Trump hits the golf course as US kicks off summer season

President Donald Trump kicked off the start of the American summer season on Saturday with his first golf outing in two months.

President Donald Trump kicked off the start of the American summer season on Saturday with his first golf outing in two months, underlining his push for a return to normal life in the United States.

With lockdowns easing across the country and the US leader ramping up his travels, Trump also confirmed he would attend a space launch in Florida next week.

As the US marked Memorial Day weekend -- the country's unofficial start of summer -- Trump took a 35-minute drive from the White House to the Trump National club in Sterling, Virginia, in his first visit to a golf property since March 8.

US media captured footage of the president, an avid golfer before the coronavirus lockdown, on the course on the warm sunny day, dressed in a white shirt and dark trousers.

Neither Trump nor his three golf partners wore masks, though he rode alone in his golf cart, a CNN journalist reported.

White House coronavirus advisor Deborah Birx on Friday said that sports such as golf could be played safely if social distancing was in place and players didn't touch flags.

But she also warned that the Washington area continued to have high positive test rates.

Trump, keen to find a way out of the coronavirus crisis and facing an uphill re-election battle, has ramped up pressure on state and local governments to ease lockdown measures.

On Friday, he demanded state governors classify churches, synagogues and mosques as "essential services" on the same level as food and drug stores, and immediately allow them to hold services.

The pandemic has hammered the American economy and led to a fierce debate over virus restrictions, even as COVID-19 numbers continue rising in parts of the US -- the worst-hit country in the world, with 1.6 million infections and more than 96,000 deaths.

Florida space launch

Nevertheless the warm weather and weeks of confinement have made many hungry for a return to some normalcy over the Memorial Day weekend, which is usually marked by barbecues and swimming.

Residents of Galveston, Texas were flocking to the Seawall Urban Park beach on a hot, windy day -- few wearing masks, though many followed social distancing, even in the water.

"I feel safe. Well we're six foot apart. It's a lot of distance here. Very safe," building contractor Michael Bryer told AFP.

Others expressed relief at the change of scenery, like stay-at-home mother Kayla Lambert, who was happy to just "get out of the house".

"I have two kids that are playing in the water and we just get tired of being stuck in the house. There's not much else to do. So I came to the beach," she said.

Trump, meanwhile, will continue ramping up his travel schedule next week.

The White House on Saturday confirmed the president would also attend the May 27 launch in Florida of two astronauts on a SpaceX mission -- the first crewed space flight from US soil in nine years.

Astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley are scheduled to blast off from Kennedy Space Center at 4:33 pm (2033 GMT) on Wednesday for the International Space Station, arriving the next day.

However, the Wednesday launch plan could be hit by bad weather, with a 60 percent chance of a postponement, according to official forecasts.


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