Institutional knowledge comes in handy when staking out a spot to photograph the president.
Today started off with a trip to the press filing center at the Oak Bluffs School to join a 10 a.m. press briefing. It never ceases to amaze me at the lack of information that is actually given out during one of these “informational” meetings. The whole briefing lasted 30 minutes but could have been shortened to one important sentence. Amid the lists of things the president will not be doing, Deputy Press Secretary Bill Burton told the crowd the president will definitely be golfing today. With that one statement, he set off a whirlwind of photographers running to the nearest map to find out exactly how many golf courses the island has, and the likelihood the president would golf at each one.
The island has three golf courses, Mink Meadows, Farm Neck and Vineyard Golf Club. Most of us agreed that he would be golfing at Vineyard Golf Club since Mink Meadows is only nine holes and Farm Neck has too many vantage points to keep a secure perimeter. We spent about an hour over a late breakfast determining what side road around the Vineyard Golf Club would provide the best access. The tough part is finding a spot where you have a right to stand and take photos since the Secret Service will remove anyone on golf course property or even on a public road. You are safe on your own land, or if you are invited by the owner as a guest.
Farm Neck is less than a mile down the road from the press filing center, so I decided to not leave with the group and take a quick trip through the parking lot to see if anything was going on, before heading to the Vineyard Golf Club, which is in Edgartown and on the other side of the island. I am also partial to Farm Neck since I basically grew up across the street from the second hole. I knew I made the correct choice when I found state police and Secret Service patrolling the parking lot.
The parking lot was quickly shut off and anyone milling around the clubhouse and parking lot was asked to leave. Luckily, I know a family that lives across from the seventh tee. I drove past the clubhouse down their road and was immediately stopped by a Secret Service agent. I let him know I was headed to a friend's house and they let me down. I slowly drove down the road and parked in their driveway. The view was better than I had remembered. There I was, standing 50 feet from the seventh tee, and the most powerful man in the world was just minutes away from walking past, or so I had hoped.
About two hours and three bottles of water later, more Secret Service agents stopped by the house. They immediately knew I was media from the camera gear I was holding. They gave me the normal dog and pony show of how I wasn’t actually allowed anywhere near where I was standing, but luckily I was sitting in a friend's front yard. My friends immediately came out and told the Secret Service I was there as a guest. Since the agents have no right to tell someone where they can stand on their own front lawn, they let me stay. I knew I was golden.
No other photographers were around, and I was set up to get a great shot.
About 10 minutes later I saw the carts heading toward us. The president was in front, driving his own cart, wearing a black shirt and tan hat. He was followed by the president of UBS Americas Robert Wolf, friend Chicago physician Eric Whitaker and South Carolina Rep. James Clyburn.
He got out of the cart and sent a smiling glance and wave over to our direction. He finished the sixth hole and walked over to the seventh tee, took his shot and then walked back to the golf cart motorcade and took off.
After all the preparation work involved, the whole event lasted about four minutes. It was very entertaining however to see that the most powerful man in the world is in fact a mediocre golfer. He triple-bogeyed the sixth hole, which, not being a golfer myself, I was informed is not a very good thing to do. He also sliced off the tee at the seventh and the ball ended up near the trees.
We all chuckled when a neighbor yelled out from his yard “I hope your health care plan turns out better than that drive!”
Enterprise photographer Tim Correira, a Martha’s Vineyard native, sent in this report from the island.