The Obamas will miss what is generally considered the busiest week on the Vineyard, featuring Grand Illumination Night at the Camp Ground in Oak Bluffs, the Oak Bluffs fireworks and the Martha’s Vineyard Agricultural Society Livestock Show and Fair in West Tisbury.
They will arrive on the fourth and final day of the fair, so if they are interested, they can still visit the fair and enjoy such favorites as the hotly contested dog show, miniature pig races, the West Tisbury firemen’s hamburger stand and, for those with strong arms, the women’s skillet throw.
That is, of course, if they choose to venture out, instead of quietly settling into their rented Chilmark home upon arrival. But at this writing the only word from the White House about the First Family’s vacation plan is that no public events are scheduled.
By way of comparison, when President Clinton took his first vacation on the Vineyard in 1993, many activities had been arranged and were largely public knowledge even before the Clintons arrived.
Farm Neck Golf Club was identified as the course-designate for the President well before his arrival, and the White House reported that Mr. Clinton was planning to visit the Agricultural Fair at some point during his stay. There was also much discussion about which shops and restaurants they might visit, and many local business assembled thoughtful gift baskets for the Clintons.
But much has changed in 16 years, and in this post-9/11 world details about any presidential visit are now kept well under wraps. And that includes tee times.
There are reports, for example, that the President plans to play golf at the Vineyard Golf Club in Edgartown.
If he does play there, he will find himself on a Scottish links style course, where the greens are small, the fairways are rolling and clumps of trees offer strategic challenges to duffers of all skill levels.
The most challenging holes are generally thought to be the par five ninth and the par three eighth hole, famously bordered by frost bottoms that are out of bounds. The greens and fairways at this course are maintained with organic fertilizers, and the rough lives up to its name. It’s a country course with a gentleman’s attitude, certainly befitting any president.
If Mr. Obama plays Farm Neck, he will have water views of Nantucket Sound and Sengekontacket Pond for most of the front nine. Island golf ace Tony Grillo, who is headed for the U.S. Amateur Golf Open in Tulsa, Okla., later this month, is intimately familiar with the course, and he had a tip about the 14th hole for the president. Or call it a warning.
“The green at 14 goes down by the water . . . the water is right behind the green in the back and to the right, and it kind of feels like the green is sitting up on the water. Some parts [of the green] also slope straight down toward the water,” he said.
More hot tips from an amateur who is better than most: Mr. Grillo said he uses a driver and wedge to reach the green in two, but he said many people make the mistake of driving the ball as far as possible to try to reach the green in one. “For a lot of people, it plays harder than it might look on the score card. It’s the one people try to take advantage of with [long drives] because they can see the green from the tee box,” he said.
Okay, enough golf tips for the president.
On to fishing.
It is rumored that Mr. Obama may spend a day fishing with Aquinnah charter Capt. Buddy Vanderhoop. Captain Vanderhoop frequently takes out Harvard law professor Charles Ogletree, who owns a home in Oak Bluffs and is good friends with Mr. Obama.
So make your own predictions.
Mr. Vanderhoop of course cannot confirm or deny the existence of any plans for any charter fishing trips with presidents. But he did say that anyone who goes fishing with him next week can be assured of two things: a good time and lots of fish, and not necessarily in that order.
“We would go out at 7 a.m., head south and start catching striped bass,” the seasoned charter captain said. “We would have some snacks on the boat and we would take in some great views . . . Gay Head, Noman’s Land, maybe get over to the Elizabeth Islands. Some of those views, like the cliffs [at Gay Head] and Squibnocket, are epic. We have to show those off.” He paused and continued:
“And we would get some fish . . . we always get some fish,” he said.
Mr. Vanderhoop said he is catching mostly stripers now, with occasional bluefish, a random black sea bass or two and lots of scup. Bluefin tuna are running about 10 miles off Noman’s, the tiny uninhabited Island off the south shore of Chilmark. Yellowfin tuna are running about 30 miles to the south, the captain said.
“It would be nice to take somebody out and catch some yellowfin tuna, maybe get some mahi-mahi and some sashimi tuna . . . that would be some good eating,” he said.
And if Mr. Obama wants to play a little basketball, there are players lining up to take him on. There was talk earlier this month that members of a group who play in a regular game at the Edgartown School had formed a team to challenge the President.
But one player, Edgartown School principal John W. Stevens, was tight-lipped about the possibility of hoops with the man who was called Barry O’Bomber in high school (it’s actually a misnomer; Mr. Obama shoots a decent midrange jumper and generally shies away from the three-pointer).
“Can’t say anything about that really. But I can say it would be amazing . . . If the President wants to play with a couple of Secret Service guys, then we have a team ready to take him on,” he said.