A special round with 41

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We all have our favorite passions, those activities that trump all others when time and circumstance permit.

Mine is golf, that old Scottish-born pastime once thought only for nerds, but which has become increasingly cool as the decades roll by.

Doing a quick multiplication, I would guess I’ve played about 2,500 rounds of golf in my life, which, to borrow Mark Twain’s definition of the sport, is a whole lot of “good walks spoiled.”

I’m sometimes asked to describe my most memorable round. While the person asking probably expects something from my competitive background – either a thrilling victory or a crushing defeat – I answer without hesitation that it was a leisurely round a quarter of a century ago in North Las Vegas.

In the mid-’90s, I was given a plum assignment by GOLF magazine, out of New York. I was to arrange a round of golf with a celebrity from an elite list the editors provided, and then profile that person both as a golfer and a personality in the five-plus hours I would spend with him/her at the course.

Through political consultant Sig Rogich, who held top advisory positions with both Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush, I was invited to join Sig and President Bush and Steve Wynn for a round of golf at Wynn’s exclusive course, Shadow Creek. Although President Bush’s name wasn’t on the list of celebrities I had been given, the magazine’s editors were delighted that I was able to arrange the game.

There were several memorable moments that occurred during the round, but two stand out. On the fifth hole, a par-3 over a sunken forest with a creek running alongside the green, the President, who was my betting partner that day, asked my advice on playing the shot. The hole was about 200 yards long, so I told him to use his hybrid club, a lofted wood, and keep it left of the pin to avoid a slope down to the creek.

The President promptly hit a big slice that was certain to end up in the water. He knew it right away, and turned and said, “I’m gonna get that ball. It’s brand new.”

I cautioned that the slope was pretty steep and he shouldn’t worry about it.

“I’m getting it,” he said.

When we reached the green, the President headed like a golden retriever over the bank and down towards the water. The two Secret Service agents who were with us all day, turned to me in alarm and said, “Where did he go?”

I told them that he was determined to find his errant shot, and that the bank was pretty steep.

“Eagle down, Eagle down!” one of the agents barked into his walkie-talkie, and they both ­sprinted over to the edge of the green to assess the situation. Within seconds, President Bush appeared at the green, with a large mud stain on his Docker pants from slipping on the bank, and proudly announced that he’d found not only his own ball, but three others.

We all had a good laugh at that.

Two hours later, on the 15th hole, as we were leaving the tee, Steve Wynn asked me what time it was. I told him five minutes to noon. He said, “Pay attention! We have a surprise for the President.” Moments later, the ground started to shake, and when I looked to the sky there were four Thunderbird jets flying overhead in what is known as the Diamond Formation. They dipped their wings to honor the President. I was standing next to him at this incredible sight, and tears were rolling down his cheeks.

“I don’t miss much about the Presidency,” he said. “But I miss those guys. Nothing means more to me than our military.”

That was one of those moments that make the hair stand up on your arms.

Hearing about President Bush 41’s death at age 94 brought that day back into clear focus for me. What a privilege that was.

When we finished, Barbara Bush joined us for lunch on the Shadow Creek patio, and then the President asked me if I was up for another nine holes. So off we went, with another five-dollar bet on the line, and a story I knew I would repeat many times through the years.

Rest in peace, Mr. President. And thanks again for the most memorable golf day of my life.

About the Author

Jack Sheehan

Vegas Vibe columnist Jack Sheehan has lived in Las Vegas since 1976 and writes about the city for Gaming Today. He is the author of 28 books, over 1,000 magazine articles, and has sold four screenplays.

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