Vice President Biden a bit off course saying he heard Nickel Mines gunshots?

Vice President Joe Biden (Associated Press)

When trying to verify Joe Biden's recent story that he was golfing within earshot of the Oct. 2, 2006, shooting at Nickel Mines, one thing is clear.

There are a lot of places to enjoy a round of golf in the region.

But whether the 70-year-old vice president was playing at any of the courses on the day of the one-room schoolhouse massacre still remains a mystery.

If he was in the area, he wasn't at Moccasin Run Golf Club in Atglen.

Curt King, the owner of the club, said there is no record of Biden - then a U.S. senator - visiting the golf course that day.

"When someone of that stature comes to your business, you don't forget something like that," he said.

Moccasin Run, the closest club to the Nickel Mines community, is about six miles away.

King said he has combed through his club's database, which records the name of every player who uses the course, to double-check the claim.

"We have no record of him being here that day, or that he has ever golfed here," he said.

As for the scene at the course the day in question, King said it was just like every other day.

"There was no outing or special event," he said. "Like most days, it was open to the public."

Speaking last week to the U.S. Conference of Mayors in Washington, D.C., about gun violence, Biden made the surprising revelation that he was playing golf within a quarter-of-a-mile of the schoolhouse when a troubled truck driver shot 10 Amish girls, killing five and wounding five.

The remark has triggered a flurry of blog posts from conservative writers, challenging the validity of Biden's account.

Many local residents discussing the issue online are upset with what they feel is Biden's exploitation of the tragedy to move his gun violence cause forward.

Kendra Barkoff, press secretary for the vice president, on Wednesday stood by Biden's comments.

She said the vice president was golfing in the area on the day of the shooting, but she failed to provide answers to other questions, including the name of the golf course.

An online search of the area shows that Moccasin Run would have been the most logical setting for Biden's story.

Not only is it the closest to Nickel Mines, but it also offers an explanation for the gunshots Biden says he heard: The Atglen Sportsmen's Club is about a half-mile away from the golf course.

But King, as well as employees and owners of other nearby golf clubs, are unable to confirm he was there.

Biden's comment also has Lancaster city Mayor Rick Gray scratching his head.

The Democrat said he was surprised by the vice president's account when he heard it at the Conference of Mayors.

"When he said that, I was trying to figure out where he could have been," he said. "I have no idea."

Gray said he didn't know Biden at the time and wasn't aware of any political fundraiser or outing in the area that day.

"But I guess I wouldn't have known if he came to the area just to play golf," he said.

But a check of other golf courses Biden may have played at turned up little evidence of his visit.

The next closest course to Nickel Mines is Tanglewood Manor Golf Course on Scotland Road in Quarryville, about 10 miles away. Owner Dwight Wagner said Biden wasn't at his club that day.

Lancaster Host Resort, also about 10 miles away from the schoolhouse, was unable to track anyone down who would have been aware of Biden's visit in 2006.

Wyncote Golf Club in Oxford is the next closest course at 12 miles away, but an employee was unable to find someone who may have been there at the time of the politician's visit.

An employee said he's sure Biden couldn't have been at the Lancaster Country Club. The club, located about 15 miles away from Nickel Mines, was closed that day - as it always is on Mondays.

A golf pro at Coatesville Country Club on Reservoir Road, about 16 miles away, said Biden wasn't there either.

"I have employees that were here at the time and they don't remember anything like that happening," Joe Vigorita said.

Also 16 miles away, Pilgrim's Oak Golf Course in Peach Bottom doesn't have any record of Biden being there.

Although club manager Peter Trimble said he's not sure if he would have recognized him if he had been.

"If he was just dressed like the average golfer and there wasn't any security with him, I'm not I would have known who he was," he said.

Calls to employees and golf pros at Willow Valley Golf Course, about 13 miles away, were not immediately returned.

kshuey@lnpnews.com