By Bill Brotherton
“I Call Him “Mr. President: Stories of Golf, Fishing, and Life with My Friend George H. W. Bush”
By Ken Raynor with Michael Patrick Shiels
Skyhorse Publishers (Available at Amazon.com and local bookstores)
Ken Raynor, the head professional at Cape Arundel Golf Club in Kennebunkport, Maine, for 38 years, tells the story of how he and President George H. W. Bush became best buddies during Bush’s annual summer golf outings at the seaside town’s course. It’s a fascinating, highly entertaining story of friendship between Raynor, “the president’s pro” aka ”Secretary of Swing,” and the leader of the free world that will appeal to non-golfers as well as players of all stripes.
Raynor and writer Michael Patrick Shiels share personal tales, many of them hilarious, of the pro’s interactions with our 41st president in Maine at the Bushes’ 26-room oceanside home on Walker’s Point, in Washington, DC, at the White House, and on golf and fishing excursions. Raynor helped the president greet world leaders and celebrities at Cape Arundel.
The focus here is about friendship, rather than the typical concentration on golf or politics one expects from books such as this.
Raynor, who points out that golfers have defeated non-golfers in 16 of 18 presidential elections since the second world war (Truman and Carter being the exceptions), delights in sharing tales of Bush’s lightning-fast rounds of golf (18 holes in less than two hours were normal), the president’s joy in playing practical jokes on guests (Gen. Brent Snowcroft, his national security adviser, fell for the exploding golf ball gag) and how Bush was always inviting guests to their Maine estate without telling his wife, Barbara, who would often have to entertain strangers while George was late returning home from a day of fishing.
Best of all are Raynor’s heartfelt tales of the good times he and wife Anne spent with George and “Bar,” who always insisted they sleep in the Lincoln Bedroom when visiting our nation’s capital. The Bushes often visited the Raynor family’s Kennebunkport home for relaxed dinners and conversations.
Bush’s philosophy that “You learn a lot about a guy, playing 18 holes or standing in a river all day in your waders casting side-by-side” is pretty solid. He and Raynor have a special bond that’s clearly evident on these pages, and your views of Bush’s character might change after reading this.
Rhode Island PGA pro Brad Faxon shares stories of playing golf with Bush in Maine and spending time with him at an MGA banquet where Bush received a Ouimet Award for lifetime contributions to golf.
Manchester-by-the-Sea resident Eddie Carbone, who was championship director of last year’s US Senior Open at Salem Country Club and former executive director of the NEPGA, gets a shoutout. Carbone tasked Raynor with getting Bush to the NEPGA hospitality tent at the 1999 Ryder Cup at The Country Club in Brookline. He delivered.
(Note: Before the second edition goes to press, a few errors should be corrected. Matt Young was a Red Sox pitcher not a second baseman, and the proper spelling is caddie. Mere quibbles by a veteran copy editor.)
Raynor’s proceeds from the sale of this book will be donated to the Kennebunkport Conservation Trust and Portland Mercy Hospital’s “Gary’s House” via the Gary Pike George H. W. Bush Cape Arundel Golf Classic.