WASHINGTON - President Barack Obama kicked off his birthday weekend today with a round of golf with friends and a getaway to Camp David.
Obama, who turns 52 on Sunday, left the White House just after 8 a.m. - that's unusually early for the half-hour motorcade ride to Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland - to squeeze in some golf before the celebration shifted to the presidential retreat nestled in Maryland's Catoctin Mountains.
Before leaving, officials said Obama's counterterrorism adviser updated him on a potential al-Qaida threat that led the State Department on Friday to issue a global travel warning to Americans and order the weekend closure of 21 embassies and consulates across the Muslim world.
The White House said the president's three golfing foursomes included some of his friends from Hawaii, where he grew up, and Chicago, where he lived before becoming president, along with current and former aides.
Among them were childhood friends Bobby Titcomb and Mike Ramos, and Chicago pals Marty Nesbitt and Eric Whitaker. White House aides Marvin Nicholson and Sam Kass, an assistant chef, rounded out the group, along with Reggie Love, who for years had been Obama's personal assistant, or "body man," and basketball buddy until he left the White House in late 2011 to work on getting an MBA.
Due to the limited number of seats, only the winners at golf - Love, Kass and two other players - got to join Obama on the presidential helicopter. The losers went the long way, by car.
First lady Michelle Obama traveled to Camp David separately.
The White House said little about how Obama would celebrate on Saturday night and Sunday, but the birthday wishes started rolling in early.
House Democrats presented Obama with a birthday cake when he went up to the Capitol this week, and American Legion youth members sang "Happy Birthday" to him during a White House visit late last month.