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Wedding relocated for Obama's golf

By Associated Press in Honolulu | China Daily | Updated: 2014-12-31 07:45

US president calls groom to say sorry for causing big day disruption

A military couple getting married near US President Barack Obama's vacation spot on Hawaii learned the hard way that the big day rarely goes exactly as planned.

Natalie Heimel and Edward Mallue Jr. - both US Army captains stationed in Hawaii - were scheduled to tie the knot on Sunday at Kaneohe Klipper Golf Course, a military course with ocean views near Obama's rented vacation home in Kailua.

But after their rehearsal on Saturday, they were told they'd have to move their wedding away from the 16th hole because Obama and his friends planned to play golf, Heimel's sister, Christie McConnell, said.

"They're both pretty even-tempered," McConnell said of the couple, who met in 2011 while stationed in Germany. "I'm sure it was a little bit of stress, but they seemed fine."

The ceremony relocated to another part of the course that offered better views than the 16th hole, she said, adding that some guests even caught a glimpse of Obama as he played.

After the ceremony was over and members of the bridal party were taking photos, Mallue got a call from the wedding planner asking permission to give the president his cellphone number, said McConnell, a bridesmaid. Then, Obama called and Mallue put the call on speakerphone.

"We all hovered around, all excited, listening," McConnell said. Obama asked how long they had been "going out," chatted about golf and apologized for disrupting their plans. "He was really funny and nice on the phone."

On Monday, Obama was back on the greens, this time at a private course a few miles away. Putting on the 18th hole, Obama offered a few compliments to his golf partners before attempting a chip shot as the sun set behind him over the Koolau Mountains.

Unofficial events

Typically, when Obama is involved in recreational activities like golf or hiking, the events are considered "unofficial" and not announced beforehand on his public schedule. Keeping the events a secret until they take place allows the Secret Service to minimize the costs and disruption involved in securing a location for Obama's arrival, but it also makes it harder for the public to anticipate when a presidential visit might throw a wrench in their plans.

In this case, the White House didn't know in advance that the couple were being told they had to relocate, said a person familiar with the chain of events, who wasn't authorized to be identified publicly and requested anonymity. The White House declined to comment on the record.

This isn't the first time Obama has faced questions about the timing of his frequent golf outings. In August, Obama played golf at Martha's Vineyard just after speaking to the nation on the Islamic State's beheading of US journalist James Foley. Obama later conceded he "should have anticipated the optics".

For the newlywed couple, at least, there were no hard feelings about the change in plans, which was first reported by Bloomberg. McConnell said the phone call from the president made the wedding all the more memorable.

"There were no hard feelings about the move," she said. "It was all a good thing."

 Wedding relocated for Obama's golf

US President Barack Obama plays golf at the Mid-Pacific Country Club in Kailua, Hawaii, on Monday. Gary Cameron / Reuters

 Wedding relocated for Obama's golf

Natalie Heimel and Edward Mallue Jr. hold their wedding ceremony on Hawaii on Sunday. The couple had planned to get married on the 16th hole of the Kaneohe Klipper Golf Course, but on Saturday, they were told they would have to find a different location because the president had plans to play golf there at the time of their ceremony. Paige Walker / Reuters

(China Daily 12/31/2014 page10)

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