Obama invited Key to round of golf

U.S. President Barack Obama plays golf with New Zealand Prime Minister John Key at Marine Corps...
U.S. President Barack Obama plays golf with New Zealand Prime Minister John Key at Marine Corps Base Hawaii in Kaneohe. Photo by Reuters

Prime Minister John Key was invited to play a leisurely round of golf with Barack Obama in Hawaii by the US President himself.

The leaders, who are both on holiday in Hawaii, teed off on a course near Mr Obama's rented holiday home yesterday on a sunny and breezy morning.

Mr Key, who owns a holiday home on Hawaii, was joined by his teenage son Max, while Mr Obama was joined by his personal aide Marvin Nicholson.

The leaders reportedly joked around together and hit several balls in front of reporters before spending several hours on the 18-hole Kaneohe Klipper course, on a military base near Mr Obama's holiday home.

Mr Key said on Twitter yesterday afternoon: "Great to catch up with US President Obama for a round of golf in Hawaii today."

In a statement, Mr Key's office said the US President had extended the invitation.

"President Obama has previously raised the possibility of having a round of golf with Prime Minister Key when they are both in Hawaii. In the last few days arrangements have been made between the White House and Prime Minister's office.

"It was a great opportunity for the two leaders to informally discuss issues of mutual interest."

It was not known which of the leaders did better on the golf course, with Mr Key's office declining to say who won. A spokeswoman also declined to reveal Mr Key's handicap.

Mr Obama is believed to strive for a handicap of 18, according to a New York Times report. The newspaper said he played for up to six hours at a time, which was long for a round of golf, and aimed to finish one over par on each hole.

In a statement, the White House said the two leaders had long discussed their shared interest in the sport, and enjoyed the opportunity to spend several hours together on the golf course.

It said the leaders had a close partnership that reflected the friendship and broad co-operation of the two countries.

"While the two leaders are both enjoying some time off with their families and friends, they also reaffirmed our continued work together to deepen our trade relationship, enhance regional security, and support the democratic values that the United States and New Zealand share."

The golf outing has put Mr Key in rarefied company. Mr Obama is an avid golfer but prefers to limit his playing partners to a close circle of friends and advisers.

Among those who have also scored invitations to play with Mr Obama in the past are former US President Bill Clinton and US House Speaker John Boehner.

Media access to Mr Obama's rounds is usually restricted but reporters and photographers were permitted to briefly watch the two leaders yesterday.

The foursome pulled up to the green on the second hole in two golf carts, with the President and Prime Minister driving together. Mr Obama's first putt was short of the hole and his second landed just wide.

Rather than putt a third time, he opted for a gimme shot, where all players agree to count a shot as made rather than take another stroke.

After the younger Key sank his putt, Mr Obama gave him a high-five and joked, "He's doing it in front of the cameras, too."

The Kaneohe Klipper course is some 20km from Honolulu, where the US President was born. Yesterday's round of golf was reportedly Mr Obama's eighth during his vacation, which had spanned 13 days as of yesterday and was due to finish on Sunday.

- Additional reporting by the Associated Press


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