George W Bush sips a non-alcoholic beer in Germany in 2007.
George W Bush sips a non-alcoholic beer in Germany in 2007. Getty

Australian tennis champion John Newcombe has revealed the details of a "drinking duel" which led to ex-president George W Bush being arrested for drunk driving, with details of the incident almost scuppering the Texan's bid for the presidency when they became public 24 years later.

The drinking bout took place near Bush family's Kennebunkport summer home in Maine, with the two matching each other beer for beer.

Days before Bush winning his first presidential election in 2000, the story of his earlier arrest broke on US TV, with Bush admitting "I was drinking beer, yes, with John Newcombe," but putting the incident down as a youthful mistake.

The subsequent media firestorm forced Newcombe to flee the media, and he refused to speak publically about the incident.

But Newcombe has now broken his silence about the incident in an interview on Australian radio.

Drinking game

He said that he was invited to the Bush family house by then CIA director George HW Bush, when he was 32, and a world-famous tennis star. There, he met George W Bush, who at 30 years-old, was a heavy drinker.

"We went to the local pub", said Newcombe, and began to drink "reasonable-sized mugs of beer."

He said that they were accompanied by his wife, Angie, Bush's younger sister, and Peter Roussel, George HW Bush's press secretary.

"George was a bit of a party boy in those days," he told Melbourne's SEN radio.

"I noticed that George was sort of eyeing me off. I put on a bit of pace and he'd keep pace with me. A little silent game was going on.

"After about four of these, I picked the glass up in my teeth without my hands and skulled it straight down and I said, 'What are you made of, George?' And so he had to do that."

Newcombe said he then drank a beer from the wrong side of the glass: "I looked at him and go, 'Have you got any guts, George, or what's your story?' So he did that."

The pair staggered back to the car to drive home and Newcombe's wife offered to drive, but the future president insisted on taking the wheel.

"We had about three miles to drive down this road along the sea and after about a mile he got pulled over," Newcombe said.

"The cop got out of the car and made him walk the line and back and he kind of did it alright but he was a bit cheeky when he was doing it.

Ticket earned

"The cop was writing him a ticket and then Peter Roussel got out of the car, and went over to the cop and was telling him he was George Bush's son, and the cop, his name was Calvin, goes 'Oh my God, I've just booked the son of the director of the CIA, I'm in real trouble.'

"But he's written the ticket."

Bush was fined £150 for the offence, which occurred during his long years as a heavy drinker, before quitting after a heavy binge in 1986 to celebrate his 40th birthday. He credits religious re-awakening with his decision to quit.

Shortly after the story broke in 200, Bush said "I'm not proud of that. I oftentimes said that years ago I made some mistakes. I occasionally drank too much and I did on that night."

Newcombe said that for years he joked with Bush that "Calvin's going to come back to haunt you," before receiving a call from Roussel in his Sydney office in 2000, who said that the press had got wind of the story.

"He says 'Newk, George just rang me, and he said they found out about Calvin,'" he said. "I just hid out. I hid. I didn't talk about it, actually, for years while he was president."