Rumor spread shortly after noon that the president was playing golf at Farm Neck, which is less than a mile from here. Since I have only one more day here this week, I thought it was a chance opportunity to see the president on his trip to the Island.
Driving into Farm Neck was surprisingly subdued, with a security check point of numerous secret service agents stopping and checking cars as they entered the golf course driveway. I had only a couple of cars ahead of me as dogs and under-car mirrors surveyed the vehicles for possible weapons or bombs.
I have had my fair share of encounters with this and other presidents who have visited the Island, but this one seemed a little different in light of the tragedy that occurred in Boston this year in April. Besides the incredible number of agents walking around with what appeared to be enormous firepower carefully disguised in bags, backpacks and golf club look-alike bags, the security appeared to be simply overwhelming.
With a small group of people (10 at the most), waiting for the president to pass through after completing the front nine, we were clearly in a unique location to see the president up close, in person. But what was different this time was the numerous dogs and the attention given to the numerous golf bags that were positioned in the clubhouse area. All of sudden, as the president’s impending arrival seemed imminent, the Secret Service agents started calling out — whose bag is this? — over and over to the numerous abandoned bags, as we suddenly realized everyone one of them could have been a potential bomb. With dogs furiously checking out each bag, agents were simply picking up the bags — and there were many — and removing them from the area in a furious manner. Justifiably so.
Remarkably, they let us stand there, within 15 to 20 feet of the expected presidential path as he made his way to the 10th tee. It is remarkable — and something you never get over — the incredible amount of energy that seems to be generated as the president actually makes his way through the path virtually right in front of you. The movement of the police, the Secret Service agents and the accompanying golf carts creates a surreal level of energy that lasts only momentarily as they whisk him by in front of you.
But the president ironically was driving his own golf cart and was positioned right in front of us as he took a right hand turn toward the 10th tee, waving to the crowd and telling the small group gathered: “It’s good to see you all this afternoon.” And then in a second he was exiting his cart and standing on the 10th tee, probably about 30 yards from us. The president, being a lefty, was clearly different from the members of his foursome and I immediately focused on his left-handed swing.
I guess it’s not every day you get to see an up-close encounter with the president of the United States, but in these days of post 9/11, encounters of this kind are rare to say the least. Most encounters of this kind are usually random and unexpected. But with a small controlled group, in a relatively secure confined area, we had a unique opportunity for a chance encounter with President Obama.
Alan Hobart is a seasonal resident of Oak Bluffs.