The Swingingest President Ever
An aficionado of Ian Fleming’s spy novels, John F. Kennedy relished keeping secrets almost as much as he enjoyed hearing them. One of Kennedy’s most zealously guarded secrets was his lifelong passion for the game of golf.
During his run for President in 1960, Kennedy did everything possible to keep his fellow Americans from discovering that he not only loved the game but was nearly as good as a club pro. Throughout President Dwight Eisenhower’s two terms, Kennedy had portrayed Ike as the caricature of a detached duffer in chief who cared more about lowering his handicap than improving the lives of ordinary Americans. If voters learned that J.F.K. was as obsessed as Ike with a game seen as an out-of-reach privilege of the upper class, it would remind them that the Democratic nominee was an ambassador’s son and a product of Choate and Harvard with a trust fund in his hip pocket.
On a spectacular July afternoon in 1960, just a few days before the Democratic National Convention in Los Angeles, Kennedy himself nearly let his golf secret out of the bag—with a perfectly swung five-iron. Kennedy teed off on the par-3, 15th hole at the sumptuous Cypress Point Golf Club and watched his ball land on the green and roll straight toward the hole for a possible hole in one.
“Go in! Go in!” yelled Paul (Red) Fay, J.F.K.’s playing partner. But Kennedy looked on in terror and thought, I’m watching my promising political career come to an end. The ball stopped just 6 in. shy of the hole, and Kennedy exhaled.
“If that ball had gone into that hole,” Kennedy told Fay with a sheepish smile, “in less than an hour the word would be out to the nation that another golfer was trying to get into the White House.”