State Department comes out swinging over Chavez's golf insults

The Obama administration has dug in its heels and taken a hard, unwavering line with Venezuelan strongman Hugo Chavez -- over Chavez's insults directed toward the game of golf, that is.

Chavez, on his "Alo Presidente!" Sunday talk show, seemed rather teed off at the pastime that occupies so many of President Obama's weekends. "Let's leave this clear," Chavez said. "Golf is a bourgeois sport." The fact that golfers ride around on little carts, Chavez continued, just shows what a lazy sport it is. The New York Times reported Tuesday that Chavez and his loyalists were pushing to close two of Venezuela's best-known golf courses to seize the prime real estate of the sprawling greens; the closures would bring the total to nine golf courses closed over the past three years.

"I respect all sports," Chavez said. "But there are sports and there are sports. Do you mean to tell me this is a people's sport? It is not."

P.J. Crowley, assistant secretary of State for public affairs, came out swinging on Wednesday.

"Before we get started formally, as the Department of State's self-appointed ambassador-at-large for golf, I wish to protest the unwarranted attack by Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez on the game of golf," Crowley said.

"Considering that the hemisphere celebrated the victory of former caddy and son of Argentina in the Masters over a good-old-boy who built a public course in his hometown in Kentucky, and we cheered as a relative unknown from South Carolina won the people's open on the country's finest public course at Bethpage Black, we were in awe as a 59-year-old man held off the greatest golfers of the world for 71 holes on links land in Scotland where the game of golf was created, and now we are on the eve of the season's final major, where the favorite to win is arguably the greatest golfer of all time and whose heritage literally spans continents -- so the suggestion by Mr. Chavez that golf, a truly global sport, is bourgeois is a mulligan."

"And once again Mr. Chavez, one of the hemisphere's most divisive figures, finds himself out of bounds," Crowley concluded.

There was no immediate reaction from Chavez, who has been crazy busy closing radio stations and planning hypothetical war with Colombia and the U.S.