Golf Summit: President Obama and Speaker Boehner Tee Off

White House tempers expectations, claims game is social rather than political.

ByABC News
June 18, 2011, 1:31 PM

June 18, 2011 — -- President Obama and House Speaker John Boehner may be at odds over taxes, the debt ceiling and the conflict in Libya, but for today at least, they put aside their differences for a round of golf.

Obama and Boehner took on Vice President Biden and Ohio Republican Gov. John Kasich in a game at Joint Base Andrews' golf course in Maryland.

The game gave the president and the Republican leader four hours to socialize -- with or without discussion of the last week's tense negotiations. Both men play regularly, but Boehner is known as one of Capital Hill's best golfers. Boehner was ranked 43rd among 150 prominent Washington golfers, while Obama is 108th.

Playing together, Obama and Boehner edged Biden and Kasich on the final hole -- pocketing $2 each.

"The foursome had great time and really enjoyed playing golf at Joint Base Andrews today," a statement from the White House said. "After finishing their round, the President, Speaker Boehner, the Vice President and Governor Kasich went to the patio of the clubhouse where they enjoyed a cold drink, some of the U.S. Open coverage and visited with service members."

But golf isn't just a competition, it's also an opportunity to socialize.

"Four hours is plenty to know a lot about somebody. It builds camaraderie, you build a relationship," golf pro Ed Collins said.

The two men certainly have a lot to talk about. In the last week, the White House and Boehner have disputed budget cuts and the conflict in Libya, which the U.S. military is involved in without congressional permission.

They also have a difference of views about the game itself.

"The president sees golf as a way to escape Washington, and Speaker Boehner sees golf as part of the politics of Washington. It's how you raise money, it's how you get business done. And the president doesn't see golf that way," ABC News political director Amy Walter said.

"At best, it's a great photo op," Walter said. "I doubt anything really substantive comes out of it. ... It can be an opportunity for two people from Washington to prove that Washington can actually get along."

In another sign of bipartisanship, White House trip director Marvin Nicholson rode along with Boehner spokesman Brendan Buck, accompanying the foursome.

In a recent interview with ABC New's George Stephanopoulos, Boehner did not sound convinced that he and the president would be able to settle any kind of a deal in 18 holes.

"We've always had -- a very good relationship," Boehner said. "We get along -- get along fine. But we have very different visions for what America should look like and what the role of the federal government should be."

When asked if he thought they would come to an agreement any time soon, he said, "Well, no -- if the president invites me to play golf, it's the president. You don't say no to the president."

The White House described the event as a social outing, but it did not deny that it could have political implications.

"I think I can say with great confidence that they will not wrap up the 18th hole and come out and say that we have a deal," White House Press Secretary Jay Carney told reporters this week.

"I think that for the broader purpose of the work that needs to be done in a bipartisan way in Washington, this social occasion is a good thing, because ... spending a number of hours together in that kind of environment, I think, can only help improve the chances of bipartisan cooperation," Carney said. "It certainly can't hurt it, unless someone wins really big."

ABC News' David Kerley and Tahman Bradley contributed to this report.