My father introduced me to golf as a teenager, but I didn't start playing regularly until I was around thirty-five. By that age my schedule was pretty full, so lessons were not an option. I think paying attention to the good habits of other golfers and concentrating on the basics has helped me. Like anything I do, I want to do my very best each time I go out there. I know I'm the type of golfer who would benefit greatly from some practice time—however, finding that time is impossible.
"The driver is definitely my strength most of the time, and judging from the hooked or missed long-iron shots I've had recently, anything under a six-iron is a major weakness. I'm not a superstitious person—I try to rely more on my ability than on lucky clubs or artifacts. However, I am unique in that I hit all my clubs right-handed but I putt as a cross-handed lefty.
"My greatest round and lowest score was a seventy-four, but every round is great now. I enjoy any chance I get to play golf, because with my schedule, those chances don't come as often as they used to. However, I still have not had a hole in one.
"But my most memorable round . . . it wouldn't have been with a politician, I can tell you that much. I would rather play with family or friends. A couple of years ago I got a chance to play with a dream foursome: my friend David Brown and Mark O'Meara and Tiger Woods. The only thing that beats a round like that is playing with my two sons and watching them fight it out in dog-eat-dog fashion. They're both pretty good athletes in their own right. However, as far as 'teaching' them goes, when the three of us play, I'm more of a referee and less of a teacher.
"Competition is a common thread in our family, but what is true for many golfers is true for our family as well: We like to compete, but we also enjoy the quality time that we spend together during a golf outing.
"Despite our busy schedules, I have been fortunate to spend some time with my brother George, and some of that time has been on a golf course. I've got a few different names for him out there . . . it all depends on whether he's making a joke at my expense or not. Normally, and of course privately, I call him 'George' or 'Bro.' Publicly, I try to remind myself to call him 'Mr. President.'
"And the president is a pretty good golfer, so I mostly try to concentrate on my own game. Besides, we like competing, remember?And since the Secret Service agents around are loyal to the president, the 'advice' they give me might end up being less than helpful. However, as governor I am fortunate to spend a lot of time with the men and women from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, who provide my protection. Some of my agents do tend to give me pointers, and sometimes they give too many pointers, but I am grateful for them—and, lucky for them, I leave the bag-handling duties to my cart or myself.
"Our family is proud of our record time for a round—one hour and thirty-three minutes. We get a little bit of an aerobic workout when we're out there, but I think I play at just the right pace. As an example: When I get the chance, I play with my buddies at Capital City [in Tallahassee]. We start at 7:15 a.m. and get done right around 10 a.m., have a great breakfast and add up scores, and then I'm home by eleven, charged and ready with the rest of the day in front of me.
"My 'home course' in Tallahassee is Capital City Country Club. It's the oldest course in the city, and it's a fun track with a good laid-back atmosphere. I also play regularly at Deering Bay Country Club in Coral Gables, a great course that my former business developed. I'm blessed to be governor of Florida, a state that has more than a thousand golf courses—how good can it get?
"The one thing I have not taken heat for in the press is my work ethic. In a typical week, I work at least seventy hours. So Saturday or Sunday—or both if I'm really lucky—are my days to recharge and relax, and golf is a big part of that. It's what I love most about playing: It affords me the rare opportunity to relax and take some time to get my mind off things for a while, even if it's only for an hour and thirty-three minutes. Given the intense life I have lived, it's an outlet that has become important to me for relieving stress.
"I take tremendous pride in the Jeb Bush Florida Golf Classic I host each year to raise money for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation [held this year December 11-12 at Lake Nona Golf and Country Club in Orlando]. We always have a great turnout, and it's a great time for a great cause. We are in our ninth year and have raised close to a million dollars, most of which goes to research a cure for this insidious illness."
Scorecard JEB BUSH
BEST SCORE 74
CAREER Elected governor of Florida in 1998; re-elected 2002
EQUIPMENT Titleist driver; Nike irons; Callaway or Titleist balls
MEMBERSHIPS Capital City Country Club and Golden Eagle Golf and Country Club, Tallahassee; Deering Bay Yacht and Country Club, Coral Gables