President Barack Obama golfed with several friends during his two-day visit to the Treasure Coast, but he made time before flying back to Washington on Sunday for another one who didn’t make it onto the course at Floridian National Golf Club.
The president met with pizza restaurant owner Scott Van Duzer, who was made famous in 2012 when he spontaneously bear-hugged the president during a visit to his restaurant, Big Apple Pizza and Pasta.
There was a smaller hug this time, and Van Duzer used the opportunity to introduce his sons, Scott Jr. and Jordan, to the leader of the free world.
“He’s a cool guy. I told everybody that from day one when he came into the restaurant,” said Van Duzer, who greeted the president this time at St. Lucie County International Airport.
“We caught a lot of crap from that first hug and everybody thought it was political, but we’ve been to the White House. We’ve been to the United Nations. He’s just a nice guy.”
Friends were the spirit of the 30-hour stay for Obama, who flew back to Washington on Sunday after a few rounds of golf at Floridian National in Palm City. At 4:25 p.m, Air Force One taxied down the airport’s runway and took off to the south before turning and heading on to the nation’s capital.
Obama’s trip — his second to the secluded club along the St. Lucie River that straddles the border between Martin and St. Lucie counties — did not include any public events. Instead, he spent his time playing golf Saturday afternoon and Sunday morning with longtime pals and supporters.
On Sunday, Obama was joined for a round of golf by Floridian owner Jim Crane, a major Democratic Party donor with whom he golfed during his February 2013 stay at the club. Also in his foursome were Militon Carroll, an official at Halliburton who also played with Obama in 2013; and Glenn Hutchins, a private equity investor who is part-owner of the NBA’s Boston Celtics.
Saturday’s foursome included former Miami Heat great Alonzo Mourning, an early supporter of Obama’s first presidential campaign in 2008; television broadcaster and former NFL wide receiver Ahmad Rashad; and Cy Walker, an attorney and a frequent golfing companion of the president who is a cousin of Obama senior adviser Valerie Jarrett.
He also visited briefly with Sunday afternoon with law-enforcement officials who helped oversee his stay — St Lucie County Sheriff Ken Mascara, Martin County Sheriff William Snyder and Port St. Lucie Police Chief John Bolduc.
“The president wanted to thank the law-enforcement people that were there,” said Snyder, whose agency assisted with 12 to 15 deputies during the course of Obama’s visit. “The main thing he said was thank you for assisting (the Secret Service).”
Late Sunday afternoon, about 35 people gathered along Becker Road, just north of the golf club, hoping to catch a glimpse of the president and his motorcade. Eliza Levy, 13, sang the national anthem while she waited and held a sign showing her desire to someday perform for the president.
As the motorcade departed for the airport, Obama waved to the crowd. William Hazelton of Hobe Sound was among those who caught a glimpse of the president.
“It was great,”Hazelton said. “Any chance I get to see my president, I’m ready to see him. He’s a good president. He’s doing great things and everybody needs to stop bashing him and let him do his job.”
About 200 people gathered outside the airport along U.S. Route 1 south of Indrio Road, holding up signs and showing their support for their support for Obama.
He obliged the crowd, after arriving just after 4 p.m. The motorcade pulled onto the tarmac and idled next to the waiting Air Force One.
The president greeted a crowd of about 30 VIP’s in a cordoned off area and then met up with Van Duzer. Van Duzer said this was the fourth time he has met with Obama. When asked what the president said to him, the restaurant owner replied, “He said I looked great, I lost some weight. I told him I got a little gray up here, so we’re even.”
“Whether you like the president or not, you should respect the office,” Van Duzer said.
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