyder said 11 of his deputies are on Obama-related duty, with more on standby if needed.

“It’s very big, very costly, very complex. We’ve been in meetings for about the past 10 days,” said Mascara, who said he did not know how much his agency would end up spending. “But it’s an honor to have a sitting president visit your area, and it’s just one of the responsibilities that we feel honored to be a part of.”

White House pool reports and The Associated Press contributed to this story.


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