Fred Couples didn’t even get to play a practice round at the Memorial Tournament. Instead, he got a call from PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem that they were going to the White House to meet President Barack Obama, who will again serve as the honorary chairman for the 2013 Presidents Cup matches.
Couples, the U.S. captain for the third time, along with Nick Price, the International team captain, spent 20 minutes with President Obama in the Oval Office chatting and taking pictures.
Now is there a chance for the President to make an appearance at the biennial matches, held at Muirfield Village Golf Club, the site of this week’s Memorial Tournament hosted by golfing legend Jack Nicklaus?
“We asked him to come here in October and he said he couldn’t do it,” said Couples on Thursday following a two-under 70. “And we asked him again and he said he couldn’t do it. We said we’d check in a couple more months from now.”
The President didn’t ask for any golf tips and joked that his game hadn’t improved since the last time he met Couples.
“No, no tips,” said Freddie, who shot a three-over 75 in tough conditions on Friday morning. “He had a couple of funny stories. It was really a very special 20 minutes.”
Couples emphasized that the President was in a great mood and made several remarks that elicited laughter.
“He says, ‘I’m scrappy, but there are three things I do: I don’t cheat, I putt everything out and I play really fast.’
“So those things sounded pretty fun.”
Couples, an art junkie, and Price waited for their turn to meet the President in an area adjacent to the Oval Office in the West Wing. Then, there’s a hallway where dozens of photographs line the walls. An aide told Freddie that the pictures are switched every two weeks (or some special ones will stay up for longer) and then sent to the archives.
“You know when you go in there and you’re in that little West Wing and they say, ‘The President will see you now.’ It’s like, ‘holy shit!’ he exclaimed talking to a group of reporters on the practice green on Friday. “You’re not nervous, but it’s like, how many times in your life do you hear those words: ‘the President will see you.’”
Well, for Fred, he’s made four trips to the White House — he’s now met President Obama twice, but he’s also met President Bill Clinton and President George H.W. Bush.
Which stands out the most? Fred didn’t even have to think twice.
“I’ll tell you which one stands out,” said Couples, referring to the trip he made in 1993 as a member of the U.S. Ryder Cup team. “I was with Jay Haas, we were in line to shake (President) Clinton’s hand. We got to Jay Haas and he said, ‘How’s Jan doing? And how are your kids?’ He named his five kids…I was before Jay and I turned back and heard all this. It blew Jay’s mind…We were so enthralled with him.”
(Official White House photo by Pete Souza)