Monday, June 25, 2012

Sam Kass On Playing Against The President

The Senior Policy Advisor talks about how he stays fit enough to challenge his boss at sports...
When President Obama relaxed with a round of golf on Sunday, hitting the links at the Fort Belvoir Golf Club in Virginia for close to 5 1/2 hours, Senior Policy Advisor for Healthy Food Initiatives Sam Kass was in the foursome that included two other White House aides.  Kass, 32, has previously joined Mr. Obama on the links in DC, and during First Family vacations in Martha's Vineyard and Hawaii.  An exceptional athlete during his school days, Kass took up golf thanks to the President, he told Obama Foodorama. (Above: The President and Kass, r, in August 2009 at Mink Meadows on Martha's Vineyard)
Both the President and Kass are lefties, and the President has given his chef tips on playing.  Slicing greens is expected in the White House kitchen, but it's terrible on the links.

"I'm an improving golfer," Kass said about his game.

He does know about hitting balls, however.  Kass was a baseball star in high school in his native Chicago, and then attended two community colleges to pursue a dream of playing Major League ball; he was wickedly good at bat, and held state-level hitting records.  But he put his dreams aside, and finished his academic career at the University of Chicago.

The White House doesn't release the top-secret scores for any of the President's outings, and Kass wouldn't dish about Sunday's game, either.  But apparently the President kicks some Kass: The exceptionally fit policy advisor said he has never won when playing his boss.

"I'm always inspired by the President of the United States," Kass said, chuckling.

The 18 holes at Fort Belvoir, which has two championship courses, started shortly after noon (it was closed to press, as are almost all games).  White House aides Mike Brush and Marvin Nicholson made up the rest of the foursome, played under sunny skies in a humid 89 degrees.  It was the President's 101st game since taking office.*

Last year, Golf Digest awarded the President a speculative 17 handicap when ranking Washington's Top 150 golfersKass, of course, was not on the list. 

Before Sunday, Kass last joined the President on the links on Christmas Eve in 2011, playing 18 holes during a 5 1/2 hour game at the Klipper Course on Marine Corps Base Hawaii.  That vacation also included an aggressive game of very sandy football played on New Year's Day on a private strip of beach on the Base.    It was "documented" by, and the 113 photos show President Obama and Kass--both shirtless--taking on a team of staff, including chief White House photographer Pete Souza.  (Above: Kass is at left, the President is in the scrum, and Souza is in red shorts)

dubbed the President "pretty ripped for a 50-year-old," and lauded him for "some shockingly athletic plays...diving for catches, tossing up some Hail Marys, and juking people all over the place." Kass was also doing some "juking" of his own, thanks to the fact that he works out.

That's something Kass does a lot, despite constantly traveling as the top ambassador for First Lady Michelle Obama's Let's Move! campaign (last weekend he was in Los Angeles).  It's a bit of an antidote to the many stresses of having the dual role of policy wonk and chef.

"It clears my head," Kass said.

So when does the busiest guy on the planet find time to train?

"I work out in the morning," Kass said. "I do weights and cardio."

Plenty of chefs pack on the pounds over the years, but when asked if despite his routine he'd gained weight since going to work at the White House, where the best food in America is available 24/7, Kass said an emphatic "no." Working out, he said, is essentially his DNA.

"Once an athlete, always an athlete."

Clearly the regime works. And it's something Kass spends plenty of time promoting. (Above: The President soars a pass beyond his leaping opponent)

When he makes appearances for Let's Move!, Kass talks as much about the importance of kids staying fit as he does about the importance of healthy eating. Getting kids interested in being active at a young age is crucial, as far as Kass is concerned, in order to set them up for a lifetime of good habits.  In Los Angeles last weekend, he walked around the Let's Move! event complimenting kids as they participated in sports drills.

Still, Kass has yet to run around on the South Lawn of the White House at any of the First Lady's many fitness events. Playing against the President is one thing; playing against Mrs. Obama is another.

Could Kass beat the world's best push up artist at her own game?

Could he trump her in a round of Double Dutch?

Maybe this summer Kass will take on the biggest challenge of all, and get in on that fun.

*The Presidential count for golf games is courtesy of the 'official' White House press corps statistician, CBS correspondent Mark Knoller. The President''s 100th golf game was last weekend, when he played at Chicago's Beverly Country Club on Father's Day.

*Golf photo by AP; Kass by Eddie Gehman Kohan/Obama Foodorama; football photos by