Barack Obama has a new Chicago hangout that’s a perfect reflection of the former president.
Members refer to Beverly Country Club as “the United Nations” of golf clubs, a home to people of all ethnicities, races, faiths, political parties — and both sexes. The membership includes multiple Nobel Prize recipients and politicians such as Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan and Ald. Ed Burke.
In addition, it’s a true Chicago club, with a location of 87th Street and Western Avenue that’s just nine miles from Jackson Park, where the Obama Presidential Center will be constructed.
Obama has accepted an offer to become an honorary member at Beverly, the Tribune has learned, affording him the opportunity to play without having to pay an initiation fee or dues. He will be charged only when he brings guests.
The club has the same arrangement with Jack O’Callahan, who played for the Blackhawks and helped the 1980 U.S. Olympic “Miracle on Ice” team win gold. That association helped Beverly net Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane as members.
“Every club develops a culture, and ours has accepted a celebrity presence,” said Terry Lavin, who joined Beverly in 1987. “We’ve seen that if you pick the right people, they add value versus being a distraction.”
When Obama played Beverly in 2012 with head professional John Varner and prominent Chicagoans Eric Whitaker and Marty Nesbitt, Secret Service personnel followed the group in carts and had a presence one to two holes ahead.
“He was cordial with everyone,” Varner said after the round. “We got some nice pictures and he was very accommodating.”
Beverly is a tree-lined Donald Ross design with a championship history: Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus won Western Opens there. In country club circles, it’s just as well-known for being nondiscriminatory.
“You name it, we have it — Jews, blacks, Indians, Polish, Irish. Of course there are Irish,” joked Allison Davis, whose law firm hired Obama out of Harvard Law School in 1993.
Davis said he was “terrified” when he became the club’s second African-American member in 1997: “I had no idea what to expect. But Beverly is an amazing place, and I have many wonderful friends there.”
Davis said Beverly is an excellent fit for Obama because of its diverse membership and proximity to Kenwood, where the Obamas maintain a residence. They live mainly in an $8 million mansion in Washington, D.C.
Obama is reportedly a member of at least three D.C.-area golf clubs: Army Navy Country Club, Columbia Country Club and Robert Trent Jones Golf Club, which has hosted four Presidents Cups, an international team event played in non-Ryder Cup years.
In January, Houston Astros owner Jim Crane said both Obama and former President George W. Bush had joined Floridian National Golf Club in Palm City, Fla., telling Fox 26 in Houston: “We have both sides of the political spectrum covered.”
Is Obama approaching what golf’s elite jokingly call the 14-club limit? Doubtful. But the left-hander has a bag full of enviable choices.
He hopes to have another if the Jackson Park/South Shore project comes to fruition, combining two South Side municipal courses into a Tiger Woods-designed top-caliber public course that could host a FedEx Cup playoff event on the PGA Tour. The proposed course would be next to the Obama Presidential Center.
Davis said Obama shoots in the 80s and is unlike President Donald Trump and former President Bill Clinton, both of whom are reputed to take liberties with mulligans and scoring.
“He is serious,” Davis said. “He doesn’t fudge on his scores and doesn’t let you fudge. He’s scrupulous in terms of the game and the rules. He doesn’t want to delude himself.”
Davis said he never has bet on golf with Obama, but actor Anthony Anderson said last year on “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon” that he lost $300 to Obama after playing with him, Houston Rockets guard Chris Paul and Olympic swimming champion Michael Phelps.
“President Obama talked trash all day,” Anderson said on the show. “He’s a great golfer. Doesn’t hit the ball long off the tee, but he’s straight as an arrow. Played one ball the entire time, very consistent. He took $700 from Phelps, $600 from Chris Paul and $300 from me. I was like: ‘You’re the president. Can you take money from civilians?’”
Obama is a Nobel Prize laureate. Remarkably, Beverly has two others among its membership: Eugene Fama won in 2013 for his work in economic sciences and Richard Thaler in 2017 for his contributions to behavioral economics. Both are professors at the University of Chicago.
Lavin, merely an Illinois Appellate Court Judge, said any number of topics get raised during rounds and club functions at Beverly.
“One thing you learn as a Democrat at a country club,” he said, “is that typically you don’t talk politics.”
That extends to the locker room, where Beverly’s newest member has requested locker 44.