What does a round of golf with Obama mean for New Zealand?
Business is done on the golf course, and Prime Minister John Key had the ear of United States President Barack Obama for several hours in Hawaii today.
The two leaders teed off on a sunny and breezy morning at a course at a military base on Oahu, the Hawaiian island where Obama is renting a vacation home. Key owns a home in Hawaii.
The president's office said the two leaders had long discussed their shared interest in golf and enjoyed the opportunity to spend several hours together on the course.
"While the two leaders are both enjoying some time off with their families and friends, they also reaffirmed our continued work together to deepen our trade relationship, enhance regional security, and support the democratic values that the United States and New Zealand share," a statement from the White House said.
The golf outing put Key in rarified company. Obama is an avid golfer, but prefers to limit his playing partners to a close circle of friends and advisers. Among those who have also scored invitations to play with Obama in the past are former President Bill Clinton and House Speaker John Boehner.
Rounding out the foursome on Thursday (Friday NZ time) were Max Key, the prime minister's teenage son, and Marvin Nicholson, Obama's personal aide.
Media access to Obama's rounds is typically restricted, though reporters and photographers were permitted to briefly watch the two leaders.
The foursome pulled up to the green on the second hole in two golf carts, with the president and prime minister driving together. Obama's first putt was short of the hole and his second landed just wide. Rather than putt a third time, he opted for a gimme shot, where all players agree to count a shot as made rather than take another stroke.
After the younger Key sank his putt, Obama gave him a high-five and joked, "He's doing it in front of the cameras, too."
White House advisor Ben Rhodes tweeted that New Zealand was one of the USA's "closest friends".
Today POTUS is golfing with Prime Minister Key here in Hawaii - New Zeland is one of our closest friends (and home to very good golfers...)
— Ben Rhodes (@rhodes44) January 2, 2014
Following the round, Key tweeted a photograph of the pair, saying it was "great to catch up".
Great to catch up with US President Obama for a round of golf in Hawaii today. pic.twitter.com/mw1iwc73ja
— John Key (@johnkeypm) January 3, 2014
- AP, Fairfax NZ